Her eyes glimmer with the latest layer of eyeliner. Her cheeks, a wind-bitten pink, ache from constant smiles. She combs her hair, unaware of the damage she is inflicting on herself. She looks around. Some wear false hair, others false teeth. Every participant there is driven by the same potential outcome of beauty: meticulous hair, white smile, bright eyes, and a thin figure. Everybody strives for that same superficial facade – not the average values for a 5-year-old-girl.
Since 1921 beauty pageants have been the roots of society’s delusive portrayal of beauty and until they are stopped, they will continue to cause detrimental impacts on a female’s perception of her self worth. Pageants began as a marketing tool for an Atlantic City hotel in 1921. They decided to hold a fall festival to tempt Summer tourists to stay past labor day. Every year, this pageant, Miss America, grew as America’s only pageant. However, in 1950, controversy arose: a contestant, Yolande Betbeze, refused to pose in a swimsuit.
When the officials honored her preference, Catalina Swimwear discontinued their sponsorship and established the sexier, “Miss USA” and “Miss Universe” pageants. Since then, more major pageants have been established throughout the world. These include “America’s Junior Miss”, “Little Miss America”, “Miss Teen All America”, “Mrs. America”, “Miss T. E. E. N. ”, “Miss. Teenage America”, “Mrs. World”, “Miss Black USA”, “Miss International”, “Miss Teen of America”, and “Miss Black USA Talented Teen”. However, these have not been supported by all. In 1968, The Women’s Liberation Front protested the Miss America pageant, infiltrating the main hall.
Even while the pageants were launched purely as a marketing tool, they have taken a turn against natural beauty. Beauty is defined as something that brings pleasure to the senses (Define). This does not imply a symmetrical face, a curvy figure, or a ski-slope nose. Pageant judging is greatly impacted by these traits. However, nobody has the power to control what physical traits they have. Physically attractive people are the children of genetics, not personal drive, determination, or hard-work that is detrimental in life situations; but Sabra Johnson, a ten-year-old, veteran child contestant, doesn’t think so.
A common aspiration of contestants is landing a major modeling career, and until then, modeling at the pageants. While interviewed by A&E Network, she constantly looked over at her mom for reassurance of her thoughts. She never mentioned her future education; she relied solely on her appearance for her future (Children). She is missing out on many important opportunities. Intelligence for example, a person can work hard and do well on an exam, but while in beauty pageants, only the winners of the “social lottery” emerge victorious.
Ones appearance has no correlation to ambition, drive, or personal discipline. Although these traits sculpt a beautiful person, most contestants are under the impression that beauty is achievable. They are under the impression that anorexia, bulimia, spray tans, fake hair, fake nails, removable eyelashes, plastic surgery, layers of make-up, or any combination will make them appealing. This idea starts at an early age. The television show, Toddlers & Tiaras, follows several young contestants begin their pageant career. The overzealous mothers carve their daughters into miniature pageant stars.
Overall, their mothers will deflect any interference to guarantee their daughters consummation. When young children have lost or crooked teeth, their mothers are notorious for attaining a “flipper”, a set of false teeth to go over their child’s’ natural set. If they have teeth, parents purchase whitening treatments. These ideals have a large impact on their present as well. A study conducted four years ago by NPD Group showed that women started using cosmetics at an average age of 17. Now this age has moved to an average of 13 (Toddlers).
What these girls learn as children will sustain their adult years; they absorb the only method of being beautiful that is shown, and that is all they will ever know. William Pinsof, a clinical psychologist and president of the Family Institute at Northwestern University says, “Being a little Barbie doll says your body has to be a certain way and your hair has to be a certain way. In girls particularly, this can unleash a whole complex of destructive self-experiences that can lead to eating disorders and all kinds of body distortions in terms of body image” (Children).
Currently, 15% of young women in America have some type of eating disorder (Eating). Some grow up with the idea that the thinner they are, the more attractive they are. This can lead to unfortunate interpretations of their body. In order to fulfill their perception of the ideal figure, they dangerously push boundaries; 50% of girls 8 to 10 years old say they are unhappy with their size, 40% of fourth graders admit to previously being on a diet, and more than 50% of girls 9 to 15 years old have exercised to lose weight (Pulling).
Only to reward their behavior, the judges of the pageants asses the contestant’s physical appearance based on these superficial themes. The past winners are no role models either. The majority of Miss America winners have been ‘undernourished’ on the BMI scale, or Body Mass Index, a relation of someones height to their weight. Beauty role models are setting a poor example of how they should be taking care of themselves: Miss America 2008 is a recovering anorexic (Huey). As adults, they will consider superficiality the only way to be classified as admirable.
A study done shows that Childhood pageant participants develop “a greater body dissatisfaction, an interpersonal distrust, and impulse deregulation than non-participants, and were ultimately ineffective” (Childhood). Because of all the scrutiny about their bodies, many young girls will ruin their future and their well being. Superficiality does not only impact the future sanity of pageant girls, but their safety, from their health to being victims. The children who participate in beauty pageants are often scarred by the experience.
Dressing children in adult clothes and makeup appeals to sexual predators, creating a risk of becoming a victim of a pedophile. By definition, this is child abuse; from the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, child abuse is, “a failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm” (Child). Because there are no rules concerning promoters, organizers, and participants, pageants are exempt from laws governing them.
Organizers want to earn money and are not concerned with the need to protect their participants. People believe that JonBenet Ramsey, a child pageant contestant, was murdered at the age of 6 because of her participation on pageants. Her parents put her in harms way by subjecting her to exploitation at pageants. Some parents are so misshapen, so attention-starved, that they will shamelessly exploit their child’s physical appearance with no regard for the potential consequences. Sexual predators are merely a tooth on the comb of pageantry concerns.
Supporters of beauty pageants claim that participants develop confidence, self-esteem, and poise. This might be true, but that is not all they gain. Eating disorders, depression, and other life-altering issues can also be a side effect. 90% of 14-15 year-olds say they suffer depression produced by the pressure to look good (Beauty). Also, beauty pageants are breeding grounds for low self-esteem. This low self-worth can potentially introduce harmful situations: Children with low self esteem are 1. times more likely to be drug dependent nine years later than children with average self esteem (20); 70% of girls ages 15 to 17 avoid average daily activities such as attending school, going to the doctor, or giving their opinion due to their so called “looks” (Girl). Supporters of pageants also say that they are applauding and celebrating beauty, not patronizing it. If a celebration of all-around equality and beauty were being celebrated, there would be no winner. Instead, they take beautiful girls, line them up head-to-head against one another, and choose who is most attractive.
Furthermore, supporters argue that judging beauty is as ethical as judging intelligence. Intelligence is obtainable through hard work and discipline; beauty is not. Nobody can change what they were born with, but they can change the way they think. The depth of knowledge is supported by the motivation to learn, while beauty is based on genetics. Nobody deserves recognition for originating from an attractive gene pool. Pageants seize every opportunity for judging on looks; they send a misinformed message to the public and to its participants that detrimentally impact society.
Beauty pageants have, and always will, prove society’s delusive portrayal of beauty and until they are stopped, they will chip away at woman’s perception of their self-worth. No matter how old a participant is, whether 3 or 30, they will always misunderstand what real beauty is.