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Parents Talk: Calling a Child 'Sexy' is Just Wrong

This week's Parents Talk looks at 'Toddlers and Tiaras' and asks you to weigh in with thoughts.

I can't say that I'm easily offended by the way a parent chooses to raise his or her child.  You want to spend $5000 on a Cinderella crib and tell your baby girl she's a princess every day? I think that's ridiculous, but if you think it'll make you and your newborn happy, go for it.

But when we start talking about child beauty pageants, we're taking princess to a whole new, and deeply disturbing, level.  These pageants are nothing new, and many of us have been bothered by them for years.  But it seems there's been a change recently. They're actually being given some weird form of credibility by entertainment news, and it disgusts me.

If you pay any attention to pop culture, you're most likely familiar with the documentary-style television show "Toddlers and Tiaras" on TLC.  My husband and I first learned about the show while watching another program essentially making fun of it.  Watching "The Soup," on E!, we couldn't believe all the JonBenet Ramsey look-alikes, but like most people, we rolled our eyes at what some people find entertaining and didn't give it much thought.

But now I'm 38 weeks pregnant, and I know I'm having a little girl.  And I've noticed in recent weeks that this show is getting a lot of attention - and not because it's so wrong.  Entertainment shows are doing full segments reporting on the drama behind child beauty pageants. Articles in entertainment magazines are previewing this new season.  According to Nielsen, about 1.5 - 2 million households tune in to episodes of the show, and clips of these 4-year-old divas are getting millions of hits on Youtube.

I think most of us would agree that the mothers are desperately trying to live vicariously through their tiny doll children.  They're clearly missing that part of the brain that thinks calling a toddler sexy is wrong on every level.  And they clearly don't get that parading their half-naked, spray-tanned, teased-haired, hips-shaking baby Barbies around in front of a crowd will not do anything good for their self-esteem now, or especially years from now.

In a May interview with ABC News, one child pyschologist explained the dangers of putting so much emphasis on outward beauty and that it will lead to dysfuctional relationship.  Not only that, he explained that these pageants are practically teaching these little girls to be narcissistic.

I can't imagine anyone being surprised by this assessment.  But here's the problem.  Go ahead and Google "Toddlers and Tiaras" and you'll get video clips and blogs and show write-ups about these little girls who still have some of their baby teeth.   It's a lot harder to find loud cries to cancel the show or to protect those little girls.

When is someone going to say that this is not only wrong, but that it shouldn't be tolerated?  Why is it acceptable for a mother to teach her toddler that behaving like a street walker is a desirable quality? We know pedophilia is a serious problem, and it's OK for parents to allow their daughters to fulfill the fantasies of sick adults around the world?

It's not OK.  Not at all.  It's time to crack down on these pageants and shows that exploit our precious girls.  Parents and organizers need to be held accountable for what I think you can call child abuse.

With so many parents, teachers and programs working just to get our girls to raise their hands in math class and with the serious problems of domestic abuse continuing to plague our women and our families, it's time to stop shrugging our shoulders and rolling our eyes. 

So what's the answer?  I'm just days away from having my own baby girl, and I have a million questions and concerns about raising her to be the happiest, healthiest child she can be.  I do my best not to judget the mom with the screaming toddler in Target because I may be that mom one day.  I don't judge a parent who has rules that seem wacky or values that seem out of touch.  But this is different.  And I can't be the only one who thinks so.

What do you think?  I say these child beauty pageants should be banned and parents held accountable... put them in jail if we have to.  We can't just sit by and allow a girl's promising life be damaged or destroyed before she even learns to spell. 

Do you agree? As a soon-to-be parent, I'd love to know what you think and where you stand on this.  How would you change things if you could... or would you?

Brad Koehn June 23, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Like you, I'm repulsed by what some parents do (or fail to do) with their children. The pageants you describe are probably no good for the kids, and realistically no good for the parents either. But ban them? For what, specifically? When does a pageant for kids cross the line? Is the Raspberry pageant to be banned as well? How old do girls need to be before they can shake their hips? Until you're ready to answer those questions, live and let live. It's a free country, and people whose parenting ideas don't agree with your own is one price of that freedom. On the other hand, you're free to raise your daughter to be an independent, capable adult, without anybody forcing their definition of good parenting upon you. Look on the bright side: your daughter won't have any trouble competing with these girls in the workforce.
Kay Gordon June 24, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Another great topic, and I'm glad somebody said what I was thinking. I understand where you're coming from, Brad, but there's a big difference between the girls on the show and the local girls who sit on floats in a parade. As a mom, I want to protect my daughter, and not only are these moms not protecting their girls, they're actually hurting them. I agree we don't know where to draw the line, but what did that Supreme Court Justice say? I can't tell you what profanity is, but I know it when I see it. Well, I know what I'm seeing on that horrible show, and it should be stopped. Why won't our daughters have any trouble competing with these exploited children in the workforce someday? Because their parents took away their potential. That's sad and it's wrong. You're right, it's a free country, but we have laws. We'd lock up a parent who beat up her child, Social Services might remove a child from a home where she is verbally abused, so I think it is our business and our obligation to speak up for these little girls.
Brad Koehn June 28, 2011 at 04:39 AM
Here is Justice Potter Stewart’s full quote: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” He sums it up far better than I ever could.
Elizabeth Royster July 28, 2011 at 07:38 PM
One of my personal fave artists, India Arie wrote a song called Better Way. "I see the children on TV It's become a sign of the times Glorifying their bodies Something just don't feel right Still we keep pretending That boys and girls are men and women We watch it and we call it entertainment And everything is okay as long as somebody's getting paid" I heard that song and haven't watched 'reality TV' since.

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