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Beauty Pageants: Inspiring or Degrading?

Beauty pageants are contests that are based on physical beauty, supposed personality, talents, and answers to the judges’ questions.

Imagine a six-year-old girl. Perhaps she’s your daughter, or your niece, or even just a stranger. She sits in a chair for hours, getting layers and layers of makeup put on, completely changing how she looks, and even gets a spray tan, changing the color of her skin. She wears fake eyelashes and bleaches her teeth. This little girl is completely changed to look like a mini-adult, for people to judge whether or not she fits a mold they themselves created of how a child should look, looking nothing like herself.

There are beauty pageants that begin even with infants. Babies, toddlers, young children, and all the way to adults, are judged in a formal setting that is deemed “okay” by society. The losers consider themselves ugly, and the winners sometimes find themselves believing that they are better than the rest of the contestants. What disgusts me most is that the parents of these children are alright with and encourage their children to change the way they look, sending them an awful message about being yourself, and spoiling them rotten. To prep for a pageant, one little girl went through this. “Two hours into her preshow prep, the five-year-old pageant vet already has the requisite spray tan, French manicured press-on nails, wig and hair extensions…”(Triggs). It should not take a little girl two hours to get ready for anything, changing completely the way they act, walk, talk, and look.

Beauty pageants are contests that are based on physical beauty, supposed personality, talents, and answers to the judges’ questions. Since the beginning of beauty pageant history, there have been people who were very much against the event. “During its first decade, the Miss America contest was attacked by religious groups and women’s clubs as vulgar, indecent, and degrading (Cohen et al.,1996).”(Crawford).

There are people, obviously, who agree with the things beauty pageants stands for, like beauty and grace. A lot of times, however, people don’t see the realities of what goes on backstage at beauty pageants. The show Toddlers and Tiaras really shows how much work and money goes into these pageants, making their children look like mannequins, or dolls. One article stated that, “Eden jumps off the stool and steps into a $3,000 hand-sewn bubble gum-pink dress covered with sequins…” (Hollandsworth). It shows how ridiculous the costs of even just performing in a beauty pageant are, especially with our economy.

After watching the show Toddlers and Tiaras, and by reading different articles about beauty pageants, I was shocked by the people involved, especially the parents. It’s obvious that the parents are the ones pushing their infants, toddlers, and young children, into pageantry. They pay thousands of dollars per pageant to get gowns, costumes, sets for the talent portions, fake tans, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, a makeup artist, and teeth whitening. It’s sickening what these kids go through, not even knowing there’s a different way of being a parent, and of being a kid. The message that the parents are sending to their children is that in order to be beautiful and accepted in the world, they have to change everything about themselves, from their hair to their skin, to their entire personality.

Being in beauty pageants can cause the girls who lose to lose self-esteem and have a negative opinion of them. “A variety of biological, psychological, and environmental risk factors have been linked to disordered eating behavior and negative body image (Stice,2002)” (Wonderlich, 291). Even without pageants, society pressures girls to try to be thinner, more blonde, and tanner. Society wants all girls to fit into this one mold, even though we are all different. This means that by participating in a beauty pageant, society can be causing eating disorders and other mental disabilities.

Society makes girls feel inferior if they aren’t as thin as they would like to be. “Therefore, individuals who are unable to achieve the internalized ideal may exhibit negative affect and feelings of body dissatisfaction that may contribute to eating pathology (Stice).”(Wonderlich, 292). The media, including the Miss America and Miss USA Pageants, present an American ideal for looks and personality. “It is possible that the select group of women who win the Miss America contest are among an elite group representing the female cultural body ideal”(Wonderlich, 292). The majority of the American female population does not fit this ideal, and it causes those women to try harder to fit this ideal, turning to diseases like Bulimia and Anorexia. Sometimes the pressures of the beauty pageants end in tears and depression. People say that competition is a good thing, but I don’t think it is when it causes young women to cry or turn on their friends if they lose.

Beauty pageants may have their merits, like teaching girls to care about their body and to boost the socialization of the child, but the risks and costs outweigh the rewards. The young girls may look pretty, but they are turned into mini-adults, not actually looking like the children they are supposed to be at all. They spend hours and hours preparing to be judged on how pretty they are by people who have decided what pretty really means. I think if people are ever to be judged, it should on their merits to society, personality, talent, and brain wise, rather than by physical appearance, because their brains and their talent are going to be what gets them places eventually anyway. Beauty pageants exploit young women, changing who they are and who they were meant to be.

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