A child beauty pageant is a beauty contest featuring contestants younger than 13 years of age. Divisions include talent, interview, sportswear, casual wear, swim wear, western wear, out-fit of choice, decade wear, and evening wear, typically wearing makeup as well as elaborate hairstyles.
The debate about child beauty pageants in Australia is getting particularly ugly. Ever since the US group ‘Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant’ announced plans to hold its first Australian competition in Melbourne, the cries of protest from parent groups, psychologists and children’s rights organisations have been loud and fierce.
“Would you stand your two daughters side by side in the lounge room and tell one of them that she’s more beautiful than the other?” Pull The Pin organiser, Catherine Manning said. For most people that’s a resounding no, and the reason is obviously not just because of the impact you have on the girl that you tell isn’t the most beautiful, but you’re also sending a really strange message to the girl that you tell is the most beautiful.
Adolescent and child psychotherapist, Collett Smart, states that “it’s cruel to judge little girls on their appearance. To say to a young girl, no, you’re not pretty enough.” It’s harmful to a young girl’s self-esteem to tell her that she simply isn’t pretty enough and that’s the only reason she didn’t win the pageant. It starts to lead to three of the most common mental health problems in girls and women; eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.
In 2002, Stacey Weiner conveyed a study for a column she was writing on seventh-grade girls who viewed idolised magazine images of women, reported a drop in body satisfaction and a rise in depression.
In 2005, a study conducted by Anna Wonderlich, of the University of Minnesota, eleven women who took part in child beauty pageants were compared to eleven women who did not. The study found pageant contestants score higher on body dissatisfaction, interpersonal distrust and greater impulsiveness.
Child psychologist, Dr. Robert Reiner, stated in 2006 that many parents whose children took part in pageants were attempting to live through their young daughters and were often ‘very pushy parents who, for a variety of reasons didn’t get what they wanted when they were children’.
In all the studies shown, 1 in 3 professionals all conveyed that child beauty pageants have major impacts on the well-being of these children, from low self-esteem to depression to eating disorders from such a young age.
Savanna Jackson made headlines in the Herald Sun on June 7th 2012, because a three-year-old girl should not be allowed to have a spray tan, on a monthly basis. Lauren Jackson, Savanna’s mother, spends roughly $4,670 a month entering Savanna into beauty pageants. Lauren thought that when she reached the age two, that she would start giving Savanna tanning sessions so the other girls wouldn’t have an unfair advantage.
Mrs Jackson first entered her daughter into a ‘natural pageant’ at 10 months, which allows little or no make-up. After Savanna won, her mum began entering her into ‘more glamorous’ pageants. She said that Savanna loved the attention and being on stage made her happier than she had ever been before. What more could a parent want for their child than seeing them happy, however, it starts to become a little concerning when Lauren tells the Herald Sun that her three-year-old daughter wears more make up than her 26 year old mother.
Karen Nussbaum, a member from Minor Consideration, a non-profit foundation to give guidance and to support young performers, says that most stage mothers claim their child wanted to enter the pageant on their own. Do children under the age of 10 really know what is best for them? For example, in 1996, 7 year old Jessica Duboff died when her parents let her fly a plane across the country just because she wanted to do it.
The Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant, made famous in the reality TV show Toddlers & Tiaras, is travelling from Texas this month so Australian children can compete in formal wear, photogenic and congeniality contests. A controversial article published by the ABC on April 6, 2012 by Stephanie Corsetti, interviews Australia MP’s and gets their opinions.
Federal Labour MP Anna Burke is supporting the private members bill and calling for a national ban on the event. Anna says “dressing them up, fake tans, fake teeth known as flippers, even fake books and bums on three-year-olds is a bit of a ridiculous situation.” It makes us start questioning; do we actually want to promote this in Australia? Promoting something that is not emotionally and mentally stable for young people especially children under the age of 10.
In another perspective, for those who believe child beauty pageants should not be banned, owner of Universal Royalty Beauty Pageants, Annette Hill, stated “if you are looking at children in a sexual way, you should be ashamed of yourself and something is wrong with you. It’s all about a beautiful dress, a beautiful child with lots of personality performing on stage.’
Brendan O’Neill wrote an opinion piece published by the ABC on August 4, 2011 which stated “the pageant-bashers see SEX, a little whore, a walking, talking temptation for the predatory paedophiles who apparently lurk in every street and alleyway in Australia.”
There needs to be a limit on these horrendous child beauty pageants. Change the age to at least 13/14 years old or limit the amount of make-up used etc. That is approach Sally Belinda Broad took. Direct of Australian Kids Pageants. “our events are ‘natural’ pageants where anything fake is disallowed and age appropriate appearance and performance is encouraged.”