Pageants should not be held before naptime
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 00:10
Popular television shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo have cultivated ideas of self-esteem-destructing pageants complete with overbearing parents living vicariously through their daughters.
This is surely the idea that parents in Fort Mills, S.C., had in mind on Sept. 27 when their children brought home a flyer from Indian Land Elementary School announcing a beauty pageant. The flyer stated that “contestants will be judged on facial beauty, personality and overall appeal” and that organizers would be “looking for a beautiful child with a sparkling personality.” The contest aimed to crown a “Warrior King” and a “Warrior Queen” for each age group from kindergarten through fifth grade and included awards for best eyes, best hair and most beautiful.
Parents quickly established a Facebook page to voice concern over the nature of this contest. The principal of the elementary school quickly canceled the event, which aimed to raise money for a $15,000 piece of equipment to be donated to the school in memory of a recently deceased faculty member.
To judge all pageants based on the ideas and stereotypes presented by television shows is both unfair and inaccurate; these television shows are a joke. Real pageants, like the famous Miss America pageant, are not the products of hours of editing and the minds of producers at TLC.
Miss America and others are designed for older girls and women, and are scholarship pageants. These events place a great deal of emphasis on community service, community initiatives and personal growth.
As a senior in high school, I competed in the Miss Cumberland County pageant, a first-round competition that could eventually lead to the Miss New Jersey and Miss America pageants. I learned things during the prep process completely changed the way I looked at myself.
Each year, the Miss America Organization raises more than $40 million in scholarship awards for contestants. Contestants are judged based on lifestyle and fitness, presence and poise in eveningwear, talent, a private interview and an on-stage question. Each contestant must choose a platform, an issue that is both relevant to society and important to the contestant, to promote should she win.
Competing in a pageant requires a great deal of time and dedication. Each contestant needs to want to be there and needs to be willing to put in the necessary work to be successful.
My preparations included a total of 18 hours spent learning the opening and closing dance numbers, two to three hours a day perfecting my vocal selection for the talent portion, 12 hours a week volunteering in my local library teaching children to read to build a base for my platform – promoting literacy among our nation’s youth – and an hour a day spent researching and preparing for the interview portion.
I had originally wanted to compete just to prove to myself that I could. Once the pageant was over and my gowns were put away, the realization set in that all of the preparations and hard work had made me more confident, calm and composed. I was left with a better understanding of what I believed, felt and wanted in all areas of my life.
Pageants are stressful, time consuming and usually disappointing in some way for everyone except the winner. They can serve to teach and improve contestants, but only if they are old enough and mature enough to understand what is going on.
Pageants are not for children. Little girls and boys shouldn’t be subjected to parading across a stage to be judged on “facial beauty” or “overall appeal.” They shouldn’t be pressured by parents or anyone else to perform. Children shouldn’t be pitted against each other for a fundraiser or taught that beauty is the most important quality of person.
Children should be praised for talents and skills, not things beyond their control like their looks. Children should feel special and important regardless of what they look like, so that, hopefully, they grow up confident and with high self-esteem. One winner shouldn’t be singled out as the prettiest or most appealing.
Pageants are great and teach women wonderful lessons about themselves and life, as well as how to carry themselves and be confident. Let’s be honest though, little girls don’t need lessons on any of these things. They need to enjoy being a little girl or boy while they can.
Robyn Rudish-Laning is a graduate creative media practices student and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.