“Toddlers in Tiaras,” an article by Skip Hollandsworth, gives a glimpse into the world of child beauty pageants. It brings forth food for thought when one considers the “sexploitation“ of young girls, toddlers, even infants. In addition, it addresses the focus these pageants put on physical perfection and how these young ones are bombarded not only that singular focus but it questions their future development in light of the suggestive costumes and gestures they are encouraged to engage in. The article also questions the motives of parents who insist on pushing their children into these pageants and whether participation puts their children in danger.
The article was published in Good Housekeeping Magazine which according to their website, has a subscription rate over 4 million. The reputation of the magazine is a solid one of trust built on the foundation of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, which awards the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to products which have performed to their high expectations. There are some who view the magazine as a sort of social educator, bringing attention to current issues geared towards the interests of women between the ages of 25 and 50, most of them mothers of growing families. The publication hands out advice on childrearing and tips on how to make your home more attractive or cost efficient ways to run your home in addition to snippets on fashion and health. With such a large audience, Mr. Hollandsworth was sure to reach readers sympathetic to his rhetoric.
The author does not come right out and say, “Pageants are bad.” He draws the reader in with his descriptions of the activities of the children and their parents along with the pageant promoters. He opens by illustrating the transition of a young 6-year-old. Plenty of 6-year-olds have played dress up over the years by putting on mommy’s lipstick or high heels, but not to this extreme. Rarely will an afternoon of play include the application of spray tanner or false teeth, referred to as “flippers”. A Saturday is usually meant for long, lazy mornings or a time away from the structure of school, a day or relaxation. To read of an hour and a half spent layering cosmetics on a young child that some adults don’t even use (at least not on a Saturday), not to mention the use hairpieces and the wearing of a hand-sewn $3000 dress, which is just the beginning of a long day in search of “a promise of a tiara.”