Are we really that surprised that lingerie is being marketed to children as young as 4? Should we even question the possibility that a parent would parade their child around as a prostitute at a beauty contest? I think the answer to that is no.
Actually, I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner.
As young (very impressionable) children, we American girls have taken notice of what the media and what the general public, would like us to become. No, we didn't notice all those ads asking us to pursue higher education and to become strong independent-minded women - but all of those splashy spreads showcasing thin, beautiful ladies. Advertising that shows us how to be sexy. To become eye candy for all of the men out there. So instead of spending money on a book, we spend it on makeup. While out to dinner, we don't splurge on a hamburger, but tenderly consume a small salad. We have heard it all, loud and clear.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, as many as 10 out of 100 young women in America suffer from an eating disorder. But it's no wonder why many teen girls have little self confidence. By the time a girl hits puberty, they are inundated with information on "transitioning" to adulthood. With magazines like "Glamour" and "Cosmopolitan" - they can see what should be of most importance in their minds - receiving sex advice, makeup tips and how to "snag a man." Abercrombie markets to kids, letting them know they, too, can dress up to look like bored, anorexic poser surfers with a drug problem.
So again, why are we so surprised at "Toddlers & Tiaras" and other similar programming? I'm sure TLC's supposed intent was to inform the general public of this bubble people live in called child beauty pageants. If television producers were more honest with themselves, instead it is quite clear that ratings are the most important aspect here. They would hush off the comments that it might attract child predators, and proclaim that they were doing a service, highlighting this injustice taking place on American soil.
But no, commercial after commercial reveals the sexualizing of toddlers. Getting the idea out there early that we need more vapid, self-absorbed individuals out there. And that being a Barbie doll is more important than developing a brain.
One woman on the program dressed her 4-year-old daughter as Dolly Parton - with a fake chest, behind and wig, to complete the costume of course. It's funny, she said. It's just a joke. I'm so glad that the nominal intelligence of this mother will be able to rub off on her very impressionable child.
But as we shout "How dare she?" to this mother and other obsessed pageant moms out there, are some of us any better? I have seen young children dressed up in tight shirts and short skirts, and I wonder, is this Halloween? No, it's Tuesday. A 9-year-old with full eyeliner and mascara, to match her holed-up tights and high heels. Really? Do they even have parents? Being good role models and letting youngsters know it is okay to not just be another stereotype should be of utmost importance, but oh well.
Just because ad execs may want to portray little kids as such, does not mean that parents and adult role models should encourage such behavior.
I'm doubting this trend of sexualizing our young girls is going to stop anytime soon. And it is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic - to know that many think it adorable to dress up their daughters like dolls. That we think it's okay to teach them about such inappropriate things at a young age - rather than let them be actual kids for awhile.
What I wish they could know, is this: Beauty really isn't skin deep. Something of beauty is unique, vibrant and different. Being beautiful is not trying to imitate what others consider "pretty," but being what is real, deep inside.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye."