I need to make a very important clarification in regards to the child beauty pageant post about “Toddlers & Tiaras”.
When we talk about sexualization, our focus should and must remain on the emotional, social, sexual, and physical health of our daughters.
Our daughters are the center of this discussion, and we need to keep our focus on their intrinsic value and natural born right to a childhood. Our daughters (and sons) are the focus of this discussion.
Sexualization of childhood isn’t only about pedophiles.
But it has EVERYTHING to do with our kids’ healthy emotional development around gender, sexuality, body image, beauty, and self esteem.
THE DISTINCTION IS AN IMPORTANT ONE.
(For those who want a crash course about the process of sexualization, what the four criteria are, and how it harms our children, go here.)
I saw numerous comments here and around the web in response to my post that questioned the validity of the show based on if sexual predators would see these girls. Whether or not that happens is certainly of some importance, but the emotional and physical health of these girls is the primary concern. Sexualization slides the bar of taboo around children and sex, but if the conversation moves to “pedophiles might see them” and “this feeds pedophilia”, we unintentionally objectify the VERY girls we are trying to protect. We take away our girls’ agency when we shift focus off of them and onto the possibility of an outside party’s actions. Our primary concern is what is happening to the minds and bodies of these girls in the present, what might or might not happen in the future is secondary.
I absolutely care about the victims of child sexual abuse, and with rational caution am wary of sexual predators, but that is a post for another day.
Child beauty pageants may be atrocious and offensive, but they are not child pornography. They do not fall under the legal definition, and to describe them as such undermines the potency and heinousness of real child pornography and the victims it affects. Whether or not the actions of some of these parents are cases of child abuse would vary from state to state and the statutes that govern that jurisdiction. Both claims need to carry a heavy weight of social condemnation with them, and should not be tossed around lightly.
I want to thank everyone who left comments on the blog yesterday, in social media circles where this post was widely shared, and in emails I received. Clearly the topic of children, specifically girls, participating in beauty pageants is a hot button issue. The protection of our daughters’ right to a girlhood is a passionate issue for me, and I am touched that there are many, many people out there who are equally caring. The post and call to action came from a need for our society to curb the epidemic of the highly sexualized media and marketplace that surround and harm our children.