“She’s had a ball collecting tiaras and applying fake eyelashes. But six-year old Eden Wood is ready to embrace new challenges—like promoting her own showgirl action figure.” So wrote William Lee Adams in a recent TIME NewsFeed story read around the world. http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/07/14/eden-wood-six-year-old-beauty-queen-retires-from-pageant-circuit/
The winner of more than 300 beauty pageant titles, Eden Wood shot to national prominence on the hit TLC television series Toddlers & Tiaras, which follows the nation’s tiniest pageant contestants through a haze of spray tans and rhinestones. Speaking to Good Morning America on July 13, 2011, Eden’s mother-manager Mickie Wood said that putting down the crown and scepter will give Eden time to explore other ventures. As she says: “I think she’s following in the footsteps of some pretty big people who have done pageants, like Oprah Winfrey.”
But unlike Oprah—who won Miss Black Tennessee at the age of 18—Eden is building an empire without knowing how to write or do math calculations. Her range of merchandise already includes a rather mature-looking Eden showgirl action figure, the “Eden Wood Princess Canopy Bed Collection” and a memoir entitled “From Cradle to Crown” (available for just $15 plus shipping and handling on Eden’s official web site).
Watching the TV series “Toddlers & Tiaras” is enough to make your stomach churn. http://tlc.discovery.com/videos/toddlers-tiaras-i-want-the-crown.html Today, as North American parents age themselves down with lotions and potions and childish fashion, according to Hannah Sung in The Globe and Mail, ” we also age our children up.” Witness those children’s beauty pageants, the likes of which are the topic of many provocative documentaries and the basis for reality television show Toddlers & Tiaras. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/fashion-and-beauty/hannah-sung/all-mixed-up-why-are-we-dressing-like-kids/article1930289/
In journalist Peggy Orenstein’s book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, an examination of “girlie-girl” culture, Orenstein states that, “the identical midriff-baring crop top is sold to 8-year-olds, 18-year-olds and 48-year-olds.” She cites the rise in appearance-altering surgery for American children under the age of 18 (in 2008, it was almost twice as many as a decade earlier) and the 12,000 Botox injections administered in 2009 to children ages 13 to 19 and concludes that in the end, “[it] means girls are now simultaneously getting older younger and staying younger older.”
Critics of Toddlers & Tiaras find the TLC cable program to be “the most disgusting show on television.” http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfmoms/detail?entry_id=43981 It has spawned “Cancel Toddlers & Tiaras” Facebook pages and sparked protests over the past three years, all to no avail. Some 5,000 Australians signed petitions in a failed attempt to bar Eden Wood from entering their country in late July 2011. Child psychologist Collett Smart went head-to-head with Mickie Wood on a current affairs show, Today Tonightt, but the six-year-old’s mother was undeterred.
The TV show continues to air despite the concerted efforts of parent groups to raise public awareness about the sexualization of girls. According to some reports, over 100,00 American children partiipate in these girls beauty pageants each year. Yet concerned parents are beginning to understand the emotional, psychological, and physical harm a young girl is exposed to when she is sexualized. As the 2007 American Psychological Association’s task force report showed us, early sexualization can lead to self-esteem issues, depression, eating disorders, and early promiscuity.
Women’s Rights advocacy groups are outraged by the show. “Toddlers & Tiaras is a petri dish of sexualization,” Care 2 declared. “Little girls are taught, often times forced by their domineering mothers, to act coquettishly, learn suggestive dance routines, wear sexualized costumes and bathing suits, endure hours of hair and make-up, and are even put on restrictive diets in order to lose weight for competition. This is perverse. While TLC continues to air “Toddlers & Tiaras,” the network becomes an agent of this sexualization.” http://www.care2.com/causes/profiting-from-sexualized-children-an-open-letter-to-toddlers-tiaras.html#ixzz1TR7HJtBi
The TLC cable TV show “Toddlers & Tiaras” has stirred up quite a controversy and that raging debate begs a few critical questions. Should we be taking shows like “Toddlers & Tiaras” seriously? Who in their right mind would be influenced by such trashy television, except the foolish and impressionable? Will the show set back the cause of advancing womanhood or encourage more hyperparenting? And why do networks like TLC keep renewing such shows?