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The Beauty Myth

Some people seem to think that beauty competitions, or pageants, for children are OK.

It is fun for the kids; they love getting dressed up, don’t they? The parents admire and adore their children, and they are on show for the whole community to admire too.

What could be the harm in it? After all, they are just children. There are no sexual connotations as there are in adult beauty competitions.

There are some big differences from adults, though. Seven or eight year old children may choose activities that are fun but they cannot choose an appropriate context.

Nor can they distinguish between safe and harmful situations. That’s what they have parents for. In effect, a child cannot choose to enter a beauty pageant. It is something that is done with them, for the parents (however innocently).

All children are beautiful. Some children may not comply with society’s standard formula for appearance, however. Some have disabilities and other physical problems. Do their parents enter them into beauty pageants or do they feel they have to protect them from society’s gaze?

There is another group of children conspicuously absent from beauty pageants.


What does this mean? Boys are not beautiful? That cannot be right. Surely, boys are equally as beautiful as girls. If you are not sure about this, think about it. The answer can only be sexual. Do you want your little boy up on the stage in his tiny togs? So how is it ok for your little daughter?

The little girls line up to be looked at. In dress ups and skimpy swim suits, they are paraded in front of others. Don’t tell me that girls of that age aren’t competitive.

They are.

A beauty pageant is all about appearance, being admired, and being watched. And who is watching?

Well, OK, mostly parents, but also the local press and the wider community, and that unfortunately includes a few people who get sexual gratification from looking at children.

Society’s obsession with looks is already entrenched, age seven. Advertisers call them the ‘Tweenies’. The girls learn they must display themselves to ‘have fun’, compete with their peers, and achieve approval.

The boys learn they are not in the running, and they see older adults looking at girls. Do you still tell me it’s not sexual?

I have a better idea. Instead of valuing only looks, let’s celebrate our children for what they can do.

Their abilities, their talents, character and personality. These are the attributes that make them who they are – a special person in their own right. Not just a cut-out image to fit into the watcher’s own view of the world.

There is so much children can achieve. Lets encourage and reward them in their activities, whether it be sport, drama, art, stamp collecting or just making others laugh. That’s what makes a child, well…a person.

Next: Parenting Styles

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