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Should the United States Ban Child Pageants?

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras, you know there is something seriously wrong with the child beauty pageant culture.

(Maybe its existence entirely?)

Sprays tans, makeup, hair weaves and ridiculously adult costumes that seem closer to clothing you would find in the role-playing aisle of a sex fetish shop than a 4-year-old girl’s closet, all seem de rigor if you would like your daughter to win the title of Little Miss Glitzy Toddler USA.

In an effort to prove once again that the French take better care of their children, a new French government report seeks to ban child beauty pageants, padded bras and heels for young girls. (I guess Suri won’t be moving to Paris any time soon.)

It’s hard to argue with their line of reasoning.

Chantal Jouanno, the senator who authored the report, said that the sexualization of young women was “contrary to the dignity of the human being” and a step backward for gender equality (as reported by Time Magazine).

Well, yes! Thank you French government for putting what seems so obvious into an official document!

After watching a Toddlers & Tiaras clip of a mother waxing her daughter’s eyebrows as she screamed and cried for her to stop, I don’t know why we aren’t trying to get child pageants banned in the United States too.

Or at the very least, get TLC to stop airing the show. I know the network doesn’t always paint the prettiest picture of the contestants and their mothers, but I still think it has legitimized child pageants as part of popular culture as opposed to the weird depraved circus side show that it deserves to be.

Not only is the child pageant industry worth over a billion dollars and quickly growing, they are currently largely unregulated — child contestants are not considered “working,” so pageants are exempt from federal child labor laws. Plus, since all pageants have different rules, it is hard to set laws that will govern all of them.

I don’t know about that. It doesn’t seem that hard to say that beauty pageants can only exist for girls 13 and older. Or that all use of artificial enhancements such as fake eye lashes, spray tan, hair weaves, flippers, etc. will be cause for disqualification.

If the government can’t enforce pageant regulations, then I would say either these mini-beauty queens are “working” or their parents are subjecting them to some form of abuse. Judging from the clips and videos I’ve seen — these kids are not happy and rarely have a choice.

Even if pageant mothers claim that their daughters enjoy it, I bet they’ve been coached to enjoy it just like they’ve been coached to smile through the hair spray and the spray tan.

What do you think? Should child pageants be banned in the United States? Should laws change to govern the process? Does TLC bear any responsibility?

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Read more of Ilana’s writing at Mommy Shorts.
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