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!
The U.S. child pageantry industry is a multi-billion dollar business and one of the fastest growing industries in the country. Yet there is surprisingly little regulation of the thousands of pageants that occur each year featuring children as young as six months old. This needs to change: our girls' health and well-being depend upon it. Please establish a committee to investigate child pageants and the potentially negative consequences for girls' self-esteem.
Two-year-old Mia, featured on TLC's program "Toddlers and Tiaras," is seen on video strutting on stage, dancing to Madonna's "Like A Prayer" as she rips off her angel-winged robe to reveal a tight, gold-bustier underneath. Her performance is, frankly, shocking. Yet Mia is one of so many girls, under thirteen years old, who "entertain" and compete for prizes on the pageantry circuit, while state and federal laws provide little to no oversight of the pageants. These children are not protected via child labor laws nor do we ensure, on the state level, that pageants maintain healthy environments to foster healthy self-esteem and sexuality for these girls.
It comes with disastrous consequences for our girls. The American Psychological Association says that the sexualization of girls in U.S. culture is linked to mental and physical health issues like depression, anxiety and eating disorders. "We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development," says Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chair of the APA Task Force and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
We need you to step up and finally address the exploitation of girls in the pageantry industry. The government needs to regulate the industry. Please undertake an investigation into the industry and its potentially harmful effects on young girls, immediately.