Pre-Adolescent Male Beauty Pageants Enter the U.K.
When a little girl is paraded in pageants, there’s often a tut of disapproval from the wings. Some onlookers fret that little girls are being prematurely sexualized, and fear that notions of feminine beauty that emphasize unrealistic physical qualities are being reinforced. Others worry that pre-adolescent girls who compete in pageants could be targeted for sexual abuse and violence by pedophiles.
But now a controversy in Britain has emerged over similar pageants for pre-adolescent boys, and reports say that the British are holding Americans to blame for the new trend.
Some worry that it will now be boys who are made the target of pedophiles, given that young children are dressed up provocatively and coached to strut. Others, having bought into the idea that such pageants are fine for girls, say that boys should not cross gender lines in this way. Others reason that if lessons emphasizing superficial beauty are bad for girls, they can’t be any better for boys.
In a June 25 article, U.K.newspaper The Daily Mail calls the new fad "disturbing," and adds, "Depressingly... such pageants are now attracting contestants in their droves, with parents desperate for their children to get stage experience in preparation to become the future stars of shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor," which are the U.K. equivalent to popular reality programs in the U.S. that showcase the talents of aspiring professional performers.
Blog The Frisky reported on the Daily Mail’s article in a June 25th posting, noting that, "Boys in beauty pageants do all the creepy, you’re-too-young-do-being-doing-this things that girls do. They gel their hair. They bronze. They ’gyrate on stage in a crude and alarming approximation of male sexuality,’ " the posting added, quoting from the Daily Mail piece.
"If more boys compete in beauty pageants, that won’t be a sign of ’equality,’ the blog posting went on. "It will only be a sign that the sexualization of young girls and the regimentation of beauty standards in pageants has desensitized us so much it is spreading to the boys."
At another blog, Bukisa, a June 10 article notes that, "On one side of the coin, there’s the argument that boys should be in beauty pageants. Why shouldn’t they have the opportunity that their female counterparts have to charm audiences and win large sums of cash?" Boys, the article posits, don’t tend to make a career out of pageants, "aging out" of the spectacles while still fairly young. Moreover, if a boy finds such competition fun, why not allow it? "If a boy child truly wants to be in pageants, it seems less sinister than forcing a sports loving, pageant hating boy to go onstage and smile at the judges," the posting says.
Some claim that beauty pageants are harmful to children, but others rebut this claim. "While the adverse psychological effects of child beauty pageants have been discussed for many years--and have been ignored by stage moms and dads for roughly the same period of time--there is no reason to assume that boys are unsuited for the catwalk," says a June 25 Associated Content article by Sylvia Cochran that discusses the British outrage at the imported phenomenon of boys competing in pageants. "Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry points out that it is not as unusual as a parent may believe for a boy to decline participation in traditionally male activities."
Adds the article, "Thus, our British friends might be caught up in their own gender stereotyping. In the alternative, they may simply find something fundamentally distasteful about a little boy prancing on stage with highlights in his hair and a hip bump that would do a rapper from the ’hood proud, which we in the U.S. may have simply grown accustomed to."