Did you even know Australia had a Federal Children’s Commissioner? We don’t hear that much from her – so thought we would try to get her attention and involvement on this. Let her know you want her to act by signing the petition today!
Condemn & Take Action to Stop Exploitative Universal Royalty Child Beauty Pageant from coming to Australia
Universal Royalty’s Child Beauty Pageant is coming to Melbourne, Australia, despite clear evidence from experts that the practise is detrimental to the normal and healthy development of children.
Child beauty pageants are exploitation. Little girls are made to undergo unnecessary and painful beauty treatments such as waxing, tanning and even botox. They are adorned with make up, high heels, false eyelashes, acrylic nails, flippers (false teeth) and hairpieces. They are primped and styled to look and act like mini-adults, to flirt with the judges and to be sexy and alluring.
The pageants teach girls from a very early age that their worth is based on their appearance. Research shows that reinforcing an emphasis on looks and attractiveness leads to negative body image, disordered eating, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. There are now over a hundred global reports on the issue of sexualisation of children. This research has shown that sexualisation is harmful to children’s cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and beliefs.
A parliamentary report recently released in Western Australia by WA’s Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People called for child beauty pageants to be scrutinised as one of several ways to tackle the sexualisation of children.
Last year France outlawed child beauty pageants for children under 16 to protect them from being prematurely sexualised. Pageant organisers face jail time and substantial fines for harming children in this way.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said: ”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.”
A 2005 study in The Journal of Treatment and Prevention reported ”a significant association between childhood beauty pageant participation and increased body dissatisfaction, difficulty trusting interpersonal relationships, and greater impulsive behaviours”.
Teaching little girls to preen and to strut, to look sexy for the judges, to emphasise sexualised behaviours is totally inappropriate for children. We want better for our girls and call on Megan Mitchell, the National Children’s Commissioner, to publicly condemn and take action to stop the Universal Royalty pageant from coming to Melbourne on August 2nd 2014.
The exceptional Australian author, journalist, literary critic and essayist Antonella Gambotto-Burke, is on the verge of releasing her latest book Mama: Dispatches from the Frontline of Love.
When I first began reading Antonella’s books and essays (in Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone and elsewhere), I was taken aback by the quality and eloquence of writing, the mastery of language, the way she captured and described people so acutely, her often acerbic observations and sharp wit. A magazine profile she wrote on former footballer Warwick Capper and his wife Joanne (included in The Best Australian Profiles, Black Inc., 2004) had me in hysterics. Another profile, not so amusing, on the porn star Sasha Grey, was beyond comparison. Her writing on the global trade in female bodies should be mandatory reading for anyone concerned about human rights violations. The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide, (one of her five books) is an intimate and searing portrayal of the death of her much loved brother at his own hand. Its pages drip with grief. But she would consider her greatest achievement her daughter Bethesda who arrived as a later-in-life gift which caused an earthquake in her soul and caused her to re-arrange her life and priorities.
For those interested in the theme of motherhood and attachment parenting, comes Antonella’s latest work, Mama: Dispatches from the Frontline of Love. In addition to her essays on love, death, marriage and motherhood, Mama includes long interviews with (in her words – I say that because I’m included!) “some of the most extraordinary people alive today: Steve Biddulph, Stephanie Coontz, artist Michael Hague, Tom Hodgkinson, Sheila Kitzinger, Laura Markham, Gabor Mate, Michel Odent, Attachment Parenting International’s Lysa Parker, MamaBake’s Michelle Shearer, Melinda Tankard Reist and many others. Connecting with each of them was a tremendous privilege”.
“A gifted writer, Antonella needs only a few lines to turn our attention toward the essential” writes obstetrician and visionary Michel Odent in his introduction to Mama.
Antonella argues that there’s no place for a debate between stay-at-home mothers and working mothers. “The debate we should be having is with the architects of a culture that makes calm and attentive parenthood close to impossible”.
“A number of women I know stifled their sensitivity and maternal instincts to compete in male-dominated spheres, eroding – and, often, destroying – the most important relationships of their lives.
“The bar is masculine, and women must adopt traditionally masculine characteristics – cultivated insensitivity, goal-orientated thinking, the prioritizing of the material – to compete,” she writes.
In her book, she asks why we are still conditioned to understand sensitivity as weakness, and why we continue to accept this conditioning. Other questions she raises include:
- Since when did ratification from a dispassionate boss trump the nurturance of human life?
- When did motherhood come to be understood as a series of “thankless tasks”?
- Why are breastfeeding numbers around the world dropping?
- How have we come to understand babies as “blobs”?
- How can we heal rifts with our children?
- What is behind the tsunami of behavioural disorders?
- Why is our culture so sexualised, and how is it affecting our children?
- What roles do fathers have in making a serene experience of motherhood?
- Why are so many children committing suicide?
- What are we doing to mothers, and how will this impact on our own future?
Sydney: April 23, Mosman Library, 7pm, Antonella will share a conversation with Steve Biddulph, one of the world’s bestselling parenting authors, about Mama, motherhood and attachment parenting. Wine and food. Bookings essential, and can be made through Pages & Pages Bookshop in Mosman.
Melbourne: May 30 Readings in Hawthorn Melbourne,12pm. Bookings are essential here. Cost of tickets is redeemable against the cost of the book.
Northern NSW: May 6 Lennox Head Library, 10am, with Michelle Shearer of MamaBake.
Other events to be announced.
To preorder Mama: Dispatches from the Frontline of Love, click here
As a special offer to MTR readers buy Mama for $5 off the RRP of $34.99. Click through to Arbon Publishing , add Mama to your shopping cart and enter the code: MTR to receive your discounted copy.
Collett Smart, child adolescent psychologist and educator, reports on the child beauty pageant recently held in Sydney. Collett was invited by Today Tonight to give an outsider’s opinion on the event.
“She’s a gorgeous girl isn’t she?”
“Give them a round of applause, aren’t they stunning?”
“What a lovely dress!”
“Wow, Sydney Australia, where did you get these beautiful girls?”
Notice a superficial theme anyone?
As with last year’s event, the feathers, false nails and fake tans were rolled out alongside the rhinestones and ruffles. I’m not talking about an adult cabaret routine, oh no – these were girls from 3 years old and up.
You guessed it – the pageants were back in town, with Mickie Wood and her daughter Eden (who has retired from competing to teach other girls about pageantry at the ripe old age of 6) along for the ride. And Mickie was one of the judges this year.
“We didn’t know they were here?” I hear you say. Well, it appears to have been kept a secret. Although, I’m told by some pageant organisers that it wasn’t…
Saturday saw Universal Royalty Beauty Pageants (and Eden) strutting their stuff at the Paddington RSL in Sydney. The day before, I was invited to attend the event by Today Tonight and provide comment on what I saw, since nothing had been publicly advertised. (Something to hide maybe?)
The room had a guard at the door and no signage anywhere inside or outside the RSL to indicate that the event was being held there. Contrary to what some thought, I sat openly amoung the crowd.
So was anything different this year? Yes and No.
There was a similar line of costumes and categories as last year, but only about a third the number of people. How do I know numbers were lower? Because I attended last year’s pageant (by personal invite) as the only ‘outsider’ then too. (See my story here)
As with last year, the competition had entrants from various locations around Australia. However, this year there were only between 2 and 4 entrants per age group and some age groups were not even represented. In the words of a mum seated in front of me,
“B really wanted to enter but there weren’t enough entrants for her age group, due to all the secrecy and everything.”
So when the mothers tell me on my Facebook page “They like to keep numbers low” I don’t buy it. We don’t hold secret soccer matches now do we?
As before, the competition was ‘tough’, well according to Annette Hill anyway. “Oh my goodness judges, how are you going to choose who will win the $1000?”, she asked repeatedly.
How would they indeed – and why should they choose anyway? What gives these adults the right to nominate someone else’s child as a winner, by virtue of the skin they were born in?
The main category again saw the girls wearing evening gown style dresses. “Here we have S wearing an X colour dress accentuated with rhinestones and ruffles. She has X colour hair and X colour eyes, her favourite food is X, her hobbies are X and Y.”
Sounds more like a pet parade than actual children who should be celebrated for their unique gifts and skills.
To the credit of 3 of those amazing teens, they had ambitions of being a brain surgeon, a police woman and a teacher. My message to those girls, “Get out of that toxic culture before it steals your soul and makes you think that you are only worth the shade of lip gloss you wear.”
All this happens while parents cheer on with, “Sparkle baby!”
Sparkle baby? Are you kidding me? What is that? The only thing that ‘sparkles’ are the rhinestones on the ruffles because what do pageants teach young girls to ‘sparkle’ in? The answer – Beauty, outward appearances and ‘poise’ (thanks Annette for that one). Not skills, sporting ability, artistic ability or inner qualities.
My heart broke when I heard a tiny 4 year old come directly off the stage and ask, “Mum, did I do ok?”
“Do ok at what mum?” I wondered.
Do ok at looking pretty or wearing her lipstick correctly? And what if she doesn’t win her age group? Obviously she didn’t ‘do ok’ then? Well that’s the message she gets even if indirectly.
If she didn’t ‘do ok’ at looking pretty enough, what does she do now mum? She can’t go home and practice looking prettier? Sure, she can wear a new dress or buy a new shade of eyeliner but she can’t change who she is and what she was born with.
What if she’s never ‘ok’ enough to win? What does that do to her then mum? How will she see herself in comparison to other girls? Does she ‘throw up’ to look as skinny as contestant B? Ask for breast implants at 16 to look like contestant C?
But it’s all ok apparently, because Mickie Wood who was a judge this year, told us that we needed to cheer the girls on so that they all felt special (but obviously not special enough to win the $1000 for something they cannot ever get better at).
Mickie and Annette also assured us that each girl would ‘feel valued’ because they would get a free photo with Eden Wood, a Universal Royalty t-shirt and other goodies. Um… ok?
The fact that this event was kept a secret is a win in my mind. Except, when I dared say that on my Facebook page on Saturday, I was initially told that this was completely untrue and that I was a just a spy, a stalker and a grown up bully.
Not surprising really. Last time I heard from the pageant crowd I was told to go and F…myself, shoot myself and that I was obviously just jealous.
So, besides looking like there was something to hide, the secretive positioning possibly kept others from enrolling and also kept less young girls from being exposed to Universal Royalty’s toxic culture than last year. All good to me.
Last year saw The Darebin City Council ruled that their venues can no longer be used for an event where children aged 16 years or under compete on the basis of, or are judged upon, any aspect of their physical appearance. The policy states,
“Organisers will have to ensure that adjudication is based solely upon a child’s skills or talents; the routines, music and costumes are age appropriate and all competitions are carried out in a spirit of encouragement.”
Australia also saw hundreds of child development experts and child psychologists speaking out against the harmful effects of pageants on children.
“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.” (The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists)
So while this is a ‘free country’ and parents are free to ‘parent’ in whatever style works for their family, there are certain issues around which I will continue to be an advocate for children. These include; children being supplied with alcohol, tobacco or other harmful substances and children being physically or emotionally abused. I have to say that I stand by the voice of the RANZCP and believe that child pageants fall within the realm of developmental abuse.
The biggest irony of the day was watching a group of teen girls engaging in martial arts in a room next door. These girls were learning to use their bodies in a manner that builds strength and develops healthy self-confidence. My hope is that each Toddlers & Tiaras girl will one day get that opportunity.
Child beauty pageants deprive children their childhood says Miriam, 14
Most people are lucky enough to have had a childhood. They were allowed to play in the mud, sometimes eat mud, run around and be as messy as they liked. But today, too many children around the world are being forced to dedicate themselves to a beauty pageant life.
Small children are forced to dress like adults, wax their eyebrows (even though there are hardly any eyebrows to wax) and pose for hundreds of people so that their parents can win some money.
Participating in these child beauty competitions means that the child is denied an authentic childhood. The ramifications of this are huge. These poor children, sometimes as young as three-years-old are taught their self worth is based solely on appearance. This mindset is further reinforced through the media which declares what women should look like.
By participating in these child beauty pageants, the children are denied an authentic childhood. The beauty pageants are very time consuming. The children need to choose outfits, jewellery, makeup, shoes and hairstyles. This leaves little time for the child to play and have fun with other children. The child is denied the opportunity to be carefree and simply to have fun because they will run the risk of ruining their beautiful features or get dirty! This has and could quite easily be interpreted as child abuse.
Another major issue with child beauty pageants is that they imply that self worth is based only on appearance. These poor children will grow up thinking that they are only worth something if they look good. These young girls need to be shown that their worth is based on their characteristics, talent and personality and not what they look like. By participating in beauty pageants and being judged only on what the judges see is just the beginning of a damaging way of thinking.
The way that women and girls are shown on television, the internet and in magazines is highly unrealistic. As these girls grow and mature thinking self worth is based only on appearance, they will begin compare themselves to the touched up images they see of other women in magazines or on the television and judge themselves according to the images they see.
This can ruin a girls self esteem dramatically. If a young girl believes that she is not worth anything if she does not look how the judges or the media says she should, she could suffer depression and anxiety.
Child beauty pageants offer no positive outcomes but instead result in the deprivation of a fun and playful childhood which all children have the right to enjoy.
No parent has the right to pressure their child to participate in these destructive competitions. No parent has the right to pressure their child to pose for a set of judges based only on what they are wearing or even not wearing. No parent has the right to maketheir child apply makeup to an already perfect face causing skin damage in later life. And no parent has the right to deny a child their childhood.
These pageants are not just about pretty clothing and fancy hair, but by looking deeper it is very clear that child beauty pageants are destructive. No child should ever have to experience such a hideous and soul destroying competition.
Miriam is a student and lives in the Blue Mountains, NSW
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends and Girl Wise guide to being you, for the combined discounted price of $215.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
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In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
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Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.