This is a speech I recently wrote for my Dynamics class:
I am a terrible person. In recent weeks, I have inadvertently contributed to the global issue that is child abuse. No, I was not babysitting and smacking the children for bad behaviour or refusing to go to bed, and no I did not deny a child access to their basic human rights; but, I did support an unrecognized form of child abuse. I sat on my couch one evening, watching TLC’s hit TV show, “Toddlers and Tiaras”.
As I sat there in the comfort of my pajamas, with a mug of tea in hands, I watched Holly, a 7 year old beauty pageant contestant getting her legs shaved. Seven years old! When I was seven, I spent my days in my backyard sand box, or playing “house” with my next-door neighbours. Holly, at seven years old is making visits to her aunt’s house so that she can get her monstrously hairy legs shaven. Is this sick, or what? And is it just me, or are seven year-olds’ legs pretty smooth in the first place? Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.
The next episode, I witnessed Karley and Kylie, two sisters from Georgia forcefully being spray tanned by their mother. Karley, age 4, whined “nooooo, I don’t want to” as she ran to the corner of the room away from her mom. Frustrated, the mother said, “I’m gunna count down from three... 3,2”, then afraid of her mom’s temper, Karley gave in, “alright, I’ll do it”! Meanwhile, Karley is bundled in the corner of the room, red faced and puffy eyed. “Look at your white legs; don’t you want them to be pretty?”, the mother asked Karley, and she began spraying her 4 year old daughter with an artificial skin colouring agent. Karley could barely contain her tears, and still her mother tried to justify her actions by saying, “It’s okay, Karley actually likes getting her spray tan.” Yes. That’s exactly what it looked like to me too. Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.
As if I hadn’t seen enough at this point, on another episode of Toddlers and Tiaras, four year old Mackenzie, was heading to “Diva Day” with her mother. Mackenzie’s mother said in an interview, “We set up the chocolate facial... I do believe it will exfoliate and moisturize her skin and brighten her complexion for the pageant.” Mackenzie wasn’t into the whole idea, she would have rather eaten the chocolate used in the making of the facial. It was evident that Mackenzie wasn’t having a good time, and after getting her nails done, her aesthetician stated, “Putting nails on Mackenzie was like putting nails on a Tasmanian Devil!” Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that child abuse is not considered socially acceptable in our society. So why then, is a show such as Toddlers and Tiaras considered acceptable to watch and even to produce? The show began airing in 2009, and is currently in its 5th season on TLC with 59 episodes aired since its debut. This season the show has expanded, and is also being aired in the United Kingdom. The fact that this show has lasted for 5 seasons, and that it has gained such a fan base that it has been able to air in multiple continents is saddening. A TV show that documents a form of child abuse is gaining popularity.
A more recent episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras” involving the first boy ever seen on the show, followed the story of how Traven was willing to break the rules in order to walk away with the title of champion in the International ‘Fresh Faces’ Pageant. When his mother asked him how he was planning on winning this pageant if he's not willing to practice, he simply replied, "I just want to cheat!" ... “Good luck, girls," Traven’s mother was quoted saying, "My son is going to get it." And so, on top of all the things we have found that are so morally wrong and unethical about the TLC TV show, we now have seen how competitive these young children have become. And what on earth could make this boy want to win so badly, that he’s willing to cheat... and admit it on national TV? My best guess; pressure from his parents. Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.
So what ever happened to playing “house”, going for evening strolls to the ice cream store, and getting your hands dirty in the sand box at the playground? These poor beauty pageant princesses are being pressured to hit the stage with wigs, makeup, dental prosthetics and well-rehearsed performances. And now I am left with a few questions; do pressures to look so flawless beginning at such a young age set unrealistic precedence for these children as they grow up? Will this lead to higher rates of anorexia and other eating disorders, or will it lead to higher rates of depression, when kids and youth are unable to achieve these unrealistic standards of beauty? What in the world happened to the notion that internal beauty is what really matters? So many unanswered questions; but one thing I know for sure... Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.