Sexualizing Girls? Toddlers & Tiaras

I just read an article that really irritated me. Enough for me to say, "That's bullshit," out loud. It was titled "Toddlers and Tiaras' and Sexualizing 3-year-olds" and described TLC's show about beauty pageants for young girls. Frankly it disgusted me.

The socially conservative folks in our country would have us believing that there are threats to "our children" at every turn. And yet the blatant sexualization of young girls in beauty pageants is supported by many parents. Yes, they are too young to understand the sexual humor and innuendo. No, they are not too young to learn that their value and worth apparently comes from looking sexy, being attractive, and flaunting their bodies. I'd like to check back with these parents when their girls are teens, and see where they stand then.

I think that as girls, what we are taught brings attention and worth from a young age, forms a strong foundation for self-worth and self-esteem in life. Learning to base self-worth on appearance and sex appeal is a slippery slope, from teenage girls who are getting physical attention without the emotional maturity to handle it, or adult women whose bodies are continually aging and changing, and therefore betraying them. That's a sure recipe for body hatred, which has a significant impact on self-esteem, self-expression, respect of one's body, and sexual satisfaction.

I can't wrap my brain around the motivation of parents with beauty pageant girls. Attention? Fame? Value? Self-importance?  Yes, these are things we all strive for, to make us feel whole and worthy. But, please don't use your little girls to battle your personal demons. And that goes for you too, TLC.

If you'd like to read the article that incited this rant, visit CNN's "Toddlers & Tiaras' and Sexualizing 3-Year-Olds."

(Regarding the photo, the article states: "A placard opposes a child beauty pageant organized by the U.S. "Toddlers and Tiaras" in Melbourne, Australia, on July 30.")

Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus

San Diego - Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, University Sexuality Speaker