Pop-Culture | Posted by Danielle B on 08/10/2010

Anybody Else Freaked Out By Child Beauty Pageants?

I have to ask this question: am I the only one who’s completely freaked out by child beauty pageants? I mean, whenever I’m flipping through our 900 channels (887 of which are useless) and happen across the show Toddlers & Tiaras, I can’t help but watch it. I just sit there with this overall dumb look on my face because I am both mesmerized and horrified by these strange, nightmare-like creatures that are some people’s idea of “beauty.”

I don’t care what the message was in Miss Congeniality, beauty pageants are messed up. Having full grown women prance around in bikinis to prove their self-confidence is degrading enough, but watching little 5-year-old girls do the same seems borderline abusive. These are tiny, tiny girls. Babies. Yet their coaches – who am I kidding, their mothers – are forcing them to adhere to “mature” standards of beauty, like wearing short, revealing dresses, (ten pounds of) makeup, big, bouncy hair, fake tans, and even fake teeth.

Is it just me, or is the damage really obvious here? These mothers are basically telling their daughters that they are not good enough – that they won’t even have a shot at winning a pageant, let alone succeed in life – if they’re not tan enough, skinny enough, peppy enough, or pretty enough. Because as we all know, girls can never be good enough.

You can cut the whole “beauty pageants are good for self-esteem” crap right now, ’cause I ain’t buying it. Beauty pageants dehumanize contests to see which girl looks best in a swimsuit and/or frilly dress. And don’t even try to justify it with “well, the girls are encouraged to be themselves during the talent competitions!” Because if these little girls were truly given license to be themselves, their moms wouldn’t be in the corner screaming “smile wider, honey! Remember that smile we practiced?”

How I detest that smile.

Believe it or not, beauty pageant moms are ten times scarier than their little demo– I mean angels. Not only do many of them yell at their daughters when they make teeny-weeny mistakes, these women usually fit the same mold. Without spelling out every detail, you can guess that most of these women weren’t treated as well as they should have as children. Maybe they never felt pretty, wanted, loved. Maybe they were told they were too “this” or too “that” to enter a pageant; maybe they got picked on in school. Whatever the case, most of these moms (I’d say 99%) are living through their daughters to create the childhood, fame, and success they wanted as children.

Beauty pageants teach little girls that looks and dresses and smiles and competition and prize money are everything in life. In other words, we need to be picture perfect. From the way we walk, to the way we talk, to the way we flirtatiously smile at others – we will always be judged. If you let your guard down even a little, you can’t win in life.

What a load of bull-crap!

I would never want my daughter (please note that I’m thinking 15 years down the road here) to be a part of something like that. I can’t even fathom sitting back while watching my 5-year-old being picked apart in front of a panel of judges (and other whacked-out mothers). How could any parent stand to watch that? Internal beauty my ass, confidence my ass . . .

Now you’re probably thinking: Danielle, what if your daughter comes to you one day and says she wants to be in a beauty pageant? Simple. I’ll say: “Who wants to sit in a stinky old chair for 6 hours getting their makeup done when they could be chopping THIS in half?!” That’s when I’ll whip out a 2-by-4.

Yes, my daughter will be joining karate.

Read more at Danielle’s blog: Experimentations of a Teenage Feminist!

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  • CaptainChaos @ at 12:59 pm, August 10th, 2010

    You hit the nail on the head. And mind you, I’m not some sandal wearing, granola boy that’s against maximizing one’s appearance. I spend 10 hours a week in the gym, now have blonde hair to hide the gray and believe Botox is a great thing all in a pathetic attempt to hang on to my youth. However, unlike you, I can’t even keep that disgusting show on my TV because the mere site of it makes me want to puke, all for the same reasons you so eloquently outline. I completely agree, everything about toddler beauty pageants is abusive. If women want to participate as adults, more power to them. But subjugating one’s child to the nightmare that show so intimately details should be grounds to have one’s daughters taken away.

  • C @ at 1:16 pm, August 10th, 2010

    I love this post. It mentions a lot of the creepy things about pageants. You know that if boys and men were expected to do the same things girls and women do in pageants people wouldn’t feel the same way about it.

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 1:28 pm, August 10th, 2010

    Well, I think if your daughter WANTS to be in pageants, you should probably let her do it at least once, but that’s just my opinion. And might I say, I have never heard of a girl that young that WANTED to be in a pageant. I was forced into those horrendous things until I was eight years old, when I finally made my mom promise I wouldn’t have to do them anymore if I did the last one. It was uncomfortable, mortifying, and intensely boring for me as a little girl.

    And you are definitely not alone. I was actually planning to blog about this myself soon. I came across just such a TV show the other day, and these little girls were MISERABLE! One was getting her hair done and just BEGGING her mother to take out the pins because they were hurting her. The mother’s reply was that no, she couldn’t take them out. She proceeded to tell her daughter that beauty was painful sometimes and kept asking her, “Don’t you want the crown? You want that crown, don’t you?”

    It was horrifying.

  • Pageant Director @ at 1:40 pm, August 10th, 2010

    Until you yourself have competed in a pageant, you should not judge them. You are doing the same thing that you say is wrong! Yes, there are extremists out there but not all pageants or pageant moms are like that. Be smarter than that, you know that the networks edit and twist it around for ratings. Controversy drives up the ratings. Just like you are posting this blog, to get attention from a topic that is controversial. Be real!

  • Steph @ at 4:16 pm, August 10th, 2010

    “Anybody Else Freaked Out By Child Beauty Pageants?”
    yes. Yes yes yes a million times yes.

  • Katherine C. @ at 8:11 pm, August 10th, 2010


  • Kelly S. @ at 8:35 pm, August 10th, 2010

    Another thing that freaks me out about these pageants is the amount of money that gets put into them. I have a friend who used to participate in them all the time, and I was astounded by how much it cost her. I’ve heard a lot of people justify participating in beauty pageants by the prize money/scholarships. It’s just my opinion, but wouldn’t it have made more sense to save the money you were spending instead of putting it into winning a scholarship that will probably equal what you’ve spent on the pageant in the long run? Why spend all that money on makeup, fake teeth, and dresses when it could be spent on things that would benefit your daughter’s future? Why is so much money being put into an industry that tells girls that talent, hard work, and smarts won’t get you anywhere in life unless you’re also flawlessly attractive? End rant.

  • Samuel W. @ at 1:58 am, August 11th, 2010

    What a disservice these parents are doing to their kids by putting them through the glitter ‘n’ glam pageants at like five. God, I have visions of it; flighty middle class mums hungry for bragging rights shouting commands at their overly dolled-up toddlers…*shudders*

  • Khadija H @ at 2:09 am, August 11th, 2010

    Some boys are put in these pageants as girls.

  • Joey1234 @ at 9:35 pm, August 11th, 2010

    “Yes, my daughter will be joining karate.”

    You should get your kids into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It is more effective in MMA and in self defense than Karate.

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 10:15 am, August 12th, 2010

    @Pageant Director: Show me a 2-year-old that decided to be in a pageant of her own volition and out of her personal desire to do so, and not because her mother wanted her in one. There is no excuse whatsoever for objectifying one’s child like this. So yes, if a woman puts her BABY into a pageant, she is “like this.” She is using her child to gain attention for herself, because really, how can her kid possibly want/need the attention she gets from the pageant? Pageants for older children and teenagers may occasionally be different, but it’s not just on the screen that the controversy happens. It happens in small-town pageants, back-stage with no cameras and no one around to care about the “ratings.” I knew a girl in high school who competed for the school title, made the top ten, and then had the mother of another girl say to her “I don’t see how they could possibly choose someone like you.” So don’t try to say it’s just about the ratings.

  • stellaluna @ at 12:50 am, August 13th, 2010

    I couldn’t agree more. Whenever I come across one of those pageant shows, I can’t help but watch- in awe and dismay. Seeing these mothers force their daughters to spray-tan, hair-spray, and wear fake teeth really disgusts me, to be honest. It’s the premature sexualization of girls, and not only that, but it’s teaching these little girls that LOOKS and not substance are the basis for self-esteem. It’s really sad.

  • Britney B @ at 2:02 am, August 14th, 2010

    Im really getting tired of people bashing on pageants, those shows are out for ratings…just like every other show, that’s why there’s so much “drama”…all the girls I know who do pageants WANT to do pageants, none of them are forced, don’t you think if there was “child abuse” going on at these things DHS would be the first ones to shut these operations down? Its just like any child sport, football, baseball etc…Pageantry is not centered around beauty, scoring is done on Personality, facial beauty, choice of attire, creativity, etc. Seriously though, stop bashing on pageants, and bash on someone like football dads…they actually beat their boys to get into high school/ college football and are really pushy….girls just like to be girly, and until you have actually been to a real pageant and not just watched it on tv then STFU! Lol.

  • Shu Die Hua @ at 10:20 pm, August 18th, 2010

    @Britney B:

    (1) “All the girls I know who do pageants WANT to do pageants, none of them are forced.” Do you know all the little girls in the world? I don’t think 4-year-olds have quite developed their decision-making abilities yet… so yes, they’re being forced.

    (2) “Don’t you think if there was ‘child abuse’ going on at these things DHS would be the first ones to shut these operations down?” Abuse comes in all shapes and forms. I think a mother relentlessly criticizing and pressuring her daughter constitutes as emotional abuse.

    (3) “Pageantry is not centered around beauty, scoring is done on Personality, facial beauty, choice of attire, creativity, etc.” You just contradicted yourself… if pageants aren’t centered around beauty, why are the little girls being judged on “facial beauty” and “attire”?

    (4) “STFU! Lol.” Are you serious? I thought we were all mature here :(

  • MeMe @ at 6:06 pm, August 30th, 2010

    I personally think pageantry is just like any other sport. The parents are the same as the parents of basketball players and cheerleaders and any other sport you can think of. I know alot of children that are thrown into basketball and forced to play by their parents. i was personally forced to play basketball for 10 years of my life. im not going to lie my parents were very mean and strict when it came down to basketball games and practice. I got grounded if i did bad at games. i was verbally and emotionally abused. so just like pageantry every other sport is the same. they all have the crazy parents and some are forced apon children.

    i personally like pageants and i plan to give my children the opprotunity to act like a kid and learn for themselves and figure out what they like and what they don’t like at the appropriate age. so if they decide they do want to be in a pageant i will let them. if at the end of that pageant they don’t like it. then that’s fine. they will do what they want.

    Oh and i also feel bad for the parents and people who are actually in pageants that have to read and listen to all this hater talk. The way society looks at pageants is wrong i think personally. why don’t they look at basketball the same? or cheerleading? or even gymnastics? gymnastics is a good example… they run around and jump on pools in little skin tight suits that show their vagina and butts basically, with full faces of makeup, glitter all over their faces, little hairpieces, and they jump around and spread their legs… now you tell me how that sounds? society has everything so twisted. yes i agree that society shouldn’t be all about beauty but sorry to say but that is true. and some ppl want to show how pretty their children are and/or they want to gain confidence and show that they think they are so beautiful that they can flaunt it on stage. i wish i had confidence like that. don’t you? do what you want and do it to the fullest. life is way to short to let a hater pull you down and bring you down. live your life and live it how you want.

    im not trying to bring down any other sport. i love all sports but i just think it’s rediculous that ppl are bashing something that other ppl love and actually cherish. i just don’t understand why they hate it so bad? im sorry if you have had a bad experience with pageants and i think it’s okay if you want to tell your story and opinion but don’t bash and hate on other people when they are doing the thing they love best. if you think it’s bad then let them figure it out themselves.

    thanks for your guys’ time and im sorry if i ever offended anyone.

  • B.W. @ at 2:51 pm, September 5th, 2010

    MeMe, I sincerely hope you were not trying to give the impression that you spend far more time than most people thinking about the vaginas and butts of preadolescent girls.

  • Natasha @ at 8:16 pm, September 15th, 2010

    Those pageants with little kids should be illegal, period. My mom is so great, she was approached by a woman when i was three asking her to put me in the local beauty pageant circuit, she would never let that horror happen to me and she got really angry with the woman for suggesting it, she told her I’d end up with an eating disorder. Who knows? I could have, or worse.

  • Ariel @ at 5:04 pm, October 29th, 2010

    Yes, these pageants scare the crap out of me too…at least enter your kid into child modeling or something if you think they’re that cute…at least then they make money…because guess who doesn’t have a college fund due to the ridiculous amount of money spent on pageants…those poor little girls who are being sent the message: it is better to be pretty than to be interesting, intelligent, accmoplished, kind, etc. Shame on these mothers (and fathers…they may not participate all the time, but they obviously have no problems with their little girls being objectified).

  • güncel hotfile @ at 3:05 pm, December 29th, 2010

    reetings. I follow your site to wish you continued success.

  • Catelyn @ at 9:29 pm, June 8th, 2011

    trust me, you are not the only one! I saw this the other day on a commercial and said, “that is so wrong!” and “they are exploding their children!”

  • Roxanne @ at 2:36 am, July 20th, 2011

    One of my childhood best friends was awarded the title “Little Miss USA” back in first grade. The attention she received was obviously quite extensive, and she was forced to attend numerous events throughout the region. I often accompanied her to these performances, and I distinctly remember my 7 year old self looking on in horror as a stylist dragged a comb through my friend’s hair, another beautician caked makeup on the child’s face, and her mother hissed “Beauty is pain, darling.” The worst part? The freakin’ first grader was dressed in a peacock dress (I don’t even know if it can be called that- it was THAT tiny) that could only be described as elementary slut.

    The poor girl grew up on Miss Universe and Barbie. How we remained friends for so long, I can only guess; I was the soft-spoken intellect, and she was the bratty beauty pageant winner.

    It turned out that her mom was more than a little messed up. The woman was a criminal, and guess what? She stole over $1k from girl scouts. Yeah, cookie money. We all pretty much lost contact after that.

    And ya know what? The girl, now in junior high, is still in beauty competitions. She was intelligent, loyal, and sometimes a bit annoying, but she is regarded as a pretty face simply because of her messed up mum’s quest for fame. Thank you for revealing how detrimental beauty pageant’s can be to elementary schoolers. Quite literally, “beauty is pain.”

  • momof2 @ at 12:23 pm, October 24th, 2011

    Several people told me to put my daughter and son into modelling. I flat-out refused. I pulled my daughter out of competitive dance as well at 8 as I was very disturbed at the things she was exposed to. She was 7 1/2, all of 45 lbs soaking wet she’s so petite and slim, with bloody 6-pack abs from dancing, and came home one day saying she was fat. Even now at 8 1/2, it’s a struggle to get her to eat every day. The things she heard from not only older girls at dance, but girls her age, led to this. I had a huge slumber party for her this past wknd and it was eye-opening listening to all of them, 8 and 9, saying, “I can’t eat that, I’ll get fat”. It’s very sad. These are all beautiful, talented, fit, bright young girls, and already they are obsessed with weight.

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