Child beauty pageants—Do they sexualize young girls?

I came across an article about child beauty pageants that kind of shocked me. I never really gave this much thought before and never watched the TLC show Toddlers and Tiaras. From what I read and the pictures I saw, these young girls parade around in revealing outfits, wear tons of makeup and act in what I thought looked like suggestive behavior—winking to try and get votes.

These little girls look and act like Barbie dolls. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around this and there are many people that oppose these pageants. Some think that child beauty pageants attract pedophiles and teach young girls that all that matters is physical beauty. I can’t help thinking of Jon Bonet Ramsey, the little beauty contestant murdered by an unknown person, possibly because of the way she looked and dressed competing in beauty contests.

The description of Toddlers and Tiaras sums it up: This funny and sometimes startling reality series takes viewers behind the scenes of the shockingly competitive world of child beauty pageants, presenting a warts-and-all portrait of the wee contestants (wearing makeup, spray tans and fake hair!) as well as their fanatically driven parents.

Is this a healthy environment for impressionable girls? Personally, I wouldn’t do this with a daughter. Maybe I have a different view on this because I didn’t grow up wishing I were a princess waiting for a prince to save me. I made sure I could take care of myself. I can’t help thinking that once these girls grow up and they lose their cuteness, they will have a hard time getting along in the world.


Kelley Heckart, Historical fantasy romance author

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All three books of my Dark Goddess trilogy are available in Print and Ebook. Set in dark age Scotland, I mixed history with a Samhain/Beltaine myth that revolves around an Irish clan and the goddesses Brigit and Cailleach.

4 thoughts on “Child beauty pageants—Do they sexualize young girls?”

  1. This sort of thing should be considered child abuse. I am the mother of a very pretty little girl who is into jeans and regular stuff now, but, at a younger age, she loved to dress-up and and have all that fancy princess-y stuff… but… NEVER would I have considered plucking her eyebrows, painting her with adult/hooker make-up, spray tan, botox, or any of that crap! I wouldn’t put her through the BS stress of competing like that! That has got to be devastating to the self esteem of the little girls who do not win, and eventually to the ‘winners’ too, when they get to be too old for mom to control like a doll and so mom moves all her affection to the baby sister, or too old for the pedophiles to drool over anymore and some younger girl takes their crown. (yea… harsh exaggeration… maybe…)

    I gave my daughter all the pink she wanted, twirly skirts, pretty scarves, a plastic fairy wand, plastic flowers (etc) and she was as much a princess as SHE wanted and imagined herself to be, when she felt like it, or not, when she didn’t. Why abuse her and make her fight over a meaningless pageant crown? You can buy a pretty little tiara anywhere…seriously, a simple plastic toy is all it takes to light up a REAL little girl’s day! (I know, winning the crown is NOT just for the little girl… it’s more for the mom’s bragging rights… ) The girls who are abused and forced to dress like… um… ‘harlots’ is a better word than the first thing that came to mind… and taught to act like harlots so they can compete in pageants like this, are being USED by their sick and very selfish parents. Unless taught, unless pushed and prodded and brainwashed, what child would really want this?? They definitely do NOT need it!

    A parent should help their child achieve what the child wants in life.. to guide and nurture what is there naturally. Not to impose UNnatural acts and lifestyles on them merely for the parents’ … vanity? entertainment? Whatever! I really do not know why a parent who truly loves their child would do this!


  2. If you’re unsure, watch the clips that the E! show the Soup pulls – chunks of the show do go up on Youtube. There’s no question that these girls are being sexualized, usually by their own mothers. It’s a truly disturbing phenomenon that still falls in one of the areas that Western culture doesn’t talk about – abusive mothers, and mothers shaping their children out of their own disorders and survived abuse. It’s pretty obvious when you watch for awhile, and deeply disturbing.


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