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Reared to Compete: Toddlers and Tiaras

By May 1, 2009 8 Comments
One of the contestants from the show Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC

Two of the contestants from the TLC show Toddlers and Tiaras

While previous generations were playing with Barbies, current younglings are opting to become Barbie – and their mothers don’t seem to mind. In a current reality TV series on TLC, Toddlers and Tiaras, the cameras follow young girls and their mothers in their quest to win beauty pageants.

Beauty pageants have always been scrutinized, and the reason for that is becoming more evident. According to an article by Jessica Bennett in Newsweek, girls are starting to use makeup at a younger age (the average age now is 13), than they did just four years ago, when age 17 was “the makeup moment.” Makeup is not the culprit, but seeking ways to “improve” oneself through makeup is problematic.

The same article reports that pre-pubescent girls are using self-tanners, tightening creams, face masks, and are getting laser hair-removal treatments. The amount that is spent on priming these tweens for womanhood is roughly $100 million annually and counting. I guess there will be no camping or free play for these princesses! God forbid she breaks a nail, and then what?

What’s next, “anti-cellulite” and smoothing cream for those stubborn dimples on a newborn baby’s butt? Get her a pair of stilettos and a wig; maybe add more sparkles to her eyes? After all, she must be reared to compete.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly who is responsible for such dramatic occurrences. Do we blame the mother? She is as susceptible to advertisements and our gender-stereotyping culture as her daughters; however, mothers should learn better discretion. How about society and the ad agencies? Are they the devil or are they the scapegoat: do we create the ad or does the ad create us?

What are beauty ads doing to our kids — where has childhood gone? “To the spa” seems to be an appropriate answer. While businesses and entrepreneurs are cashing in on instilled insecurities that women face more and more and at a younger age every day, it makes me wonder: how healthy can this be for girls who barely graduated to big-girl panties? Also, if 19-year-olds are already getting Botox to get rid of their “wrinkles,” what measures will they take in five, ten, or twenty years from now? I am almost afraid to fathom. Everyone only gets one chance at a childhood, a time to be carefree, but that is something these girls are giving up. It is ironic that little girls are made to dress up like women: makeup, high heels, fitted clothing, yet at the same time pressured not to get older.

–O.V.K.