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Child Beauty Pageants Previous Page
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"You can't win unless you look beautiful," her mother had always told little Sara. Sara stood in front of the mirror staring at herself. She had to watch what she ate or else, she feared, she would end up fat like the other "ugly" girls. Next week, as she remembered, was her tanning session. While staring at the mirror, she touched her skin starting from her chin up to her eyes as she pondered, "why do I need to get a tan? Am I not pretty?" As her mom walked in asking what she was doing, she fluttered her fake long eyelashes claiming that she was just practicing for the pageant that was coming up in a couple months. Her mother was so busy making her child look "pretty", that she completely missed the confused teary eyed expression in her young innocent child's eyes and instead continued to doll her up.

Child beauty pageants in today's society have become more competitive than ever. Throughout the years, the competitors have become fiercer and smarter about what to do in order to win. As a chain reaction, the other competitors have done the same, which has resulted in creating a stressful competition.

Additionally, these events have great potential to harm children. As Reed points out the definition of child abuse defined by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act is, 'the physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or exploitation, of a child under circumstances which indicate the child's health or welfare is threatened or harmed,' (Reed). Child Beauty pageants create great potential for child abuse since they cause psychological effects, physical pain, and potential exposure to sexual violence.

The other side makes easily disprovable claims. For example, they claim that these pageants, '[boost] the self-confidence of the child' (Advantages). Perhaps, this falls true for some lucky participants, but for the majority, this is not true at all. Quite the opposite usually results. As Reed explains it, 'the children who participate in beauty pageants are often hurt by the experience, suffering damage to their self-esteem and later developing eating disorders, like anorexia, due to skewed values about their bodies' (Reed). It is not hard to see why a girl's esteem may be hurt. The child participants are dressed up by a parent as a child may dress up her doll for fun. Not only do the parents dress up their children, but then also modify the pictures taken of their children as if they are not even happy with the outcome of what their dressed up child looks like. For example, all three figures show dramatic changes from the children's original pictures to their revised pictures. Figure 1 primarily shows a little girl whose picture changes so much that it looks like a picture of a doll rather than a real child. The prime feature, the eyes, are honed upon as soon as one's eyes land on the picture. They look like overly shiny eyes of a plastic doll.

In one study done to see the relation between child beauty pageants and adult disorders, a group eleven women who competed in child beauty pageants were compared with eleven women who did not compete in child beauty pageants to see which group had higher body dissatisfaction rates. The results showed that, 'childhood pageant participants scored higher on body dissatisfaction, interpersonal distrust, and impulse dysregulation than non-participants, and showed a trend toward greater ineffectiveness,' (Wonderlich, Ackaerd, Henderson). This study provides proof that child beauty pageants have an impact on the future by leading to greater body dissatisfaction rates than what a healthy nonparticipant have as an adult.

As one can see in the following figures, the girls are made to look like adults by alternating their own features and changing them to have features that are seen as attractive in an adult, like perfect teeth and long hair with lots of volume put up in an updo. Figure 2, the most ridiculous of all, shows a before and after picture of a baby with no hair and then with long unnatural hair put up in an updo. The children are not appreciated for their natural beauty, but instead, are seemingly judged on which one of them can best depict a woman.

Another concern that comes from these competitions is the fact that the children have to go through physical pain while preparing for the event. The opposite side seems to avoid this point by completely leaving it out of its claims and defenses because it has no way to defend itself. However, physical pain is a concern that must be revealed to the public. Just to prepare for these events, the child is forced to go through many painful procedures. A common thing to do before the show is to get the child's eyebrows waxed. In one instant noted by Jill, 'the child is screaming, trembling, and begging her mother to stop the whole sorry process. But no. The mother insists the salon worker to continue slapping hot wax onto her terrified child.' (Jill). This painful course causes the child to protest as hard she can, but yet the mother does not care and goes on through the whole procedure. The mother tries to justify her child's panic by claiming, 'the child has had a bad experience before, when the wax was so hot, it burned and skin came off with it,' (Jill). Instead of making her position more justified, the mother throws out even more evidence to completely prove to the spectators, that this is child abuse. This event not only mentally and physically injures the child, but also puts the child under harm's way by exposing children to child molesters.

Another point that the opposite side fails to defend or even address is the fact that these pageants provide an opportunity for child molesters to find their victim. Children are more likely to face danger in this event mainly because they dress up to look and act like provocative women while on stage and in front of all types of people where they can not only view them, but also take pictures of them. In one case, JonBenet's, a child participant in beauty pageants, 'body was found in the basement of her home, wrapped in a blanket, her hands tapped above her head. A garrote around her neck had been tightened with a broken paintbrush and she had been sexually abused. Her skull was fractured and someone's skin was under her fingernails,' (Harvey). While the true murderer was never caught, to only make it worse, a teacher in Taiwan falsely confessed to be her murderer. JonBenet participated in many of these pageants and the suspect claims, 'that's how he became aware of her and interested in her,' (Reed). This declaration proves that these events are dangerous since the suspect would have never learned of her if it was not for these pageants. This is how the real murderer also likely learned of her. The real murderer had asked for a ransom note which has left at the bottom on JonBenet's own staircase along with, 'beauty pageant images of a sexualized child [JonBenet]. Videotapes of her wearing too much makeup, adult's clothes and dancing like a 19-year-old cheerleader,' (Harvey). The attached pictures prove that the actual murderer definitely knew about JonBenet's participation in pageants and was attracted to her by these. So not only one, but two people were attracted to JonBenet because of these pageants. The result of her involvement is terrifying.

It is not hard to see how these criminals easily learned about JonBenet. The main cause is that confidentiality is not key in these pageants. Information on participants can easily be found. The pageants introduce the child to the audience while leaking a little background. If one does a little research on the internet, the name of the child participants can easily be learned. For example, one has to only look for images on the internet of the participant and often times, the name of the child will be labeled on the picture, like it is on Figure 3. This easily accessible information becomes an important gain for child molesters.

Overall, child beauty pageants are a form of child abuse by allowing exposure of children to danger, causing physical pain and psychological problems. Child beauty pageants should be eliminated. Competitions are supposed to be fun and a learning experience, but when they cross the safety line, they should be changed or completely removed. In this case, the nature of this competition makes the possibility of keeping this competition impossible since children will get hurt one way or another. This problem should be taken care of before more innocent children are prey to the dangers of child beauty pageants.

Works Cited
Adam, Harvey. "The final hours of a child beauty queen." Courier Mail, The (Brisbane) (n.d.): Newspaper Source. EBSCO. Web. 23 Jan. 2011.

"Advantages of beauty pageants for little girls." Kids Beauty Pageant Secrets. Kids Beauty Pageant Secrets, n.d. Web. 14 Nov 2010.

Billy Reed. "Child Beauty Pageants Should Be Eliminated." At Issue: Beauty Pageants. Ed. Noël Merino. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010.Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale.    AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. 23 Nov.

Dunn, Jason. "When Digital Re-Touching Goes Too Far." Web log post. The Personal Blog of Jason Dunn. Photograph. 27 July 2009. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.

Gang, Transvestite. "Article Search - 360 - The Fairest and Balancest, Most Trusted Name In News." The Critical Thinker's Guide to News, Politics, Religion, and Business - 360 - The Fairest and Balancest, Most Trusted Name In News. 5' Photograph. Jan. 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.

JILL, SINGER. "This is not homage to beauty, it's another form of child abuse." Herald Sun (Melbourne) (2011): 36. Newspaper Source. EBSCO. Web. 23 Jan. 2011.

"POPHANGOVER » Blog Archive » Toddlers & Tiaras on TLC: Photo    Highlights."POPHANGOVER'. Photograph. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.

Wonderlich, Anna, Diann Ackard, and Judith Henderson. "Childhood Beauty Pageant    Contestants: Associations with Adult Disordered Eating and Mental Health." Eating Disorders 13.3 (2005): 291-301'. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 23 Jan. 2011.
Click Thumbnail to Enlarge
A modified picture of a young child.
A modified picture of a young child.
An original and an altered picture of a baby girl.
An original and an altered picture of a baby girl.
A before and after picture of a participant.
A before and after picture of a participant.
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