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Susan Cody: Child Beauty Pageants - Choice or Chattel?

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The words "child beauty pageant" sound to me like the words "you're on a vegetarian diet" would sound to Hannibal Lecter.

There have been a few documentaries about these pageants and they are disturbing. I'm not talking about the so-called "natural" pageants where the children wear 'minimal makeup' and have natural hair, although I'm not a fan of those either. I'm talking about the popular ones, the ones that most of the kids are entered into. I'm talking about the 'real' beauty pageants for children that have mothers north and south, vying for their future Miss America to win Miss Grande Belle or Miss Queen of Elegance or [insert any old Trite Title Here]. Not only do the toddlers wear more makeup than Tammy Faye (bless) but they have a swimsuit competition in the pageant. 4 year old girls in bikinis! And then you see the judges - middle aged to older women and men. I have questions - What exactly are these older men judging? How they fill out their bikini? Who offered them the job? And why did they take said job?

The mothers. The ones running these things are primarily the mothers (although the fathers are often just as proud of their princesses). These overly competitive ladies, living vicariously through their little ones, pushing their sons aside (no sense in wasting time with a kid who doesn't wear mascara, right?) and yelling at the child when she is tired, telling her that coming in second doesn't count and warning her to suck in her belly when she is in her swimsuit and her $500 formal gown. Incidentally, that was what my wedding dress cost. Like me, most of these kids will only wear it once. Their photos and head shots are airbrushed so much they almost look like cartoons. Unrecognizable from the fresh-faced, freckled cuties they are in real life.

Websites boast that winning these pageants will give the girl the "recognition she deserves." I would have thought that a hug from her parents and a gold star from her teacher would have done that. We want our daughters getting recognition for their kindness, their efforts and hard work, and for their sportsmanship and artistic endeavors.

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