Saturday, October 10, 2009

Toddlers and Tiaras: For some kids, not completely the worst thing you can do

After I posted about sexy preschoolers in Australia and a slideshow of toddler beauty queens, I was looking on TiVo the other night for something I wanted to record and ran across Toddlers and Tiaras, on The "Learning" Channel, of all places.
On any given weekend, on stages across the country, little girls and boys parade around wearing makeup, false eyelashes, spray tans and fake hair to be judged on their beauty, personality and costumes. Toddlers and Tiaras follows families on their quest for sparkly crowns, big titles, and lots of cash.
More after the jump.

I guess not knowing it existed was a form of denial, and then I thought for a while we should boycott the sponsors, but then I thought again. I am a big believer in biological influences on behavior: genetic, epigenetic,  pathological, and environmental. In many ways, people are what they are, and there's no sense in trying to make major personality changes in anyone. Besides, it annoys the pig.

Where this intersects with beauty pageants for 5-year-olds is that the influences on personality  are complicated, and the range of 5-year-old girls will have a huge range of interests and types.

Many little boys who have never seen a toy gun close up will pick up a twig and point it and say, "Bang." A few boys are really into cowboys and indians as toddlers and get into paintball as teenagers and join the Marines as young adults. Likewise many little girls want to dress up like a princess, but a few are really into it and want to parade around on-stage.

I'd say if their parents can afford the thousands of dollars worth of gowns and preparation, then it's nice that there is a place for such shallow people to do what they like to do, just as I'm glad there are paintball places for people who like to play paintball, but I'm never going to do it.

Of course, it's likely that some of the girls are being pushed into it by their mothers (and there are some examples of that on the Toddlers and Tiaras website), and that's a form of child abuse just like forcing a kid into sports, acting, or religion, but it's one that's within the range of child abuse we have decided as a society to condone.

What still bothers me is not the princess gowns. I don't mind the dressing up and strutting, and I don't mind the competition or the shallow values of glitz (it's her daughter, and if she wants to screw her up, that's her right).

I mind the make-up some, but not a whole lot, not much more than I mind it on adults. I have some sympathy for girls born to be Kilgore Rangerettes. It's what they are.

What I mind is the sexualization, especially of 5 year olds. Kindergarteners with the face of an 18-year-old and the costume of what would have been a slut when I was anywhere near that age, trying her best to wiggle her hips and chest in an imitation of a hoochy-koochy dance.

Has anybody done any studies on teen pregnancy among beauty pageant participants?

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