Beauty pageants are one of those things are not thought of as having negative health effects, but it is argued in this psychology paper (designed to help with research) that beauty pageants can have some serious negative effects on contestants and society at large. This and other argumentative essays can be the best way to present controversial opinions.
Beauty pageants often have negative impacts
On September 16, 2013, Nina Davuluri won the crown and the title of Miss America. The Miss America Pageant, one of the most famous pageants in United States history, has been a source of controversy since its inception because it focuses on physical appearances and promotes unrealistic female attributes. As most people know, there are psychological effects of beauty pageants that the contestants have to struggle with.
Nevertheless, the newly crowned Miss America claims that the pageant promotes female empowerment (Parry). It seems that in Nina Duvuluri’s world female empowerment suggests women should rely on their good looks to succeed. While it certainly makes for a pretty picture, is it a positive one?
Child beauty pageants: Obsession with appearance
This obsession with appearance has transcended to little girls as is evident in television shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras. Toddlers and Tiaras is a reality show that reveals what goes on behind the curtains of pageants for young children. Certainly, while adult females have the right to walk around on a stage in skimpy bathing suits and fake tans, they make that choice for themselves.
On the other hand, the parents of the young children in beauty pageants make that decision and train their children to believe it is okay. When young girls compete in beauty pageants, they may experience low self-esteem and depression as adults, so beauty pageants have negative effects because they maintain women should be tall, thin, and conventionally beautiful in order to have successful lives.
Miss America impacted negatively as well
One of the most well-known pageants, Miss America, has a long history. In 1921, hotel owners wanted to extend summer vacation in order to make profits, so they created the Miss America Pageant (Watson &Martin). Samuel Gompers, the President of the American Federation of Labor, said the pageant’s first winner, 15-year-old Margaret Gorman:
“‘Represented the type of woman America needs, strong, red-blooded, able to shoulder the responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of the country rests’” (Watson & Martin 107).
Back in those days, the ideal woman was a housewife who stayed home with the kids. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for women to work alongside men and to have men stay at home with the children. Nevertheless, while the first Miss America winner was a healthy teenager with a normal body weight, as time passed, Miss America pageant contestants have become thinner due to eating disorders caused by negative attention.
While the Miss America pageant no longer feels that the perfect woman is only a housewife, it still promotes physical perfection over inner beauty. However, in spite of its controversy, the Miss America Pageant has remained popular entertainment. In their article, “The Miss America Pageant: Pluralism, Femininity, and Cinderella All in One,” Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin write:
“The enduring popularity of the Miss America pageant over the course of its seventy-nine year history supports the contention that the pageant…reflects the values and beliefs of the greater American society, particularly in its view of women” (106).
Viewers don’t understand pageant’s negative effects
The pageant has been around for a long time, so clearly many people do not believe that there is anything wrong with it. Nevertheless, when I consider the women who glide across the stage, I specifically recall skinny women who appear to have perfect teeth, perfect skin, and perfect bodies. It’s a lot of pressure because the only women who look like that are in magazines, television, and movies. Subsequently, this begins when young females participate in beauty pageants.
When young girls participate in beauty pageants, they are prone to depression and low self-esteem as adults. According to their study, Wonderlich and researchers:
“hypothesize that women who participated in beauty pageants as a young child would be more likely than their peers who did not participate in beauty pageants to report disordered eating behaviors and associated concerns, body dissatisfaction, depression and lower self-esteem” (293).
Negative impact of Toddlers and Tiaras
In the popular TLC reality show, mothers, and sometimes fathers, dress up their little girls in frilly dresses, sequined talent outfits, and swimsuits in hopes to win crowns and money. It’s just like Miss America. That’s what makes it unbelievably scary because the parents make the little girls look like grown women.
As evident from the picture, parents cover their little girls’ natural beauty by using spray tanners and makeup. In addition, the little girls often lose teeth, a natural process of growing up, so parents will add fake teeth to replace the ones that have been lost. The result is an unnatural portrait of what a little girl should look like.
Moreover, that image stays with little girls as they mature because they grow up with the idea that they should continue to look like perfect women. It is emotionally and physically unhealthy to try and uphold an image that others have created because:
“It is possible that the select group of women who win the Miss America contest are among the elite group representing the female cultural body idea” (Wonderlich et al. 292).
For example, in their research study, the participants had to tell the researchers what they thought was an ideal weight Wonderlich et al. used the following instruments:
- Bulimia Test-Revised (BULIT-R)
- Eating Disorders Inventory-2 (EDI-2)
- Body Image Assessment (BIA)
- Centers for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale (CES-D)
- Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES).
According to their psychological research paper, Wonderlich et al. found that while there wasn’t any significant connection between bulimia and former beauty pageant contestants, they were more prone to low self-esteem and depression. In other words, it is possible that the women who participated as children grew up to feel less than satisfied with their appearances.
In addition, while there wasn’t a connection between eating disorders and former pageant contestants, Wonderlich et al. reveal “Of the 131 females who participated in beauty pageant contents, 48% reported a desire to be thinner, 57% stated they were trying to lose weight, and 26% had been told or were believed to have an eating disorder” (292). The leads me to believe that former beauty queens associate thinness with beauty.
The psychological effects of beauty pageants is a topic for modern discussion. Not only are beauty pageants possibly damaging to the psychological of competitors, but there may be lasting effects on the lives of women in the United States.
Psychological impact of beauty pageants
Wonderlich and his research team found females who participated in beauty pageants thought that their body types, while slender according to their BMI, were actually large. The women who did not compete had realistic images of their body types and while some reported that they wanted to be thinner, they did not have false images of their size in their heads. Media portrayal of these women only serves to increase their low self-esteem.
Because former pageant contestants had significantly more depression and low self-esteem, it seems that their previous experiences had a lot to do with the way they thought today. According to the website Womenshealth.gov:
There is no single known cause of eating disorders, several things may contribute to the development of these disorders” such as our “culture,” “stress,” “depression,” and “poor self-image” (para. 4).
Therefore, the former beauty pageant contestants developed these ideas when they were young, so perhaps they are unable to outgrow their childhood beliefs.
Beauty pageants play role in self-image, over-sexualization
Ultimately, beauty pageants place more importance on the physical appearance instead of developing other qualities. The Local: France’s News in English reports:
“Senators banned children’s beauty contests to prevent the “hyper-sexualisation” of kids, promising tough sanctions for those who break the law (“French Senators Vote to Ban Child Beauty contests,” 2013).
Over-sexualizing young girls are common ailments in beauty pageants. It seems that the beauty pageant creators are so intent on making their programs just like adult beauty pageants, they forget they are dealing with children. However, the parents are equally guilty.
Want to join the discussion? Order an essay from Ultius based on your perspective.
Pageants send wrong message to young girls
Toddlers & Tiaras’ first episode “Universal Royalty National Pageant” shows that parents push their children to perform. In this particular episode, mothers and daughters compete as a team. The pageant includes gown, swimsuit, and talent categories and both the mothers and the little girls compete. Annette Hill, the pageant director, claims that she likes the little girls to stay natural and wear one piece bathing suits; however, the little girls mimic sexualized womanly walks.
The young pageant contestants will sway their hips as they walk around the stage. While it is natural for an adult female to put on makeup and dress up, it is unnatural that they expect their daughters to do the same. The daughters are all extremely young and under the ages of twelve. In fact, the youngest contestants were two years old to three years old. It seems that their young minds learn that their future involves being pretty.
Not all psychological impact negative
On the other side of the argument, beauty pageant advocates claim young girls who participate in beauty competitions grow up to be confident and secure women who know how to interact with others. The website Kids Beauty Pageant Secrets claims beauty pageants have advantages such as developing self-confidence and communication skills. Moreover, Kids Beauty Pageant Secret emphasizes:
“It instills values into the child. Aside from the prestige that the contestants in beauty pageants for little girls get, they are expected to learn something from it. Aside from respect, the most important values that one can get from contests like these is to learn how to be a sport. Since only one girl can win and take home the title, it makes the child realize that in life, there will be defeats that one has to deal with” ( para 6).
The word “respect” stood out to me. Does the child learn to respect the other contestants or do they feel that it is the “prestige” from pageants that gives them respect? Or do child beauty pageants invoke an inappropriate competitive nature? It is one thing to learn to respect others, but it is something entirely different to demand respect. In addition, while learning how to lose is necessary, Kids Beauty Pageant Secret makes it sound as though the little girls have to learn that “defeats” are a natural part of life, but they usually take the form of another person who was judged to be better.
Pageants display women’s best qualities
Likewise, in her article “Miss USA 2013: A Feminist’s Defense of Beauty Pageant Contestants,” Emily Vrotsos claims that she was not a fan of beauty contests when she was younger, but as she tuned into the recent Miss USA pageant, she saw that the “competition was filled with bright, goal-oriented women who now had the influence to incite real change for the causes they believed in” (para. 4).
While it is true that beauty pageants provide audiences, it does not necessarily reveal why women have to stand up for what they believe in while wearing swim wear or gowns, heels, and makeup. If it were only a case of an opportunity to raise awareness via television, it seems that women could successfully address their ideas while wearing normal clothes.
Over-sexualization may distract from those qualities
Because the pageants have categories based on swim wear and talent, it takes away from the issues and only highlights that women can have important ideas if they are talented and beautiful as well. Otherwise, no one wants to listen. If girls in beauty pageants go through the same categories when they are young, they may mistakenly believe others will only listen to them if they are dressed up with makeup and blown out hair. In addition, there is a lack of evidence that suggests that beauty pageants actually are responsible for teaching young girls positive values. Most reports that focus on the benefits of pageants.
Furthermore, personality and social skills can also depend on children’s upbringing and home environments. There are some things that cannot be learned on a stage. School activities such as sports are healthy avenues and will teach others to act and work with others. Perhaps beauty pageants are sports to some, but they are not realistic.
Final thoughts on psychological impact of beauty pageants
In conclusion, young girls who compete in beauty pageants may experience low self-esteem and depression as adults, so beauty pageants have negative effects because they maintain women should be tall, thin, and conventionally beautiful in order to have successful lives. While new Miss America Nina Davuluri says she is empowered, young girls are meant to be loved and cared for. Perhaps the young beauty queens’ parents feel as though they are teaching their children how to act with others.
However, is it possible for young children to feel empowered? The negative aftereffects include depression and low self-esteem. In addition, young girls who participate in pageants only learn that beauty equals success. While some may believe beauty pageants are harmless, they should have rules, such as France’s new law, that regulates the content of young children’s beauty pageants.
For instance, applying fake spray tans, fake teeth, and makeup is not. Regulations should insist mothers and fathers do not dress their children like adults and instead relish in what makes them naturally beautiful. Ultimately, it is a child’s innocence that allows natural beauty.
In time, they will realize that many people idolize tall, skinny, and beautiful women due to television and movies, so why should they believe that when they are young? It is difficult enough to grow up and wish we were better looking or had nicer bodies, skin, teeth, or hair. We need to have more attention through essay writing, film, and music geared toward developing what’s on the inside and focus on our minds in order to feel truly beautiful.
“Advantages of Beauty Pageants for Little Girls.” Kids Beauty Pageant Secrets. N.p., n.d. Web. .
“French Senators Vote to Ban Child Beauty Contests.” The Local France’s News in English. N.p., 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. .
OWH. “Eating Disorders.” Womenshealth.gov. Office on Women’s Health, 22 Sept. 2010. Web. 24 Sept. 2013. .
Parry, Wayne. “Miss America Cheers Pageant Diversity.” Associated Press. AP English Worldstream, 16 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2013.
The French Say Au Revoir To Child Beauty Pageants. Digital image. Standing Up for Young Americans. OurTime.org, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.
“Universal Royalty National Pageant.” Toddlers and Tiaras. TLC. 27 Jan. 2009. Netflix. Discovery Communications, LLC. Web. .
Watson, Elwood, and Darcy Martin. “The Miss America Pageant: Pluralism, Femininity, And Cinderella All In One.” Journal Of Popular Culture 34.1 (2000): 105-126. Literary Reference Center. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.
Vrotsos, Emily. “Miss USA 2013: A Feminist’s Defense of Beauty Pageant Contestants.” Feminspire. N.p., 18 June 2013. Web. .
Wonderlich, Anna L., Diann M. Ackard, and Judith B. Henderson. “Childhood Beauty Pageant Contestants: Associations with Adult Disordered Eating and Mental Health.” Eating Disorders 13.3 (2005): 291-301. Print.