Two-year-old Mia, recently featurd on the TLC program "Toddlers and Tiaras" about the world of child pageantry, struts her stuff on-stage, ripping off her angel-winged white robe to reveal a gold bustier underneath. Dancing to Madonna's "Like A Prayer," the toddler is encouraged by her mother, yelling from the crowd, "Work it, Mia!" It's hard to see this over-sexualized portrayal of a little girl as anything but exploitation.
Mia isn't alone. The child pageantry industry is a $5 billion business in the United States -- and it's one of the fastest growing industries in the country. With no federal laws overseeing child labor in pageants, and very few state laws in place, each pageant or contest creates its own rules with little or no consequence for fostering severly unhealthy environments for girls' well-being. These pageants are doing little to teach girls about healthy sexuality -- which is not only about feeling positive about your own sexual self; it's about understanding boundaries and age-appropriate sexual activity. Being pushed into gold-breasted bustiers at two years old to perform for an audience is unlikely to produce a clear understanding of one's sexuality.
When young girls are falling victim to eating disorders, depression, and anxiety due to popular culture's overwhelming imagery of girls as solely sexual beings, to be valued for their looks and their bodies above all else, it's time to act.
Please ask long-time womens' and girls' advocate Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and her fellow Senators on the U.S. Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to look into the lack of regulation of the child pageantry industry and its negative effects on fostering healthy self-esteem on our girls!