Have you ever seen one of the many programs showing beauty contests for children? It is usually small girls from the age of 2-8 years old. Many parents allowing their children to participate in beauty contests which in its extreme form can mean vexing, spray tanning, dieting and tons of make-up – on children! What is that really about? Parents being ambitious on behalf of their small ones or sincerely believing their children benefit from it? Unfortunately, this almost looks like parents using their children as some kind of “jewellery”. ‘The child looks good – on me’ they might think.
We could be tempted to label it a modern type of ‘child-slavery’, as this is not only about beauty but also a whole lot about money. In some cases, the child supports economically the full family just from participating in such contests. We came to think about this one day when watching the American show “Toddlers and Tiaras” where a two-year old girl was participating in a beauty contest. The mother was over-ambitious on her child’s behalf – following hours of preparation, make-up, false eyelashes and false teeth. False teeth apparently look prettier. Another mother let her 3-year old daughter undergo dental treatment – not because the child had problems with her teeth – no, because her teeth should be whiter for the contest. The child was crying but the mother was persistent – clearly one has to suffer for beauty. Small children listen to their mothers.
Where are the child protection services in this? When parents make it their full-time job to prepare and escort their children to beauty contests and the family’s financial well-being depends on the income the child makes, something must be wrong. Is this an American phenomenon only? It used to be before it spread across Europe and especially to Britain where reality shows similar to “Toddlers and Tiaras” are becoming increasingly common.
Last year, France put its foot down prohibiting children from participating in beauty contests. France, the cradle of fashion itself. The law prohibits anyone below the age of 16 to be judged on basis of their physical appearance. Positive is that the law follows concern raised all over the world. The main concern is how youngsters are forced to grow up too fast. Let children be children, we say because what is all this really about? It is perhaps less so about child-slavery and more so about how commercial interests take over the lives of even small children, and why? Because we allow them to do so.