Babies or Barbies?


Babies or Barbies?

            Should there be an age limit on when girls can compete in beauty pageants?  JonBenét Ramsey was just six years old when she was murdered.  The pictures that the news stations showed of JonBenét were from the beauty pageants she competed in.  This all happened in 1996, since then interest in child beauty pageants have skyrocketed.  Hundreds of thousands of young girls from the ages of 0-16 compete in pageants every year.  They buy and wear costumes, show off their “talents,” and try their hardest to win the tiara.  Some people believe that competing will give the girls an early taste of competition and will increase their self-confidence.  Others believe that the young girls should not be competing and that there are many negative effects that come from them competing.  There should be an age limit on when girls are allowed to compete in beauty pageants because the young girls are judged based on their looks, parents are too involved, and competing at a young age could cause emotional issues later in life.


 Age Limit

The young girls that are competing in the pageants are still maturing and should not be judged on their looks or sexualized.  Paul Peterson, the president and founder of A Minor Consideration “believes the pageants not only put demands on children's time and energies, but also sexualize young girls” (Schultz and Murphy 3).  The young girls try their best to look, what they consider, perfect.  They have hair extensions, fake tans, a lot of make-up, and flippers (fake teeth).  They use all of this to impress the judges with their looks.  At their age they should not be worried about their looks.  They also have different outfits to try to impress the judges.  They use elaborate gowns and different costumes so the judges will think highly of them.  Sometimes these costumes are very sexual.  For example there were recently young girls on the TLC show “Toddlers & Tiaras” one of whom dressed up as Julia Roberts’s character from Pretty Woman while she was a prostitute.  The other young girl was wearing a gold bustier like the one Madonna wore on her Blond Ambition World Tour.  The girls are being overly sexualized when they are only toddlers.  This can attract the attention of pedophiles all over the world.  The parents that are deciding to put these girls in these costumes are putting their daughters in harm’s way.


Pageant Moms

The parents of the young girls are using their children to live out their own dreams. They pay the entry fees and for the expensive outfits.  They often coach their daughters and drive them across the country to all of the different pageants.  Also, according to Lucia Grosaru, a clinical psychologist and integrative psychotherapist, “Mothers of these children are usually trying to live their own dreams through their young daughters” (Grosaru 1).  Since the parents are so involved tension can be put on the relationship between the parent and daughter which can hurt the relationship in the future.  The parents should focus on being parents to their daughters and not worry so much about the success of their daughters.  Daughters look to their parents to be their parents not to be their coaches or managers.  Since the girls are so young they can get the relationship roles confused and not know what role their parent actually plays in their life.  Parents can also get caught up in the hype of the pageant.  As Shappert states, “Parents ultimately decide if a minor participates in a beauty pageant. And just because the child expresses a desire to do a pageant, doesn't necessarily mean they should at that time” (Shappert).  Parents should find a different way to live out their dreams.


Psychological Problems

Competing in these pageants can cause the children to lose their childhood.  Instead of the young girls being able to be children and play with their friends they are often traveling the country looking like women 3-4 times their age.  These girls will never be able to have their childhood back, and while they may like what they are doing now, when they are older and look back on their childhood they will realize they missed out on many experiences.  As Marcia Summers, an educational psychology professor at Ball State University, says, "At age 20, you can't get together with a bunch of friends and play in the dirt or play cars. You'd look and feel pretty silly” (Ransford 1).  These children are missing many milestones of their lives because they are traveling the country.  They can never get their childhood back.


Many of the girls that compete in pageants as young children end up having psychological issues later in life.  Lucia Grosaru again states that “anxiety and frustration are near these children at all times. These and many other psychological problems can emerge from having to be something that you are not at a very early age” (Grosaru 1).  While competing in pageants the girls are judged on their looks, if they do not look perfect then they will not win.  This can carry over to their everyday lives.  They can become extremely self-conscious and lose confidence in themselves if they believe they do not look perfect.  Also the girls will try to be physically perfect.  They will often believe that they are not skinny enough and that their bodies are not good enough, this can result in the girls developing anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders.


 The Other Side of the Story

Some people may say that when girls compete in pageants at a young age that it helps build confidence.  These people believe that when the girls are cheered for while on stage and are winning titles that their confidence will build and that they will not have any doubts.  These people do not realize that while the girls are being cheered for they are dressed up and made up in ways that they are not usually seen.  This makes the girls think that they must always have on their make-up, have their hair done and be dressed up to have people like them.  According to Michelle Berg when girls compete in these pageants the invisible message that is being sent is that “you are not good enough as you are.  The body is experienced as wrong” (Berg).  The girls have to realize that they are great the way that they are and do not need to be dressed up and made up to have people like them.  Also there are the girls that compete in these pageants that do not win.  They do not have high self-confidence.  There are people who compete and may never win, these girls will believe that they are not good the way they are, they will think that they need to be made up in order for people to like them.  When girls compete in these pageants their confidence is not helped, if anything the pageants hinder their confidence.

           There should be an age limit on when girls can compete in beauty pageants.  When young girls are competing in beauty pageants they are being overly sexualized and judged on their looks before they are mature.  Also since the girls are so young their parents are very involved which can put stress on the relationship between the child and parent.  In addition, when the girls are traveling across the country competing in pageants they are losing their childhoods.  Finally, when the girls compete in pageants at a young age psychological problems often emerge later in life. There are many consequences to competing in beauty pageants at such a young age.  These girls are still babies; they should not be treated like Barbies.








Works Cited

Berg, Michele.  “Child Beauty Pageants: Read the Warning Label.” Momlogic. 

Momlogic, 1 April 2009.  Web.  19 October 2011.

Grosaru, Lucia.  “Toddlers and Children Beauty Pageants – Risk Factors for Severe

Psychological Turmoils.”  Psychology Corner.  Everyday Psychology.  8 June 2011. 

Web. 14 October 2011.

Murphy, Ann Pleshette and Kristin Schultz.  “Beauty Pageants Draw Children and Criticism.” 

Good Morning America.  ABC.  26 February 2011.  Web.  14 October 2011.

Ransford, Marc.  “Professor says Beauty Pageants Aren’t for Kids.”  News Center.  Ball State

University.  17 February 1997.  Web.  19 October 2011.

Shappert, Rhonda.  “Beauty Pageants – Effects Beauty Pageants have on Self-Image and Self-

Esteem.”  Winning Through Pageantry.  The Pageant Expert.  9 March 2011.  Web.  14

October 2011.