As published on Collective Shout
The Ashmore State School Model Search for children as young as two will be held at a Family Fun Fair next month. Prizes include modelling courses worth hundreds of dollars.
In the latest school newsletter, deputy principal Amanda Fry assured parents the contest was not a beauty pageant. “There is no category for beauty,” she wrote. “There are trophies for best dressed, best catwalk and most photogenic.”
Greg Dickman, Education Queensland’s South East regional director, said the department had no issue with the model search. “This is a fundraiser model competition, not a beauty competition,” he said.
Whether the school calls it a “model search”, a “beauty competition”, a “pageant” or any other name is irrelevant. Whether or not participants are allowed to wear makeup or evening gowns is irrelevant. What is relevant, is pitting children against each other in order to be judged on their appearance.
An overwhelming number of international experts in child health, including The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have expressed concerns about the detrimental impact of emphasising a child’s appearance and attractiveness to the exclusion of other characteristics, such as during model searches, beauty pageants and so on:
“Direct participation and competition for a beauty prize where infants and girls are objectified and judged against sexualised ideals can have significant mental health and developmental consequences that impact detrimentally on identity, self esteem, and body perception.”
It is not only the participants who are being put at risk by such an event. Those who witness it, and the girls who don’t enter, are also absorbing toxic messages about their appearance and self worth. The fact that the school and teachers that they trust are participating in sending these messages makes it all the more harmful.
This model search is an absolute abrogation of the responsibility of the school to the children in their care. You might like to contact Education Qld and the Minister for Education to ask them why Education Queensland is allowing this school to put the well-being of students at risk.
Email Education Qld: Enquiries.SchoolOperations@dete.qld.gov.au
Contact Hon John-Paul Langbroek MP
As well as being the Minister for Education, the school is in his electorate.
Phone: 3237 1000
Child and family psychologist Collett Smart discusses the risks of holding the model search as a fundraiser at the Gold Coast school.