As political positions and tempers flair, adults are thrusting their children into adult roles in the hopes of scoring political points. A five-year-old lesbian? An “openly gay ten-year-old?” A course in child development is profoundly needed, en masse. Children may experiment with sexuality but this changes frequently into young adulthood before they know who they are or are meant to be.
Regardless of whether they turn out to be gay, straight, or presbyterian, they have a right to discover this on their own, rather than being made the proxy of misdirected, childlike adults who find them easy and moldable subjects. This abominable trend is resulting in no less than a generation of stolen childhoods.
What is required here is adult restraint, and that is without a doubt, “for the children.”
Who in life, thinks others have an obligation to accept them? I certainly never did, even when I was at my fattest. Yes, I encountered hatred and plenty of ugly behavior. Some people were verbally cruel and I lost jobs. Did I ever believe I should take them to court in attempt to force them to like me?
Or maybe, like a story in Colorado this month, they ought to be forced to bake me a cake? Since some bureaucrats have confered upon themselves the power to restrict the size soda you can buy and in light of the growing social acceptability of hating fat people, (especially by ‘tolerance activists’) we are well on our way to seeing bakers restricted from baking a cake for a customer who is deemed unacceptably fat. Meanwhile, people ought to be forced to bake you one if you are in a politically acceptable group! Both are ridiculous and threaten the most precious of things of which you’d think all groups would treasure: Freedom.
I have always loved non-conformists. They have the courage to go their own way, regardless of others’ approval. They often blaze new trails. Sometimes they persuade others and sometimes they learn from reactions they receive. How silly would it be for those people to spend their time forcing others to approve of how individualistic they are?
Just as I have feared, the trend of using force to make others live, think and behave as an “elite” group of bureaucrats and special interest groups demand, is growing. Not too long ago, a popular bumper sticker said, “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” It never said, “If you don’t like abortion, I’m going to force you to like it anyway.” It pains me to state something so obvious but apparently, there are those who have forgotten: I must protect your free will to disagree, disapprove and/or dismiss even something which I love, so that I can protect my freedom to do the same.
France has introduced legislation to make pageants for children under the age of 16 illegal. Britain is considering similar measures. This has sent a new wave of requests my way for interviews and comments. Most are certain that, in light of my book and outspoken condemnation of child beauty pageants (which hasn’t changed a bit), I would applaud this news. Some are quite surprised when I do not.
While I am glad to see this issue being discussed publicly and at such length by people from a variety of disciplines, the issue of child sexualization cannot be adequately addressed by simply making a law. In fact, the results are likely to be counter-intuitive. What is required, is for parents and the public to understand why it’s necessary to be the adults in their childrens’ lives rather than attempting to recapture their own childhoods through the lives of their children. Parents need to find their own self-sufficiency and learn that healthy child development requires that children be allowed their childhood. Otherwise, the problem grows exponentially, which is exactly where we are today.
To simply make the government the new parent in the lives of these parents with governmental edicts telling them what is and is not appropriate, is to remove exactly the adult responsibility that is so sorely needed. Such an approach simply shifts the burden of responsibility from the parent to government. Another boundary crossed, and more “unintended consequences” for the future.
We have a unique opportunity to turn back the tide of this hyper-sexualized, child-centric pop culture through education and understanding. Kids do not want their parents to be their friends. They need parents who know the right thing to do and who do it by choice –not because doing otherwise could get them arrested.
Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg has attempted to ban salt, trans fats, big gulps, baby formula, escalators, colorful cigarette packages and styrofoam cups. That’s not a complete list. Now, he plans to ban electronic cigarettes, according to newly drafted tobacco bills leaked by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA). Rather than asking what’s wrong with legal substances and those who use them, it’s well past time that we ask what’s wrong with Mayor Bloomberg.
We laugh and sometimes mock such comedic arrogance, but this orgy of bans has serious and damaging consequences. To be robbed of the right to make one’s own choices and therefore, one’s own mistakes, keeps people in a perpetual child-like state. The greatest risk to our health right now is the loss of the whole notion of freedom and responsibility.
What is and is not healthy for us has never been without controversy and those opinions continue to change and evolve. Artibrarily banning products and services and claiming that doing so will make everyone healthier, thinner or safer often has the opposite effect. The notion that anyone can change another person’s personal habits through force or coercion is preposterous. That anyone would seriously try, is what is particularly disturbing. In the area of food and weight concerns, it adds to the shame and the sense of powerlessness, which can create or exacerbate weight problems and eating disorders in the first place. For example, a ban on “junk food” in school lunches in California last year produced a black market in chocolate syrup. Chocolate milk has never been so popular.
In the current and bizarre climate of “Dance Moms,” pageant mothers gone wild, “Princess by Proxy,” and horrifyingly sexualized children, it’s hard to imagine how things could get much worse. But just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s a story about a mother who puts her four-year-old in butt padding and fake boobs.
In such confusing times, should parents simply avoid giving their kids dancing lessons or putting them on the stage until they turn twenty-one? Should they forbid their grade schooler to take gymnastics or acting lessons for fear they’ll be cast as Marilyn Monroe at the age of seven? Of course not. But with the worst examples currently serving as the most publicized norm, how can parents recognize and set the proper boundaries and responsibly protect their children?
I found a welcome, real-life example recently, at a dance recital I happened to attend by the Studio “M” Dancers. This was an extensive recital at an outdoor festival in Northern Colorado which featured dancers of all ages, some as young as three and four. It was particularly refreshing to see children enjoying themselves, dancing to modern but not suggestive music, not dressed up to look like Las Vegas show girls or worse, prostitutes, and wearing little if any makeup. Their costumes were charming and even flashy but not age-inappropriate. It’s possible for children to dance and entertain without being thrust into premature sexuality, but to do that, there must be an adult in charge who understands boundaries and is committed to setting them.
I spoke to the director of Studio “M” Dance, who said she fights this cultural pressure all the time. I wasn’t surprised. She has even lost a student or two, who may have been more influenced by Jennifer Lopez or Lady Gaga than by…who? Is there a healthy example in the current culture for a young girl today? To find it, you may just have to go to a small town and attend a homegrown dance recital. Cheer for them and support them. Thank you Studio “M” for doing it “right.”
What do these stories have in common?
Story #1: USA Today reported that 9-year-old Hannah Robertson scolded McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson for “marketing fast food to children.” She was there they say, with the backing of her “nutritionally savvy” parents as well as the activist group, Corporate Accountability International. It picked up the family’s travel expenses to Chicago, where McDonald’s is based and held its annual meeting.
The adults who engineered the stunt achieved the desired outcome. Their fast food beef was covered by USA Today. Does any reasonable person believe that these are the age-appropriate concerns of a child? Is Hannah Robertson “nutritionally savvy” enough to know that there’s a difference between marketing food which allows you to choose whether to eat it or not, and imposing food restrictions with force as a certain Mayor of New York City has attempted but so far, failed to do? In that case, she has no choice. One has to wonder how much choice Hannah had in being used as her parents’ proxy for their political passions.
Story #2: An ABC News article featured a child named Isabella Barrett who was praised as a “six-year-old-millionaire.” The article appears on AOL News in the Career section. Hmmm, her career? Has little Isabella really chosen this vocation after rejecting flying school or an MBA? Or is she being pushed to play out her dressup fantasies in the real world by a mother who has no clue of what is age-appropriate for a six-year-old? Apparently, the media doesn’t either, nor do many others who celebrate this misguided notion of “success.” Isabella is yet another beauty pageant participant from “Toddlers and Tiaras.”
The article continues: “Isabella is now in first grade, and she’s already a fashionista. She owns more than 60 pairs of shoes and has her own pageant room worth more than $100,000…Isabella is young, but her spending is very grownup. She once spent more than $1,000 on room service and, during a recent trip to Los Angeles, purchased 14 velour track suits at a Juicy Couture ” I bought so much stuff it wouldn’t fit in the car,” Isabella said.
Today, it is apparently considered “grown up” to spend irresponsibly. What’s childish? The ability to delay gratification? The line has blurred so much between some parents and children that a child can emulate the childish behavior of her parent and she is rewarded for acting like an “adult.” Did you get that?
Story # 3: The troubled life of Michael Jackson is in the news again. New information about his personal life has come to light in the wrongful death suit against Conrad Murray. Like his longtime friend, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackson was robbed of his childhood. Apart from accusations of impropriety, many have speculated that Jackson’s childlike behavior and obsession with children was part of his attempt in vain, to get it back. Yet, the culture seems to be on a collective and “trendy dissent” toward more of the same.
The lack of understanding about the consequences of using children to feed the unrealized dreams and the personal and political agendas of adults should be disturbing. What’s more, the stories are mounting at an alarming rate.
It’s deceptively simple, but here is Kataline’s Remedy #1: Children need adults to be grown ups in order for them to successfully–grow up.
What does it teach a child to be put on display, ogled and evaluated by adults for the purpose of selling designer clothes? Is this to the child’s benefit? If not, then what are the unintended messages it sends?
Here’s a few just for starters:
1. Expensive clothes are more important than you are.
2. You exist to please adults.
3. Learning to show yourself off is also really important.
4. Being real, genuine and private isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
So where’s the boundary? When do you know you’ve crossed it?
The best question to ask is this:
Cui bono: Who benefits? You or your child?
“It’s very bizarre,” he says outright. “And, it certainly– Patsy and JonBenet didn’t approach it that way. We– they just did it for fun.”
That’s a full quote of John Ramsey in a recent interview in which he says (finally?) that he regrets that his daughter JonBenet was put in child beauty pageants and comments on the program, Toddlers and Tiaras.
Under fire once again after breaking news that the grand jury in his daughter’s murder case had voted to indict him and his wife for their daughter’s murder, but Alex Hunter said no.
Asked about the current “Tiger Moms” who parade their daughters in programs like Todders and Tiaras, he says, “Patsy and JonBenet didn’t “approach it that way. We-they just did it for fun.”
In John Ramsey’s revealing comments, he appears to still think Patsy and JonBenet chose it. The fact that he still thinks this was JonBenet’s choice is indicative of an absent and oblivious father. A six-year-old child doesn’t choose to be paraded and sexualized in beauty pageants. Their parents, most often their mothers, choose it. Ramsey initially eludes to his part in the matter and then says it was Patsy and JonBenet who did it “for fun.”
These aren’t “Tiger Moms,” they are “Princess by Proxy” moms.
Not that there isn’t an overlap, but the former primarily pushes the child toward excellence in a “type A” sort of fashion. The latter lives through the child and is oblivious to the child’s separate identity -thus, sexualizing them in highly inappropriate ways. The Huffingont Post just reported on a pageant mother who has been tanning her toddler since she was a baby.
Dads are all too often oblivious to this sort mother-daughter dynamic and parental pathology. Ramsey’s response is illustrative of this. I had a 60’s Dad much like him who thought his only job was to put food on the table. He would have said something quite similar.
Former beauty queens don’t live through their children, put them in pageants, dye their hair, put them on diets, etc. etc. “for fun.” There is just a bit more to it than that. That John Ramsey either believes this or would like us to believe he does is as he puts it, “disturbing.”