Many researchers, as well as parents and other adults, believe children are growing up too fast. Younger girls are striving to look older by wearing more mature clothes and layers of makeup. Pressure for girls to develop quickly is practically everywhere: on TV models are stick-skinny, in magazines girls are pushed to dress older, in the radio there are ads for ways to lose weight, and in stores there are shorter and tighter clothes for younger kids. Girls are being dolled up at a young age and encouraged to look like an older version of themselves.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines sexualization as occurring when “a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics”. The effects of sexualization on young girls often leads to disastrous mental diseases such as eating disorders and depression.
Toddlers and Tiaras, a popular TLC show, is a great example of a show that sexualizes very young girls. It portrays the lives of three-, four- and five-year-old girls who enter beauty pageants. The young girls don fake tans, fake teeth, and fake breasts to impress the judges and win the pageants.
This show is a prime example of sexualization — with the added makeup, overdone hair styles and outrageous dresses, how do the little girls feel without all of that? Beauty pageants at such a young age reduce the girls to objects valued just for their beauty, not their character or personality.
Morgan Barnes, sophomore, believes the girls in Toddlers and Tiaras are valued just for their beauty. The added makeup, spray tans, and fake teeth only decrease their self confidence when the makeup is off.
“Beauty pageants make the [girls] want to look more mature because it makes them feel more beautiful and helps them win the pageants. The girls become very dependent on makeup, and without they think they aren’t beautiful,” said Barnes.
Mary Grace Suddath, junior, also commented on the show.
“It’s definitely okay to be in beauty pageants, but [Toddlers and Tiaras ] takes it way too far. Four year olds do not need to be getting spray tans,” Suddath said.
Tiffany Pearce, senior, was involved in beauty pageants and thus has a different viewpoint than others.
“I like meeting new people, and the positive feel from being in beauty pageants. When you’re young [pageants] are all about beauty and looks, but when you’re older it’s about your opinion,” said Pearce.
Episode 12, Season 4, of Toddlers and Tiaras includes a particular source of outrage given the extravagant sexualization: four-year-old Maddy Jackson dressed as Dolly Parton, her outfit complete with fake breasts, a fake butt and an absurd wig.
Seeing a four year old wear such a mature and flirty outfit sparked outrage at the show from viewers across the country. Diane Levin, author of the book “So Sexy So Soon: The Next Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids”, commented on Jackson’s outfit.
“The girl clearly sees being pretty as pretty in a sexy way, like a grown up woman,” said Levine.
Pearce personally dislikes the show Toddlers and Tiaras. Similar to Suddath, she believes the show takes everything way too far.
Instead of living the normal, carefree life of a toddler, the little girls in Toddlers and Tiaras are wearing fake additions to make themselves look older, prettier, and all together better. Many are influenced by the media.
“You definitely see more movie stars bringing on the makeup. Their outfits are becoming more and more skimpy on channels like Nickelodeon and Disney,” said Barnes.
While certain shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras as well as magazines and stores may promote girls to look more mature, it is crucial to reinforce the fact that girls can look beautiful naturally. Girls do not need fake addition, spray tans, crazy hairstyles or layers of makeup to look pretty, and girls should be loved for their personality and character, not their artificial beauty.
I think some of these mothers need to be tought a thing or two.