Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why I would never enter my daughter in a beauty contest.

It's not for me to say beauty contests should be banned - this is a free society, or supposed to be. Child pageants are a little different from adult ones because the child is entered by their parents. It may not be their own choice. Still, I won't presume the right to say they should be abolished. But I'm quite sure I would never ever have entered my daughter in one. The reasons are pure and simple: my daughter has a value that is NOT subject to some kind of assessment by a panel of judges, and she should NOT be made to feel less worthy than some other girl because when she is compared with them she wins no prizes.
Last night's television included a documentary segment on these 'little Miss sunshine' type of things - the sort that JonBenet Ramsay was involved in. There were brief interviews with some of the little girls who did not win anything. It was quite cruel to see the look of sad bewilderment in the faces of some of those little kids who had just been made 'also-rans' by this contest, which they had probably spent hours, days, weeks preparing for. We would not do that to our daughter.
Of course, you might challenge me by asking: if I was sure she would win, and it turned out she did win, might that be different? Okay, I should examine my conscience about that a bit. Would it thrill me to see my little girl made to feel like a winner? Answer: "Yes, but... there should be a better way than that." It would not be a good thing if she valued herself in terms of beating other contestants in an exhibition of looks and grooming, or trained deportment of the sort that could be considered personal flaunting. It cannot be a good thing for a person to make a life out of 'look at me, aren't I wonderful'.
It's an old cliche to talk about 'not judging by appearances'; 'looking beneath the surface for the real person', and so on. But it's also quite true.
The good things in my life include 29 years of marriage to a woman who is beautiful to me, but in her childhood was overshadowed by her younger sister, who was considered the beauty of the family. I would not swap my wife for her sister, for one minute. Other privileges of mine have included the friendship of several women who were never going to make a career out of modelling; but they had warm kind hearts of the sort that the world needs. Among them, the female people I've liked and appreciated as friends, have the following list of things that would count against them in a beauty pageant: crossed front teeth, buck teeth, flat chests, short thick legs, eye sight problems that require them to wear thick glasses, a lisp, being a clothing size 20, frizzy hair that could never really be styled...and I could go on. The point is, those women are my friends. They cared, and I was better off in life because they were there for me. Some more widely admired women seem to have little time for anything except themselves and what they want. That is not to say that a woman with an attractive face or elegant figure can't have a good heart as well. It's just that physical beauty is really just physical, and to mistake it for likeable character is one of the oldest and stupidest mistakes in history.
Of course, some people do not make the mistake. They quite deliberately value a person for the way that person looks. The cynical attitude is that someone who looks good might be good to be seen with. Just as some men are said to have 'trophy' wives, some women look for husbands who are a social asset. It must be a rather empty way to try having a relationship! That someone gets admiring looks, and it makes people jealous of you to be seen with them, does not mean you can feel safe and complete being in their company. You cannot have a heart to heart talk with them. What that tells us is, that to be hooked on personal appearances makes you a slave to them, and you have to spend your whole life keeping them up; and if the loneliness and stress of it proves to be too much, well..is that why some celebrities have such disastrous personal lives? I won't mention names; but the media devote hours and pages to scandal stories about singers, film stars and celeb sports people crashing and burning. It's either alcohol abuse, drug addiction or having serial relationship break downs. The pressure of being seen and watched, and having to keep up an image, must be seriously destructive. The interest in celebs' problems might be a bit to do with jealousy; but being glamorous, and living by it, comes with it's own set of problems. Right, now someone could tell me I'm into sour grapes- I never had the chance to get a life by being a glamour celeb. My reply: I've got a life that works quite well without it. And it seems the better way to go. So my wife and I would tell our kids the same thing - and for that reason, we never entered them in beauty contests, baby photo competitions or any of that. There are much better things to do. They don't need to feel like failures for not being Mr Universe or Miss Australia. Their value is God given.


Randi Jo :) said...

great entry. very true :) we need more parents like you all that understand where our value comes from and teaches that to their kids :)

Farrah said...

You make very good points! I don't have a daughter, but if I did I'm not sure I would enter her in a beauty contest, either.

makemeaspark ~>----- said...

You are an excellent writer Andrew and this was a very thoughtful post. Thank you for presenting the best kind of feminist position, that women should never feel like objects, whether it is at the bar, on a stage or when they seek health care.

It seems to me that our sex driven culture has gone from bad to worse in its treatment of women. the advertisements even for soap or lotion have to indicate that they will make women into sex goddesses desired by many men just to sell a simple and good product.

Thanks for defending the true beauty of women and men everywhere.

Sharon said...

So true! Beauty is fleeting. I had a next door neighbor up until a couple of months ago when she moved. She was a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader in the late 70's and early 80's. She never got over it, and made sure everyone she met somehow found out that she had been one. Funny thing is, that even though she had the beauty, the semi-fame and all the attention, she's been married 3 times and just got divorced again.

Then I think of Christie Brinkley and all the marriages she's gone through. Just goes to show, there's more that goes into a successful relationship than mere looks. As for the child pageants? I think they're horrible myself and would never put my daughter (who's now 16) in one. Beautiful baby contest? Sure! But not a beauty pageant where they have to wear false teeth when they are missing a tooth due to normal growth, fake hair extensions and makeup on babies?? Never! LOL

Jenny B. said...


Camillo said...

so true, I completely agree.

Anonymous said...

Everything you wrote is so true, more people should have access to this.

(By the way, I finally got a chance to check out the excerpts from your book, and they were amazing. Now I have to get the real thing.)