Jan 13 2010

Cheap frills: spinster aunt views child beauty pageant on TV

Remind you of anyone?

Remind you of anyone?

This dude is charged with murdering a woman unfortunate enough to have married him — she documented his violent episodes in her diary — and the Beeb reports that she had a “volatile personality”?


* * * * * * * * * *

In other antifeminist news, yesterday the satellite dish at Spinster HQ received a program called “Little Miss Perfect.” This turned out to be a reality show about women who have internalized the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women to the extent that they embrace an astonishing hobby. The hobby is the competitive display of their female children, whom they trick out in the most extreme, sexualized feminine drag imaginable, at an event called the Little Miss Perfect Pageant. Cameras follow around two young hopefuls and their mothers as they practice “wow-wear” dance routines, rent cheezy dresses, and glam up for the competition. Like all reality shows, the subtext of “Little Miss Perfect” is “Get a load of these weirdos!”

Of passing interest: the Little Miss Perfect Pageant is governed by a feminine male emcee. He is the only male character in the show. He sings a song about dreams coming true to the tots as they contort themselves into the celebrated “pretty feet” pose. I experience a momentary pang of prurient curiosity about this slightly sinister dude, whose degraded circumstances I perceive as dangling somewhere between bathos and pathos. What bizarre fusion of the tragic and the mundane might lead a girlyman to wind up singing syrupy ballads to creepy-looking kids at Little Miss Perfect pageants in meeting-rooms at Marriott hotels in red states? I guess I’ll never know.

Of course, now he’s on national satellite TV in stunning high-def, so I suppose it’s a moot point.

Meanwhile, the kids are on stage, gleaming in “eveningwear”: yards of gem-studded organza, full makeup, false eyelashes, spray tans, giant wigs, acrylic nails, and fake teeth. They look like they were dipped in a mixture of glucose and polyurethane, polished with an orbital waxer, and finished off with a couple of cans of Aquanet. They are 8-year-old proto-pole-dancing virgins with unceasingly bared teeth who shake their moneymakers and wink come-hitherly at the judges.

Fortunately, the gaudy spectacle did not blow my entire tiny mind, for I am acquainted with the child pageant phenomenon. The library at Spinster HQ contains a pink coffeetable book entitled High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants. It’s full-o Susan Anderson’s lurid photographs of teensy beauty queens. In the foreword to High Glitz a chappie named Robert Greene makes a statement with which I cannot quibble:

“We are not used to treating the inner lives of young girls with the proper seriousness — as a subject worthy of study and analysis.”

This is certainly true of the producers of “Little Miss Perfect.” They depict the mothers as slightly batshit and the inner lives of the young girls as non-existent. The resulting pseudo-documentary smells, predictably, of burnt polyester.

Greene, however, chides horrified and nay-saying spectators for what he perceives as an outdated unwillingness to accord basic human agency to pageant contestants. He argues that everything about humans is “artificial” whether it is obvious to adults or not; therefore these junior artifice-junkies are cutting-edge visionaries and artistes, and their unsparingly spangled exaltation of fembottery is the authentic pre-pubescent girl fantasy. In other words, cheap frills is their culture, it has legitimacy, and you’re unevolved if you imagine that these kids are nothing more than victims of their batty stage mothers’ frustrated longings.

Thus far Greene and I are two hearts beating as, perhaps, one-and-a-half, but we part company altogether when he launches into a paean to the supposedly extraordinary insights of Victorian pedophile Lewis Carroll, whom Greene lauds as the lone personage in all of recorded history who has given the inner lives of young girls their due.* And when he as good as declares that child beauty pageants are the greatest thing since high-speed GPS internet iphone video chat blog shopping, I clench up; the desire to magnify femininity by a factor of about 6 million and put it on public display may be genuine, but, since femininity is the practice of obeisance to oppressive mores, pageants don’t exactly amount to the pinnacle of human endeavor, or even a minor victory for Truth and Beauty.

However, Greene gets no argument from me when he asserts that, unlike boys, who are applauded for their active inventiveness, little girls are universally and sexistly seen as “essentially passive and weak” and incapable of inventing a meaningful culture. There can be no doubt that human society generally smirks condescendingly at female children, dismissing them as vapid impotents-in-training, and that this treatment is totally bogus.

I further agree that, as far as the participants themselves are concerned, this kiddie burlesque has at least the same (if not greater) philosophic value as playing soccer or performing at a piano recital. An adult spectator may not credit it, but, given the porn-dominated zeitgeist, competing for rhinestone crowns by transforming into idealized miniature sexbots is a perfectly valid and fulfilling pursuit that has, from the perspective of the kid, nothing to do with seduction or titillation, and everything to do with plain old human creative impulses. What does a 7-year-old know from titillation? If a spray-tanned tap-dancing kindergardener in a wiglet and off-the-shoulder cupcake dress evokes spasms of horror in the onlooker, it’s certainly not the kid’s fault; she’s merely coloring with the available crayons, and plainly having pretty high time doing it. It’s not the stage mother’s fault, either; she indulges the kid’s young dream with thousand-dollar gowns, rhinestone corsetry, professional coaches, and bionic dentures, not because she’s a psycho abuser, but because she just wants her kid to excel at something.

But won’t they be scarred for life? Undoubtedly, but not because of the tawdry nature of the Little Miss Perfect contest. Beauty pageants don’t fuck kids up. Growing up in a culture that despises them fucks them up, and no little girl is immune from that.

I submit that anyone who is uncomfortable with Little Miss Perfect is ethically obliged to be just as uncomfortable with femininity in general. Little Miss Perfect is merely one of a gazillion equally nauseating points on the Porno-Feminine Continuum within which all female citizens of the globe are confined by a culture of oppression.

* Mr Greene apparently feels that Charles Dodgson’s hobby as a child pornographer uniquely qualified him as an expert on girl culture. Forget The Secret Garden, Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, Go Ask Alice, It’s Me, Margaret, A Wrinkle in Time, Diary of Anne Frank, etc.


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  1. Gnatalby

    One can be concerned about the adults that set the tone of the the beauty pageant, I would think.

    I was a very theatrical kid, and if I’d known this sort of thing of existed I would have been all over it. But like you said, for kids it’s about performance and drama and cherished time with a parent who is, while preparing for the pageant, extremely focused on the kid, none of that disturbs me.

    But adult judges should probably award age-appropriate performances. I’m not talking about any particularly extreme standards either, just perhaps no ripping off of clothing in a little kid striptease.

    There are ways the beauty pageant could be guided by the adults involved to make it a billion times less creepy with maintaining all the drama and performance.

    I’m opposed to compulsory feminine performance, but as you wrote, some little girls do seem to really enjoy it, and opting into femininity need not be attended with quite so many sexual overtones, and it’s up to the adults to change that, because it’s not even there from the girls’ perspective.

  2. Comrade PhysioProf

    Beauty pageants don’t fuck kids up. Growing up in a culture that despises them fucks them up, and no little girl is immune from that.

    One subtext of the movie Little Miss Sunshine can be interpreted as making this exact point.

  3. Catherine Martell

    But, Gnatalby, femininity is the practice of performing sex class status. So it really doesn’t make much difference if you make it “less creepy” or “age appropriate” (whatever that is). Femininity automatically and unavoidably defines its subjects as sexual objects. There really is nothing you can do about that fundamental truth by fussing with the frills and furbelows that adorn it. It’s what it is.

    Neither the fact that many girls may enjoy participating in pageants, nor the fact that many parents may be irresponsible, has any bearing on the point Jill makes.

  4. agasaya

    Dressing up little girls like adult sex toys is child porn, even without the bare flesh. They aren’t supposed to be seductive at that age and that is the standard by which judgments are made. In this country most schools won’t allow the young ones to wear cosmetics or receive sex education, but covered anatomy sways in pageants for awards. Most desirable eight year old? Desirable for what?

    Unless they start having little boy pageants too, not that any contest about looks is acceptable (and recitals should be about exhibiting talent in children sans awards), its still about sex and unacceptable.

    And yeah, I recall the Binet story very well.

  5. TwissB

    You bet it reminds me of someone. And if all goes well, in a few years she’ll break out of fembot bondage and announce that she doesn’t want no MRAs in her car and no Nice Guys either.

  6. JRoth

    “Go Ask Alice”?

  7. Jill

    Yeah, Alice, the teen rebel bad girl role model of my youth. It was so romantic that she ODed. I didn’t find out until years later that it was actually Mormon propaganda.

  8. JRoth

    Yeah, ok, exactly. I never knew about that book until a college friend, who had (and continued to have for ~15 more years) serious addiction issues, lent it to me. Uh, thanks?

  9. Chocolate Tort

    Woah. I know the name “Go Ask Alice” as Columbia University’s progressive, queer and trans-friendly, non-judgmental sexuality and general health website. Does anyone know how they chose the name??

  10. Jane Q Public

    Go Ask Alice is Mormon propaganda? No. No. Say it isn’t so. Damn you, Jesus freaks!

  11. Barn Owl

    From “Episode Information”-

    At only 8 years old, Destinee is a pageant professional who is ready to add another trophy to her collection, but even this seasoned beauty queen finds the wow wear category challenging. In her routine, Destinee will be a flashy cowgirl showcasing a leg lift that is sure to impress. After a few practice sessions with her dance instructor, Destinee realizes the leg lift is harder to pull off than she thought.

    That’s a brain stain that will never come out.

    Not even with cortical bleach.

  12. Jezebella

    Agasaya, they do have boy pageants too, for little ones. Obviously these come to an end by age 12 or so, or whenever it is boy-children are granted human status.

  13. agasaya

    Jezebella, where do they do that? Do they dress up in tuxes or are they engaged in more manly pursuits like roping puppies or something?

  14. Sarah

    “…these junior artifice-junkies are cutting-edge visionaries and artistes, and their unsparingly spangled exaltation of fembottery is the authentic pre-pubescent girl fantasy.”

    Well, that explains my most deepest of secret shames, in that 12-year-old me desperately wished to be pretty enough to participate in one of these things. Many thanks to my hippie mom for preventing such ridiculous shenanigans.

  15. CassieC

    The brand of patriarchy we live in is also a consumer society, and little girls are not only seen as the next generation of sex servants, but also as the ultimate consumer item. In this society, I have heard a mother-to-be at her baby shower announce she was “jealous of a friend with her little trophies, but no longer, since she was pregnant,” and babies and their stuff are described as “too cute.” Women are supposed to long for motherhood, since it opens up a total new sphere of consumption and showing off. Babies, in fact, are small, intensely learning people, who, in the words of my stay-at-home-dad brother “shit a lot.”

    Beauty pageants are the logical result of a patriarchy which also a consumer society.

  16. Amanda

    Children understand sexuality and titillation, though they may not know the words, or the depth of meaning. At least I did, when I was very young, starting around six years old. And that was with no exposure to sex, other than a porno that a neighbor girl stole from her parents and played at a sleepover.

    It took a long time for me to realize the ladies were not eating hot dogs.

  17. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Having been a distinctly unpretty child, I grew up knowing Beauty would never be an avenue to success for me. It was painful in a family with four pretty sisters. But it also made me find other ways to occupy myself, so on balance, it wasn’t all bad.

    And hey, the sight of my first varicose vein or eyebag didn’t send me running to the cosmetic surgeon because I was never totally invested in Being Beautiful.

  18. speedbudget

    The ads for that show always disturb me, and I suppose part of that was because I could never understand why little girl pageants can’t be about being little girls. I was aghast when I saw the ad that showcased the fake teeth. Little kids, all little kids, lose their teeth. Why does that have to be hidden? It’s part of growing up in that age group. Why can’t they just be little girls in spangles and bows? Why do they have to do the huge bouffant hairdos with the makeup? Jill nailed it with:

    They look like they were dipped in a mixture of glucose and polyurethane, polished with an orbital waxer, and finished off with a couple of cans of Aquanet.

    Thanks for putting words on what was really bothering me about that whole scene.

  19. norbizness

    I’m waiting for the program Little Miss Can’t be Wrong, which gives the winner the dubious honor of appearing in a Spin Doctors reunion video.

  20. yttik

    I have a child who always wanted to do pageants. I was able to delay it until she was 16. The real fun began once she was crowned princess and finally decided being a princess really sucked. At that point the town had a rebellious teenager on their hands who eventually referred to her one yr term as “indentured servitude.” After being paraded at a Navy event, she managed to learn how to cuss like a sailor. Long before the movie Little Miss Sunshine came out, that was our pet name for her, said with sarcasm of course, because her personality was something closer to the exorcist. I truly believed she could spin her head 360 degrees and vomit pea soup at will if she wanted to. That was the year she discovered patriarchy and rejected it, rather vehemently, so I have fond memories of our pageant days.

    I will never forget one parade in which she was representing our town in a beautiful white organza dress, in the sleet and wind chill, and a reporter asked her how she felt about the whole thing. She turned around and shrieked, “how the fuck do you think I feel, I’m fucking freezing my ass off, you jackass!” The Chamber of Commerce was not pleased. Ahhh, the memories.

  21. Jezebella

    Agasaya, here in Mississippi little boys participate in pageants. They just dress cute and do a talent thing, I suppose, although I have not inquired too closely. I did once witness three women hovering around a 5-year-old getting a haircut, which turned out to be a pageant haircut, and it took forever. They keep diddling with this piece and that piece. I had my hair colored, cut, and blown dry in the time it took them to settle on just the right haircut for a first-grader. I do believe he had highlights in there, too. I sincerely doubt they put their little men in spandex sparkly “wow” outfits, though.

  22. Jezebella

    Cheesus, Agasaya, I googled “pageants for boys” and now I have a sick headache from the sparkly pageant websites. You know what’s creepy? A picture of a 2-year-old boy in a crown labeled “Supreme King Master Johnny Smith”. Heebie. Jeebies.

  23. goblinbee

    The likeness is astounding. Future spinster aunt!

  24. goblinbee

    Wow, just read the Prout article. Chilling; the onus is all hers.

    “Kate Prout felt he gave too much time to his work and too little attention to her. She was undoubtedly a demanding woman.”

    Well, then, there you have it. Murder was too good for her.

  25. Notorious Ph.D.

    Goblinbee: Even worse, the person who made that comment was the frickin’ state prosecutor.

  26. Berbster

    The article about Adrian was bias and unfair, since when does the murderers opinion of the victim become the focal point of a news story, what the fuck indeed.

    About pageants in general, why does anyone need to prance about competing for most aesthetically pleasing? Oh wait that’s because people value appearances more than substance, intelligence or talent ie Paris Hilton. I enjoy watching the American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance “talent” shows partly for the social observation standpoint(these people want fame soooo badly) and partially to see if we can rise above our superficiality of objectifying people to pretty/handsome meat puppet status in the areas of competition, it’s a fine line to walk that’s for sure.

  27. Shelby

    Little Miss Perfect? As in perfection. What impossibly lofty and unattainable heights to encourage a girl child to aspire to. I’m really really really uncomfortable with Little Miss Perfect and although I agree that growing up female in a culture that hates you is the ultimate head fuck, I don’t think that these heinous plastic pintsized porntraining pageants are helpful to anybody in any way and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that participating in them does tend to fuck little girls up.

  28. BadKitty

    I saw a preview for one of these shows and there was a swimsuit competition included. I almost threw up.

  29. Jill

    “I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that participating in them does tend to fuck little girls up.”

    Like all spinster aunts, I am a brilliant child psychologist, and I would be surprised if pageant alumnae were found to be appreciably more fucked up than anybody else. Femininity fucks everybody up, not just those who practice it in non-mainstream ways. Making themselves look creepy is just their particular cult. Similar applications of senseless artifice practiced by “normal” women include high heels, shaving, crack-crawlin’ thongs, hair dye, verbena tea tree rosemary body lotion, skinny jeans, cosmetics of any kind, and bras.

    As an aside, I’d like to mention that, after immersing myself in the study of this pageant crap for a couple of days, the creepiness became more and more normal. Not palatable, but normal.

  30. Jill

    Oh, and the Prout case? Is that unfuckingbelievable or what? I should have written a whole post on that.

  31. agasaya

    The problem with pageants isn’t so much that it screws up the kids at a younger age from earlier and total immersion into the ‘femininity’ cult that is pageantry. It also means the people putting them INTO this environment are more screwed up than average to want to do that to a child. It undermines decent principles of parenting which are pretty well understood at this point,apart from issues about the porning of children who just happen to be wearing clothing.

    As with child stars, they believe they’d better win or they’ll lose love for accidents of genetics regarding appearance. Some VERY toxic and endocrine disrupting chemicals in the cosmetics used with certain effects to follow. And, like the ridiculous urge to teach three year olds how to read here actually increasing rates of illiteracy, a too-early failure at acquiring particular ‘talents’ for entertaining the masses will very likely impair later tries at acquiring such skills.

  32. Felicity

    Lewis Carroll – used to photograph naked children. Ew why is he such a hero to the masses? I’ve always raised my eyebrow at the acceptance of caring older uncle types.

    I agree with our vicious culture fucking us up more than any product we moan about when it enters the lives of the little ones. Amazing how dudes only see a problem when it’s smacking them, such as 3 year olds in ‘who’s a pretty sex object’ pageants. Most probably don’t think it needs to go away, just toned down until they get older, so nobody sees too many holes in the patriarchy.

    It’s bad that one of the few strongholds feminism has is the mother stance – think of the children. We can only not be whiny miserable hags when pretty and sexy (then we’re pitifully confused and need to be straightened out pronto); or caring mothers (then we’re motherly and the fictional hormonal ranting from evpsych blog is to be expected).

  33. Jonathan

    In my opinion, all beauty pageants would be significantly increased in quality if they replaced the swimsuit competition with a gom jabbar competition:

    “Ah! It burns!”
    “Ohhh, that’s going to cost her.”

  34. Sarah

    “We can only not be whiny miserable hags when pretty and sexy (then we’re pitifully confused and need to be straightened out pronto); or caring mothers (then we’re motherly and the fictional hormonal ranting is to be expected).”

    This is so ridiculously true that it hurts my ladybrain that I’ve never heard it expressed quite so concisely before. It’s fine to be a feminist so long as you conform to the edicts of patriarchy. The sort of doublethink that this requires is, either luckily or not-so-luckily, depending on your perspective, completely beyond me.

  35. yttik

    Is there something wrong with being a whiny miserable hag?

  36. Cycles

    CassieC: “Beauty pageants are the logical result of a patriarchy which also a consumer society.”

    After watching a marathon of the show over the break, I’m still not entirely sure what the criteria for “wow wear” are, but it seems consist of an over-the-top solo dance skit. The more props, the more gaudy the costume, the more lavish the production, the better. Participants lose points if their costumes aren’t eye-poppingly ostentatious. The point is to “wow” the judges with an extravagant display.

    In fact, that seems to be a running theme. The judges constantly mention that they evaluate poise and presentation, rather than physical beauty. But in this competition, that level of poise and presentation can only be achieved with money. Couture dresses, professional makeup and hair, studio portraits, dance and modeling classes.

    The pageant seems to be less about tapping into the kid’s abilities, and more about displaying the parents’ purchased goods and services. Parents are rewarded for spending the most. The kid is just the substrate. I don’t want to downplay the skill needed to actually perform this perfect vision of femininity, because the girls do work hard on the smile and the creepy doll-walk. But an equally skilled, hardworking kid with regular hair, self-applied makeup, and a cheap dress would get laughed off the stage.

    There’s a whole pageant-supply vendor ecosystem that feeds this.

  37. Narya

    This may be the best post EVER at IBTP.

    yttik, your story about your daughter made me laugh out loud, so thank you for that.


    THe subtext of that Prout case article is, very clearly, “You better not act up ladies, or your husbands will have full right to murder you and the state will do nothing about it.”

  39. Felicity

    Yttik, no way!!

  40. Jonathan

    Lewis Carroll – used to photograph naked children. Ew why is he such a hero to the masses? I’ve always raised my eyebrow at the acceptance of caring older uncle types.

    Two words: Roman Polanski.

    People have a hard time separating a person from that person’s work. You can think a person needs to die while simultaneously thinking they are talented.

    It’s bad that one of the few strongholds feminism has is the mother stance – think of the children. We can only not be whiny miserable hags when pretty and sexy (then we’re pitifully confused and need to be straightened out pronto); or caring mothers (then we’re motherly and the fictional hormonal ranting from evpsych blog is to be expected).

    I’m reminded of the mother in Mary Poppins.

    The pageant seems to be less about tapping into the kid’s abilities, and more about displaying the parents’ purchased goods and services. Parents are rewarded for spending the most. The kid is just the substrate.

    Now, I’m going to assume from this comment that you’re white. I’m going to assume this because you don’t seem to understand that race and class have always been a part of sexism. Seriously, how many girls on that show are WoC? I would bet that they’ve only had two the entire season. Think about how women of different classes were expected to be used historically. Think about how the feminine ideal of a stay-at-home wife only ever existed among the upper classes. Women of every other class worked and always had. If you were poor, you were less of a woman.

  41. bradybunchhater

    I think that beauty pageant type stuff should become waitressing competitions. The categories would be similar- swimsuits would become the “who can wear the uniform and still look good?” competition. Talent would be the “Who can take orders, bring water, food, checks, and add the total in their head, while smiling and looking pleasant, and being invisible to those who don’t need him/her?” competition. Interview would become dealing with customers, and there could be a competition for who can have fabulous hair and at the same time not alarm customers that it’s going to get in their food.
    And food service is gender neutral!

  42. yankeetransferred

    Another fucking brilliant post over here at IBTP.

  43. Cycles

    Jonathan: I don’t follow. It should be obvious that any highly subjective judging event like a child beauty pageant is a tangle of interconnected bigotries. I did not imply otherwise. My focus was on the conspicuous consumption aspect of the pageant, but of course that consumption is driven by a desire to achieve a model of femininity that is not only racist, but also ablist, sexist, classist, and ageist. The parents spend a shitload of money to dangle sparkly crap on their kids to make them emulate an extremely narrow ideal. Are you agreeing with me or disagreeing?

  44. delphyne

    Those kids all look either miserable or shocked.

  45. delphyne

    Assuming that the little girls involved in this are expressing creative impulses or even enjoying themselves is a bit like thinking that women in porn love what they are doing because they smile throughout their scenes and scream that they love the abuse being inflicted on them.

  46. Kozmik

    I feel so bad for Kate Prout. That article really paints her as greedy, wanting more of him, more of his money, etc.

    I’m thinking it really does come down to money and class. That stuff equals power and if we had that stuff, why in the world would we need a legal institution like marriage?

    More and more I know that, to varying degrees, straight women are victims of Stockholm Syndrome.

  47. Larkspur

    “…Like all spinster aunts, I am a brilliant child psychologist, and I would be surprised if pageant alumnae were found to be appreciably more fucked up than anybody else. Femininity fucks everybody up, not just those who practice it in non-mainstream ways….”

    This is true. Also, children are remarkably resilient. And yet, these girls could be playing volleyball or swimming, neither of which means jack shit to the patriarchal overlords. But it makes them stronger, and teaches them to get along with other girls through good times and bad times. And surely they must be healthier. Think of inhaling all of those nail polish fumes, all the hairspray, the hair coloring, the make-up. So I’m okay with saying that girl pageants suck.

  48. Sarah

    @Jonathon What does WoC stand for? And while I’m learning new acronyms, can anyone tell me what MRA stands for? I’m afraid my lack of knowledge in the acronym department may inhibit my ability to communicate effectively. Perhaps I will compensate for this obvious disability by needlessly verbing words.

  49. Larkspur

    Ooh, ooh, Sarah, I can help. MRA stands for Men’s Rights Activists. Go to the highlighted link up above, Patriarchy Blaming the Twisty Way. Tons of useful information.

    And presumably, WoC means Women of Color.

    I should tell a joke here to make my comment more palatable, but I got nothin.

  50. Sarah

    @Larkspur Thank you!

  51. Hedgepig

    Here’s a funny joke: Jonathan lecturing Cycles about which aspects of sexism she should be focusing on. (I laughed, Cycles, I hope you did too).

  52. Lullabee

    I like how a dude comes here and complains that, uh, if one expresses giving-a-damn, it can thus be seen that one does not give a damn. And, moreover, since when does pointing something out now imply that it’s a new, surprising thing?

  53. karen

    Going right along with the theme of “what the flying fuck is wrong with people”, BoingBoing linked to a horrifying gallery of societally-accepted child porn back in October: http://www.boingboing.net/2009/10/22/gallery-of-creepily.html

    As George Carlin put it, the world is a freak show, and here in America we have front-row seats.

  54. beauty

    How many pageants have you been in? I bet none .You are obviously an ugly old bitch. Who gives you the right to be judgmental? You do not have a clue .Is football ,and all it’s accoutrement,exploitation of boys? of course it is not. Why? Because men and it makes me sad to say , women like you,still support and believe it’s a man’s world. Memo to all of you: wrong again. and stick it.

  55. speedbudget

    karen: Dear Bob that was disturbing. Can you imagine being the little girl who is just NOT GOOD ENOUGH? And what was up with the one picture where they totally did away with their kid’s head and put some other person’s head there instead? Wow.

    Hedgepig: Well, really, how would Cycles know what to think about otherwise? *gag*

  56. Ginjoint

    Jonathan is mansplaining – I believe we’re expected to now stop and soak in the wisdom.

  57. Jill

    An anecdote, a propos of little kids getting a big bang out of sparkly dress-up regardless of stage-motherdom:

    When I was 6 I wanted nothing more than to wear pink tulle tutu ribbony party dresses, but my evil mom (just kidding, Mom!) would have none of it. Later on I became a glampunk rock star just for the outfits.

    My 4- and 6-year-old nieces are wacky for duds that resemble this kid pageant-wear. Their mother, my sibling Tidy, will have none of it.

  58. goblinbee

    Of my kids, it is my son who likes sparkles. Always has, seemingly always will (he’s 30). He’s like a kid in a candy shop in the bridal section of a fabric store, drooling over all the super-sequined stuff, then buying it and making clothes for his super sparkly self.

    But I don’t think he would have at all liked the rigor of a pageant. He is VERY casual, even given his love of sparkles. Seriously, he wears the same clothes camping as he does out to dinner, and doesn’t care if things get ripped or dirty. (As an aside, he has also sewn lots of his own camping gear–ground covers, rain flies, etc.–out of gorgeous, fancy fabrics. He rocks.)

    He certainly didn’t get it from me. I’m the plainest Jane you ever met.

    Jonathan, I was trying to understand your point, but I didn’t get it at all. If there are less girls of color in pageants, what does Cycles have to do wih that?

  59. Jodie

    I think some of us have a magpie gene, goblinbee, and I’m glad you raised your son so that he can glory in it.

  60. SKM

    Jonathan, I was trying to understand your point, but I didn’t get it at all.

    You don’t need a point to drop a lecture about stuff everybody here already knows! Apparently.

  61. Barn Owl


    (As an aside, he has also sewn lots of his own camping gear–ground covers, rain flies, etc.–out of gorgeous, fancy fabrics. He rocks.)

    Does he have an Etsy shop? That gear sounds awesome!

    I suppose I could get out my old Bernina sewing machine and try making some fancy camping/outdoors gear myself … what a great idea, to use gorgeous fabrics, instead of boring old Army/Navy surplus-looking stuff.

  62. jezebella

    Wow, how did “beauty’s” comment get past the spaminator? She’s clearly not pretty on the inside, eh?

  63. delphyne

    Jill, wanting to dress up in sparkly pink clothes is a long way away from being turned into a fetish of femininity to be consumed by titillated adults as is happening to these children. Do you really think your nieces would be happy to sit around for hours on end whilst they have hairpieces pinned to their heads, their hair curled and lacquered and their faces carefully painted with all sorts of gunk? Do you think that their psyches would remain undamaged if they came out the losers after being judged in the Little Miss Perfect competition? At four and six?

    Look at the girls’ faces in the photographs. They are not happy. Look at the little girl in the video sitting there like a small doll stuck between the two tosspot hipsters who are getting off on her humiliation (and making plenty of money from it with their photography books – there’s probably much cash or fame to be gained from photographing girls wearing Gap). It takes a lot of emotional, mental and even physical abuse to reduce a small girl to that level of passivity.

    Femininity is oppression. Little girls buy into it because even at that age they know capitulation is the safest option. It’s not a choice.

  64. Citizen Jane

    It is really bugging me that people are saying that they like it as if that excuses it. I am a former little girl who would do anything to be a beauty queen, and I did all kinds of stuff like this. I loved it and wanted to do nothing else. Seriously, nothing else. That’s hardly surprising since I had fully internalized the idea that my worth as a human being was entirely dependent on my ability to present myself as a decorative object.

    Also, they only like it when they are the one winning, and even then it’s a very stressful kind of like as they are constantly faced with the terror that they may lose their status as #1 Decorative Object and there goes all their hard-earned worth down the drain.

    If you want to argue to me how much they like it, go and take a look backstage after the competition is over and view the desperate sobbing of every girl except the winner. They are not sobbing because they are sore losers. They are sobbing because they have devoted all that time and work into offering themselves up for some judges, in desperate hope that these judges will grant them Human Being of Worth status. The judges have decided that no, they do not deserve such status.

    It’s also a little silly to take a look at them and conclude that they like it when they actually lose points for not smiling enough. Does that in itself not speak volumes, that they lose points for not smiling enough, for goodness sake? How can you not fuck up a little kid when you are forcing them to smile and giving out awards to those who smile the widest and the prettiest? Can you imagine anyone ever doing such a thing to little boys?

  65. xochitl

    I clicked on the link to the Little Miss Perfect show and watched the video about Shelbie. Shelbie says she likes to do pageants because she gets to spend time with her mom. Mom looks at Shelbie disapprovingly and says, “Shelbie’s never been the total package. I’m trying to prepare her to be the total package.” Now, it’s one thing to grow up in a culture that despises you. But when even your own mom despises you? That’s gotta mess you up.

  66. yttik

    “Little Miss Perfect is merely one of a gazillion equally nauseating points on the Porno-Feminine Continuum..”

    I think one of the points Jill was making is that these pageants get a double whammy, they get shows made about how whacked the mothers are, what freaks these kids are. That way we can all point and laugh, slut shame the mothers so to speak, when in fact they are just responding to cultural dictates.

    In a similar way we like to ridicule strippers and pole dancers, for doing what? Earning money for something that is generally taken from them on the streets without any compensation at all. Women are a commodity and often viewed as public property. Women (and girls) who in anyway try to take control of their commodity status are shamed.

    And should you ever achieve the standard of USDA Choice, you will be hated and feared for having even a tiny bit of perceived power. That is why I complain when people try to use the word “privilege” in regards to those who meet the beauty standard. I don’t see privilege, I see JonBenet Ramsey. The grass is always greener on the other side of that Porno-Feminine Continuum Jill mentioned.

  67. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    In my family are two little girls of approximately the same age. One is a kick-ass soccer player and karate devotee. She has no interest in pink spangly clothes, lip gloss, hairstyling, or cheerleading. The other adores those things. Being a brilliant child-psychologist spinster aunt myself, I say let ’em go their own way. We stray into the Land of Weird when we try forcing kids to do extracurricular stuff in which they have no interest.

  68. Liyana T

    A beauty pageant for boys…hmm. My two boys would definitely go for it! I don’t know why but my boys are very style-conscious they don’t even want to wear stained PJS, demanding smart or nice-looking PJS. Even playclothes. I think the future is heading towards a style-conscious group of young men. I don’t think my boys are gay (although there is nothing wrong with that either) but I think it has something to do with their daddy who likes to look good. I mean, they even get excited when I buy them new clothes!!! :D

  69. Jezebella

    My mother reports that I, too, wanted to wear the most sparkly, sequined, purple & pink, crinoline-iest dresses in the Sears store as a child, and being of WASPy lineage, she refused to purchase such confections. Some of us are magpies and like shiny things and bright colors. This is completely unrelated, I think, to the damaging milieu of the child “beauty” pageant consumer spectacle.

  70. goblinbee

    Barn Owl, no, no Etsy shop. He has a daunting school and work schedule, so the sewing is definitely just a hobby.

  71. Hedgepig

    My sister has a lovely theory that attraction to sparkly things and bright, pretty colours is a characteristic of human children of both sexes. Boys tend to be discouraged from this natural predilection, whereas girls are encouraged to maintain it. So it is actually natural for girls to like pink, sequins etc. Boys are conditioned out of this natural preference, and then the conventional wisdom becomes that boys don’t like pretty sparkly stuff.

  72. orlando

    Small anecdote to illustrate Hedgepig’s description of my theory: seeing our cousin and her three tots (2 boys of 4, girl of 3) recently, I brought along a sparkly pink fairy tree decoration we had been given for Christmas because I remembered that one of the boys was very into sparkles. I asked our cousin if any of her kids would like it, and she said “M (girl) might”. When I showed it to them it was J (boy) who lept on it and declared that he would like to hang it over his bed. Cousin might as well have stuck fingers in her ears and gone “lala la la”.

    I think hedgepig’s point is that because man = default we often speak as if girls are conditioned to like frou-frou, when in reality frou-frou seems more likely to be the default human state, with boys needing to be reprogrammed to not like it by equating frou-frou = girl = demeaning.

  73. Ruling Classy


    IThankTP for eliciting, evoking, necessitating, and otherwise occasioning your prose, Sister Spinster. I am a dude and have read and re-read the FAQs. Wasn’t sure about the policy on ironic links and earnest eye-contact-handshaking. Blame!

  74. SMiaVS

    I’m reminded of the song ‘My Conviction’ from ‘Hair.’ :)

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