Little Miss Photoshop

10 years ago

One of the other contributing editors here at BlogHer brought this issue to my attention last week. I warned her I was afraid to write on the subject, because my response would be vile. There was general agreement that the topic warrants some venom, so brace yourself if you wish to read on.

There’s no question our society is obsessed with appearance, and particularly, women’s sexuality. I’m not a huge fan of these obsessions, as I find that I can’t measure up to the standards and it’s exhausting and psychologically painful to try, but I figure if adults want to behave that way, that’s their bag, baby. It bothers me immeasurably when it happens to children. Particularly little girls.

I’m not completely innocent. I let my three-year-old little angel paint her toenails. I bought her toenail polish of the palest seashell pink when she started begging for “fancy feet,” but of course, she wanted my tangerine or dramatic red instead. I finally gave in, thinking there were a lot worse things I could be doing. I let her call her chapstick “lipstick.” I let her wear twirly dresses to daycare on a regular basis.

There’s a huge chasm, however, between wanting your child to delight in the tactile exuberance that is velour and wanting your child to look perfect for any reason. “Groomed” is something our children can and should strive for (even though that’s hard enough). “Done” is something entirely different. Which is why this is so disturbing.

There are a few things going on here.

1) The child looks humanoid.
2) The child was gorgeous to begin with.
3) This site is geared toward selling retouching services – which means there is a market for it.
4) The market is little girls’ beauty contests.

I think I just died a little inside even writing that.

I was joking with my friend Kim last night about which sports we think our children will like. Her son (also three) just took t-ball and was not a huge fan, due to the waiting part. He adores swimming. The little angel doesn’t like to get her head under the water, though we’re working on that, but I don’t think swimming will be her thing, either. She’s tried Twinkle Toes ballet, which I loved as a kid – I took dance for 12 years – and liked it. I’m almost afraid for her to like it, because as much as I loved dancing, I hated my body in those leotards and constantly compared myself to the other girls in my class. I’m sure you do this with any sport, but dancing is so focused on the body that it bothers me a little. Plus, in ballet, there’s a huge emphasis on looking like an eight-year-old boy for as long as possible, and the little angel has inherited my sturdy frame. I won’t discourage her from taking dance lessons if she wants to, but I’m not sure I want her to even peek inside dance, the potential entry drug to the world of pageantry.

I mean, LOOK AT IT!

Emma says this:

"I don’t think it’s any big news that Pageant Parents are a couple o’ sandwiches shy of a picnic. What else can you call it when you purposely dress your five-year-old up to resemble a Las Vegas showgirl?"

Platypus seems to have found the same picture:

"I note that of all the samples on the site, there's no boys. Our culture of body-hating among girls and women is rampant and so sad, and this sickens me to see these attitudes being implemented by parents before a little girl can count to 3. "

What do the pageant girls think when they’re all grown up? Here's a list of “how you know you’re a pageant girl.”


*You can anwser in less than 1 minute what you plan to for the next 10 years of your life

*You have you own motto ormission statement that you think everyone
should live by

*Your boyfriend knows the difference between your swimsuit and evening gown walk

*When the pageant is over you see no relevance in leaving your house for anything except ice cream

*You have ever sprayed your butt with Firm Grip... aka butt glue.
*You no longer have feeling in your little and big toes.

*You know how to instantly create cleavage in more than 5 ways.
*-You've said repeatedly "it's not just a BEAUTY pageant!"

*You have stuck your finger in your mouth, wrapped your lips around it and then sucked on it while pulling out with absolutely no sexual intentions (REMOVE EXCESS LIPSTICK!)

*You know the difference between a rhinestone and a Swarovski rhinestone.

*You know what angle your face and body look best in pictures and you stick to it... for every picture.

*Spending $2,000 on one piece of clothing sounds like a deal!

*You own at least 10 bathing suits you've never gotten wet.

*Every inch of your hotel room is now orange from spray tan or Sally Hansen.
*You know that distinct smell of E6000 and most of your wardrobe smells like it.

*You've tried explaining to someone how pageantry is like and extreme sport and they look at you like you are crazy.

*When walking is more than just walking... it's floating!

*The first step out of bed in the morning makes you scream out in pain.

*The question "Is that your real hair?" is not uncommon or offensive.

*Chicken cutlets are more than just poultry.

*USA and America mean two TOTALLY different things
*It's not good enough if a dress JUST 'fits'.

*You know what 'pageant stance' is.

*You are able to change your outfit, hair, makeup AND shoes in under 2 minutes.

*You don't see a problem with dancing in 4 inch heels on stage in front of hundreds of people.

*You no longer cringe at the sound of cheesy music.

*"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" seems to be used at every pageant you go to.

*You find yourself smiling in your sleep.

*You listen to the news, read the paper and keep up with court rulings only because it might be a question some day.

*You actually HAVE used a whole can of hair spray in one sitting before.. and then sent your mom to get a second... which you used also.

*You have been asked by more than a handful of people, "So, do you girls REALLY say world peace?"

*You have come to accept the fact that rhinestones are your friends, and glitter is in your veins.

*You somehow keep running into the SAME group of girls year after year.

*You know "your colors."

*You remember a girl in this order: color of her dress, style of her hair, her photographer, her picture, her earrings, her wonderful/ terrible 'walk', her city name, her mom's name... her name.

*Your hair practically teases itself by now.

*Every question you answer these days seems to have 3 parts to it.

*You have used tape on more than one body part.

*You have more pictures of girls standing in a line with your arms behind each other's lower back than you know what to do with.

*You will spend thousands of dollars and endless hours preparing for a chance to fight for a piece of metal that sparkles and a long piece of fabric with some words on it.. usually starting in "Miss". "

I think the one that bothers me the most is “you listen to the news, read court rulings and read the newspaper because it might be the subject of a question.”


I feel a little mean exploiting this list, which was probably meant in fun, but you don't end up old enough to have a boyfriend with that mentality unless you've been in the pageant world for a good long while. If you want to tape your own boobs and spray butt glue (Lord help us – what is that?) on yourself for fun and entertainment, fine. If you want to spend thousands of dollars to be judged physically in front of hundreds of people, fine. If you were born naturally beautiful and you choose to exploit that as an adult, fine. I don’t see much difference between exploiting natural beauty in a pageant or modeling career and exploiting natural athleticism by playing professional sports – as an adult. What bothers me is when young girls who do not have the emotional maturity to consider the long-term effects of being judged in this manner for their looks are Photoshopped or otherwise by their parents. I just don’t understand this – I have a beautiful little girl myself, but I would never want her to undergo the physical scrutiny that comes with pageantry or anything akin to it. Judges will find a flaw somewhere – that’s their job. Few adults have the self-esteem to stand up to a swimsuit competition. How could anyone expect a young girl to do so?

We know from child development research that girls in particular go through a phase when they desperately need to fit in and be accepted by their peers. The height of the pageantry world occurs right during this crucial period of adolescence. It seems to me a travesty and indignity that anyone would subject their daughter to that level of superficial inanity when most girls just want the right pair of jeans and for the world to stop looking at them already.

I can’t stop writing. Somebody stop me from thinking about this before I vomit.

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

More from parenting

by Madeleine Deliee | 4 days ago
by Jennifer Mattern | 4 days ago
by Jennifer Mattern | 4 days ago
by Jennifer Mattern | 4 days ago
by Jennifer Mattern | 5 days ago
by Jennifer Mattern | 6 days ago
by Sara Lindberg | 7 days ago