When my daughter was right around a year old I entered her into her first baby pageant. I think I took her more than anything to show her off. Little W is/was adorable after all. I was kind of grateful that she didn’t win. I didn’t want an excuse to come back. Even then, I dreaded the decision then as much as I regret the decision today. I want to talk about why.
1) Equality. I didn’t enter my son to a similar pageant when he was a baby. All my talk about sexism, equality, and gender roles, at the end of the day I never thought once about entering my equally adorable son.*
2) Makeup. I hate it. Somewhere in my teen years I noticed the ritualized obsession my friends and parents would apply a coating to their face. Makeup wasn’t a hobby. It was an obligation. I saw the obligation starting in babies and I was horrified.
3) Disappointment. As a rule, babies don’t feel disappointment when they lose a competition. They don’t even know they are competing, so there is no doubt that the disappointment I saw in parents was not mirrored child tears. These parents were actually sad their sons and daughters did not win an arbitrary contest of beauty that at least fifty babies (all adorable) competed in.
4) Obsession. Now this one is not limited to pageants. Parents obsess over making their kids winners in all sorts of ways that are otherwise healthy competitions. The pageant circuit though has obsession in droves. To the effect that body modifications, extreme diets, and costly dresses (often worn once) are the norm rather than the exception.
Pageants do little more than reinforce the idea that children have to be something they are not naturally to be seen as beautiful. While I am less bitter about adult pageants, I actually abhor forcing this on children. It is cruel at its worst, and sexist at its best. Childhood beauty pageants aren’t healthy competition.
They are gender policing, normative conditioning monsters
Which is why I never took my daughter back.
*A decision I don’t think I would make today. People change. Even their own sexist behaviors.