Love Me, I’m in Makeup
I was a child model and I turned out fine. If you don’t believe me just check my blog, Twitter, Tumblr, 4856 photos on Facebook and Flickr, YouTube channel, MySpace for my rap music, LinkedIn, Foursquare or Instragram. VALIDATE ME!
Western culture is all about the self. So it’s hard to be shocked when this mentality trickles down to parents entering their six-year-olds into beauty pageants. Intuition informs many of us that such activities will lead the child to a lifetime of psychotherapy-grade narcissism. I can’t find solid evidence of this so I will refrain from making that assumption during the column.
With the handicaps of not being outraged or being able to make claims about ill-health implications, I do want to explore why pageants are wrong to put your child through. But hey, parents are always pushing their kids to play instruments or compete in Little Athletics. If pageants are to cop the protests that they just did in Melbourne, they should at least get a fair comparison to other young age competitions.
Let’s take competitive gymnastics. I use this as an analogy because it’s a non-team sport, it’s judged by a subjective rating system and it involves young girls wearing skimpy clothes and makeup. Aside from being an Olympic sport, gymnastics has the same features and expectations that beauty pageants do. Just in different proportions.
In both competitions the child has a talent to showcase. This involves countless hours of lessons and practice, whether it be enforced by the parents or a self-motivated desire.
In both competitions the child has the potential to receive large scale attention. Worldwide even. This comes with an audience perception ranging from genuine admiration, all the way to sexual objectification. This is said, of course, acknowledging that the scope of these perceptions may indeed vary to a great extent between the sport and beauty comp. I’m just saying that all elements exist in both.
So here’s the kicker. The main difference I see between these activities is the culture that surrounds them. Gymnastics is about being an athlete and doing as much as it takes to achieve excellence. Pageantry is about being a construct of conventional glamour and doing whatever it takes to achieve popularity. They also put pressure on a child to construct an identity for showcasing, long before one has had time to develop. They haven't yet grown as individuals or discovered their personality. At least sport doesn’t appear to do that so much.
Both competition mentalities are sure to shape a child’s view of the world, the human condition and themselves. The shameful truth is that they have the capacity to impede a happy childhood and take emphasis away from letting kids just be kids. What society values, whether it’s athletic excellence or the pursuit of glamour, is an unavoidable force on the parenting process. I just hope the best interest of the child’s impressionable mind can be at the forefront of any family decision making.
Oh and if child pageants do definitely lead to narcissistic personality disorder then yep, they’re immoral to the core.