As an advertising major and women’s studies minor, I’ve had a lot of experience researching the culture of beauty as it relates to the media’s portrayal of beauty and the pressure that has been put on women and girls to look young, beautiful, and thin. Our generation is extremely self-critical when it comes to appearances and I’ve noticed with my friends that there is so much more that we dislike about our bodies than what we do like. Take the notorious Mean Girls example when the girls are ripping themselves apart in front of a mirror- we may laugh at this but it’s all too realistic.
A major problem I see in our society is that younger and younger girls are being fed these messages of “idealistic” beauty. TLC’s Toddler’s and Tiaras is a perfect example of how our society is putting pressure on younger and younger girls to look beautiful. In this show, parents, who really just want attention directed towards themselves, tell their young toddlers that in order to be beautiful, she must wear fake teeth, fake hair, and layers and layers of make-up. Pageant moms are selfishly sexualizing their young daughters to boost their own self-esteem and for monetary reward. The way that these young girls look on stage with their lip liner, short lace off-the-shoulder dresses, and fake eyelashes is a way for the mothers to live vicariously through their daughters. The mothers tell their daughters that they are only beautiful when they are young, so their self-confidence is already cut off by a certain age.
According to statistics, children are the fastest-growing segment of the beauty pageant market, with annual children’s competitions attracting an estimated 3 million children. This number astonishes me, but it’s because the children are thrown into these pageants at such a vulnerable point in their lives that they have no choice but to participate. When approached with any controversy about the pageants, most mothers claim that their children absolutely love pageants and it makes them feel beautiful when in fact a large majority of the mothers are doing it for themselves. They reward their children with toys, food, and anything else to make them cooperate as they glue on their fake eyelashes and spray them with self-tanner.
“I don’t even like dancing. I’m only here because my mom said she would buy me tacos.”
Not only do they pressure their daughters to be thin, but they also cause them to be extremely judgmental of others. Limiting your child to such standards is incredibly dangerous for their future both physically and mentally. This is a point in their lives that they should be playing outside, making new friends, and not even being aware of their self-appearance. Mothers should be telling their daughters that they are the most beautiful in their natural skin and don’t need any make-up or ridiculous outfits to make them feel beautiful. I hope that one day there will be an age limit for beauty pageant entry so that at least the girls have the choice of participating rather than their mothers forcing them to at this vulnerable point in their lives.