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?Google+
“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.”Google+
Was it a joke? Or are we living in an alternative universe? The by-words of the politically correct used to be, “tolerance,” “diversity,” “no-more-bullying,” and “mean people suck.”
Now, in the name of “but we have to DO something, anything!” comes a proposal for institutionalized bigotry and elevating the shaming of fat people to a moral obligation.
A bioethicist named Daniel Callahan thinks it’s a good idea to shame obese people because they simply don’t know that being fat heaps social disapproval and discrimination upon them. He says they just aren’t aware of how fat they are and we ought to embark on a new era of “zero tolerance for body fat.” He adds that he “can’t see how anyone could possibly have a problem with that.”
A billion dollar weight loss industry hasn’t been able to come up with a one-size-fits-all magic pill that eradicates obesity from the planet and that’s the best he can do? Institutionalized bigotry? Don’t get me wrong. I would like him to stop doing altogether and recognize that he only gets to be in charge of his own body and not everyone else’s.
Among other things Mr. Callahan doesn’t understand is that some people regardless of their age or class, unconsciously use extra weight to set a boundary against exactly the kind of intrusion and cruelty he thinks is in their best interest to tolerate. There are many other complex causes for obesity, none of which respond to shame or one-size-fits-all solutions.
While I don’t recommend it as a coping mechanism, obesity for some represents an unconscious response to sexual abuse. It can be an act of defiance and strength, unlike Mr. Callahan suggests (who is certain that it always means ’lazy, self-indulgent, lacking in discipline, awkward, unattractive, weak-willed and sloppy.’) There is actually something worse than not looking good, though Mr. Callahan would be hard-pressed to know what that is.
Should Mr. Callahan be the one to force (as if he could) others to remove that protection just so he won’t be offended by their pulchritude?
It’s clear that Callahan and people like him are the ones with the problem. But just as some believe about our waistlines, the problem is growing into an epidemic.
Many people with weight issues have unfortunately been so beaten down by the stigma of which they are very well aware, that they do a great job of hating themselves before others get the chance–almost out of a sense of obligation. The treatment for these patients is to attempt to undo that ugly cycle.
Civil rights, tolerance, ”Fat is a Feminist Issue” all appear to have been thrown under the bus in favor of “but don’t we have to DO something?” Where are Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem when you need them? Or would they have been co-opted onto this new fat-phobia bandwagon too?
There’s one more thing to say to Mr. Callahan: You ought to be ashamed.Google+
I’ve never met Dara-Lynn Weiss but a few things about her are certainly familiar to me. Weiss is the “diet mom” who wrote a piece for Vogue about putting her seven-year-old daughter on a diet. The piece was reviled and roundly criticized. What happened after that? She got a book deal.
Ms. Weiss’ unapologetic book, ” The Heavy,” came out last week. In some corners, some of the old criticism has turned to praise. Some have even called her “brave” to dare put her daughter on a diet.
What has happened that a growing number of people accept the idea of food police in their everyday lives and the lives of others? I could write a book. Oh, wait a minute…
There’s so much to say here but just to begin: Mothers don’t have to put their daughters in beauty pageants to suffer from “Princess by Proxy” syndrome. Weiss’ book, the tour and the praise is clearly all about Weiss herself. But who speaks for the children? Just as with extreme pageant moms, we may have to wait a few more decades to find out. In the meantime, Weiss is being rewarded with exactly the kind of national recognition that “Honey Boo Boo”‘s mother Mama June is enjoying. Who would have thunk such different moms had so much in common?
No matter how much a child may say that it doesn’t bother her to be scrutinized and displayed, she cannot answer the question for the same reason that it is inappropriate to thrust her into adulthood in the first place.
By the time these kids can speak out, it’ll be much too late. Finding one’s way to a healthy adulthood is challenging enough. Such unnecessary stumbling blocks of body and boundary violation must not become an accepted part of the popular culture. If they do, who will speak out for children then?Google+
From Mayor Bloomberg’s large-sized soda ban and a myriad of other culinary commandments, to burgeoning student protests about their school lunch fare, there appears to be a food fight brewing that could rival John Belushi in National Lampoon’s Animal House.
The ever-changing controversy about what is and is not healthy for us to consume is not unusual. What is disturbing here, is that some people whom I refer to as FYOGs (For Your Own Gooders, pronounced Fahye-Ogs) have appointed themselves lord and master over the rest of us and over our appetites.
Who gave them this jurisdiction some of us would like to know? Was it written in the Constitution? “Thou shalt have the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and control over what other people eat ?” Or was it when the hysteria over the “obesity epidemic” caused some to take leave of their senses and tolerate intrusion into their lives and stomachs, the likes of which we’ve never seen?
Either way, kids seem to understand the fundamental boundary that has been crossed when FYOGs mess with their munchees. In Wisconsin, students staged a strike out of hunger and frustration, as seen in JS Online. Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs, Kansas, created a YouTube video, “We Are Hungry,” pointing out the absurdity of grossly applied calorie guidelines. In New Bedford, Massachusetts there’s a new appetite and a black market for chocolate syrup.
This troubling trend puts some very serious issues on the menu. If anyone, whether fat or thin, young or old, is willing to tolerate dictums from self-appointed food dictators, will they ever learn to be in command of their own appetites? And even if they don’t make the choices we might make, are we willing to cross the line that may well lead to a nationwide FATLASH?
Why do some people see the inappropriateness of thrusting children into adult sexuality and others don’t see it at all? It’s unfortunate that the issue is so controversial but therein lies much of the problem.
I began thinking about this over fifteen years ago when I searched for a co-writer to help me write my book. I located an established writer who seemed interested in my story and I traveled to Vermont in the dead of winter to meet her. She looked at a few of the more disturbing pictures from my personal album (they are not in the book) of me at about the age of six, draped across a stone ledge, one leg up in a Marilyn Monroe-like pose and a grown-up pout on my face.
The writer’s response was, “I don’t see a problem with these.” Maybe she expected to see something more like kiddie porn. Needless to say, she wasn’t destined to help me with my book. Ultimately, I had to write it myself with the help of a terrific editor, Jessica Swift.
We often project adult sensibilities onto children and forget that they haven’t reached those sensibilities yet. Or, we have been sensitized to a parade of overly-precocious children in sitcoms and elsewhere who are usually smarter and more sympathetic characters than their parents.
There has always been a healthy debate about exposing children to sexual material in movies and entertainment. Isn’t that why we have a film ratings system which is constantly revamped every decade or so? There are laws protecting minors from all manner of adult activity including drinking, gambling and marriage licenses. Yet, child sexualization is hard for some people to recognize and it is controversial.
Here’s a working definition of child sexualization: 1) Displaying or exposing a child in an age-inappropriate manner or in sexual situations. 2) Using a child for the titilation or glorification of an adult.
What would you add or change?
I finally did it. I watched the segment of the Barbara Walters Special in which she features Honey Boo Boo and her family. Walters named Alana Thompson one of the “Ten Most Fascinating People of 2012.”
Ms. Walters chose not to interview the family directly but presented previously seen clips. Apparently, she took a lot of heat for her choice which also helped to publicize her special before it aired. Intentionally or not, Alana was used to sell Walters’ program just as she has continued to be used by her mother and her family to garner money, recognition and fame.
What is most curious, is that the most “fascinating” questions as to why Honey Boo Boo has been so fascinating in 2012, were never asked, questions like:
- Why do people watch this show and why were its ratings higher in some markets, than the national political conventions?
- Fifteen years after the JonBenet Ramsey case, why is there a show called “Toddlers and Tiaras” and why is it more popular than ever?
- Why do parents keep putting their kids in beauty pageants?
As in the case of many television programs, initially people tune in for a little escape and perhaps some curiosity. Many can’t believe a show like this is even on TV. But if they become a regular watcher, they may be getting seduced in somewhat the same way as the participants and the parents. The voyeuristic quality of this whole endeavor feeds on itself. (yet another not-so-inadvertant food pun.)
Hollywood has never had good boundaries when it comes to child stars. The long list of children who hit adolescence just in time for an adult meltdown, is legendary in Hollywood. From Michael Jackson, to Lindsay Lohan, show biz has rarely had positive long-term effects on kids.
One has to wonder who is leading whom. Does the media lead the culture or is it creating it? In this case, individual citizens must begin to educate and lead the media by refusing to watch a spectacle in which children are being robbed of their childhoods before our very eyes.
Apparently, Barbara Walters was seduced too. It’s unfortunate that she didn’t use the opportunity to shed real light on Princess by Proxy Syndrome and the damaging consequences that await a whole new generation of little girls.Google+