Child beauty pageants have been on my mind lately. I know some people that enroll their children in pageants, but I’ve never been to one myself. The most experience I have is some clips from pageant shows like Toddlers & Tiaras on TLC. Given that, I’m talking purely about my thoughts on pageants without any real first-hand experience. (Though I’d like to go to one just once to see what it’s all about.)
So what happens at a beauty pageant? What is it? Essentially a beauty pageant is a contest over physical attractiveness. Some contests have portions of that focus on talent and interview, but a majority of the points come from the beauty and grace of the contestants as well as their outfits. Contestants try to sway the judges by having the brightest smile, cutest clothes, and prettiest hair. Some pageants allow makeup, others don’t. Some contests are small, usually held at local community centers and fairs. Others a larger and part of a national circuit. Some are judged by a panel, others are open to public votes. Procedures differ from pageant to pageant, but essentially the point is to try to convince somebody else that your child is the prettiest.
Kids can learn healthy competition, explore talents, win scholarships, build social skills, perform, and gain confidence in numerous ways through physical, social, and academic activities. Even the fun of crazy outfits and hair can be met in a game of dress up. Children can do all of these things without being subjected to the scrutiny and value judgement given by a panel or audience.
And while the placement in a pageant may not matter to most kids and may not have long standing effects, why would you put your child in that situation in the first place? I don’t think the arguments for child pageants have any legs to stand on. Whatever benefits there might be are not worth the means and can be achieved in more healthy ways.