Should Children Participate in Beauty Pageants?

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For over 75years beauty contests and pageants have been a popular activity in the United

States. These contests are so popular that they have been made into major productions and are

televised on an annual basis. Millions of viewers watch as women representing their respective

state compete for a title and monetary reward. Emulating these national contests an industry was

born in which children as young as 6 months old participate. Annually 3 million children

compete in these pageants with the majority of these children girls (Shultz and Murphy).

This participation by children have had unintended consequences. Overzealous parents, intense

competition and time intensive pageants, have resulted in children suffering emotional,

psychological and in some cases physical harm. Regulatory oversight and guidelines need to be

established to protect children that are not in a position to advocate for themselves.

Beauty pageants are by nature contests. Contests create a level of stress for those who

participate in them. When children are the competitors, those children are exposed to the stress

of not only the competition but often the unrealistic expectations of their parents. Those in

favor of childrens beauty pageants suggest that exposing children to competition is beneficial.

Advocates for this activity believe these contests provides an opportunity to develop

coping skills. This being said, William Cromie asks in his Harvard Gazette article “The Whys

and Woes of Beauty Pageants” “Does exposing a two year old little girl to the rigors and stress of

intense competition cross the line”(Cromie)? Over exposure can create a level of stress that can

result in emotional harm.

Hiillary Levey, an undergraduate student at Harvard University attended several of these

pageants involving children. Levey observed a girl in a pink sequined dress began to cry ( qtd. in

Cromie). The tears carried streaks of mascara down her face (qtd. in Cromie). Her mother

grabbed her and tried to get the girl to stop crying( qtd. in Cromie). When she didn’t stop, her

mother dragged her off the stage by the hand ( qtd. in Cromie). A child breaking down in tears

on stage without any apparent antecedent is a manifestation of stress. Levey then poses the

question, “You have to wonder if that kind of thing is right,"( qtd. In Cromie)? Parents often

have unrealistic expectations of their childrens tolerance and stamina. To expect young children

to hold up to the rigors of a pageant as compared to an adult is unreasonable.

Many critics of the pageant industry have concerns about the emotional stress that is passed

from parents to children (Shultz and Murphy). The pageant mom phenomenon are mothers who

aggressively market their daughters ( Schultz and Murphy ). In the process of this aggressive

marketing some mothers lose perspective in...

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