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OpEd: Child beauty pageants should be banned

France is ready to take the lead in child protection by making beauty pageants illegal for children under the age of 16. Canada should follow suit.
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Nevil Hunt, September 23, 2013 9:28:37 AM

Beauty may be only skin deep but beauty pageants have the ability to cause much more than superficial damage.

France is in the process of passing a law that would ban beauty pageants for children under age 16. Très bien I say.

The French are ahead of the curve and have correctly identified the contests as a female rights issue. Pageants teach young women that their appearance is more important than their other skills and assets.

Children should never be used as pawns by their parents and it’s clear that no kid could take part in beauty contests without parental assistance, if not outright pressure.

Some parents in the U.S. are willing to spend nearly every weekend driving to pageants so their kids can take part.

An American parent who spoke to ABC News about the French ban suggested she’s seen “massive improvement” in her daughter’s self-confidence since she’s taken part in the contests. Certainly there may be a handful of positive outcomes for a handful of kids pressed to strut themselves on stage before judges, but only one child can win a contest – so what does that do to the self-esteem of every kid who doesn’t win the day?

The same parent also suggested to ABC that pageants are just like having a child take up a sport because the participant is trying to achieve something. That’s quite a stretch; no kid on a contest stage has ever got the same kind of physical exercise as a gymnast, soccer player or swimmer has ever enjoyed.

Further damage to a young child could potentially extend from the mental to the physical when parents press their kids to “look their best.” We’ll never know how many of these young contestants are being set up for eating disorders if mom and dad stress her out about what she can and cannot eat.

A Smithsonian Magazine article relates observations at a pageant where moms plied kids with caffeinated drinks and sugary candies to keep them alert for their next turn on stage. Sugar and sleep deprivation are not parts of a good lifestyle for anyone, let alone a growing child.

Some pageant parents may defend the competitions as a chance for their daughters to dress up like adults, but even an adult taking part in a beauty pageant has no claim to acting grown up.

The sooner child pageants are shut down here in Canada and across the globe, the better off our kids will be.

Above: A girl looks up at the trophy she won after competing in a child beauty pageant at Northcote Town Hall on July 30, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. The controversial child beauty competition, kicked off today in Melbourne despite complaints and demonstrations by pageant opponents. Organised by the US-based pageant company that produces reality TV show ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’, Australian contestants will have the opportunity to pose with the reality show star, six year-old Eden Wood.
Image credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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