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The life of a modern American, takes place on a screen for everyone to see. This thought is amplified by television and social media, which has given the younger generation a view point of what needs to be known. Visual culture, is the way in which people in the 21st century interact, learn, and interpret their feelings. This sets the stage for many forms of inequalities and intersections for young girls (in television/on reality T.V etc..). With the new hit television show Toddlers & Tiaras, there has been an increase in controversy when it comes to the pressures of what it takes to be the ideal girl and pageant winner. In order to grasp the increasing inequalities in young girls, there needs to be a discussion on the self-objective thoughts associated with being a toddler with a crown.
The perception of young girls being sexual tools is an intriguing subject because it further displays the gender inequalities for the female gender. In child pageantry, there are many social issues that have long- term effect on the young competitors. Some of the girls, grow up with physical and mental issues of being told what to eat, wear, and act daily to please the camera’s and judges. This constant scrutiny plays a part in what Decartes theory which is, “I think therefore I am.” This philosophic principle demonstrates the mindset behind the contestant’s parents when they are dressing them provocatively. The parents think this is beauty, so they are training their daughters to believe that as well.
Before American visual culture got involved in pageantry, it was considered a show of “innocence”. On the surface, pageants are designed to present girls as poised, beautiful, and problematic when it comes to world peace, an ideal young girl that America wants to hear and see. As Elizabeth King would say, there is something mesmerizing about such a multitude of rhinestones, lip gloss, and teeth so white they may glow in the dark”, unfortunately, it’s hard not to cringe at the dark truth that is associated with child pageantry.
In the era of visual culture, it is very crucial to remember that adolescent girls are very impressionable when it comes to the image of the ideal girl. In the time of reality television, it is becoming increasingly evident that what influences the younger generation is T.V. In one episode in Toddlers & Tiaras, one of the young girls was dressed as the prostitute from Pretty Woman. The photo of the young girl caused a stir in the media to the point that, ‘The Learning Channel — was forced to pull its Facebook page because of the deluge of negative comments over an episode” (Henson). Parents, of course, assumed that this scene from the show would go over their heads, or that they would think the dress was cute. In reality, they are teaching their children that if they want attention, they need to display this kind of behavior to be noticed.
Inequality is very present in child pageantry when gender is brought up. In child pageantry, the idea of a cute young girl displaying her innocence for applause, is now being replaced with the title as a modern-day sex symbol. Little girls learn from a young age that sexual appeal is the only thing that is needed to get far in the world. Daisy Duke examines this idea by saying, “When young girls are conditioned to believe that their value is only determined by the way they look, they become consumed by the cycle of gender inequality” (Sun). The effect, is that these girls grow up with low self-esteem and mental issues that are a result of the constant ridicule from the judges and their parents. With all that in mind, is it really hard to comprehend why a percentage of onlookers are hesitant to approach that idea with their own child.
In conclusion, Toddlers & Tiaras opened the floor to many underlined tensions with the community of child pageantry. There is a constant show of sexualization of young girls, yet that does not apply to the young boys that sometimes choose to enter a pageant. It is critical to look at the result of child pageantry. The young girls grow up and become women who except that men view them as objects to be controlled and used. The end result, is that they grow up and become the ideal woman that society wants. The only way to decrease the amount of accusations and fear that comes with hypersexualizing the child competitors, the shows must go back to its original agenda, and that was to make girls feel as though they were princesses not porn stars.
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