Dear Producers of Toddlers & Tiaras, TLC, and Discovery Communications LLC:
It is an extremely thin veil that hides the atrocious “Toddlers & Tiaras” as a documentary-style show for your network. For the past four seasons the show has done a good job, not so much with teaching, but of giving viewers a voyeuristic peek into the children’s beauty pageant world. We don’t need to see anymore. As Season 5 reaches its midpoint, the show now continues to do little more than become complicit in the exploitation of the little girls at its center. At best, it is now a mockumentary of the visibly unbalanced mothers (and a few fathers) who force their children to spend long and uncomfortable hours participating in these expensive pageants.
Many of these children are too young to say whether or not they want to participate. When these children act out and demonstrate they do not enjoy what is happening, or do not want it to happen any longer, they are still made to participate by their pageant moms. Let us be clear from the outset that after this season, it is time to cancel the show.
I’m sure inside your producer heads you think this is crazy, especially as the show has received some buzz-worthy, controversial attention recently and continues to pull in advertisers and an average of 1.3 million viewers each week….but as your mission statements goes, it is the job of the Discovery channel family to satisfy curiosity.
TLC has done its job with this show, as almost everyone who has been exposed to the program finds it distasteful and widely condemns the child beauty pageant circuit. Our curiosity has been satisfied – as demonstrated with the several thousands of negative and disapproving comments left in the last couple of weeks alone. We’ve seen it. We don’t like it. We’re over it.
The idea of two-year-old girls strutting around with cones protruding out of their bustiers and a five-year-old who sits trembling and screaming in a chair at a salon as she is enticed into a painful beauty treatment will tend to leave a bad taste in our mouth.
It leaves us less interested in the pageants themselves, but more interested in gawking at and judging the deranged mothers who subject their poor daugthers to this twisted world of judged fake beauty. That might make for good ratings, but it doesn’t make for a happy and healthy childhood of the young girls who hold the title of this show. Just like their overbearing mothers, you exploit these children. A shameful act on both parts.
The duration of this show has coincided with a large effort by a small group of dedicated experts to raise awareness to the general public about the sexualization of girls. The parents we have reached now understand the emotional, psychological, and physical harm a young girl is exposed to when she is sexualized. As the 2007 American Psychological Association’s task force report showed us, early sexualization can lead to self-esteem issues, depression, eating disorders, and early promiscuity.
“Toddlers & Tiaras” is a petri dish of sexualization. Little girls are taught, often times forced by their domineering mothers, to act coquettishly, learn suggestive dance routines, wear sexualized costumes and bathing suits, endure hours of hair and make-up, and are even put on restrictive diets in order to lose weight for competition. This is perverse. While TLC continues to air “Toddlers & Tiaras,” the network becomes an agent of this sexualization.
The toxic culture of the pageant world, the judging of beauty, is confusing to young children who have not yet reached the emotional-intellectual milestones of understanding reality and competition. These little girls become infantilized women as their parents and coaches do whatever it takes to win that crown and of course, the money. The time alone spent prepping for pageants robs girls of their childhood, time that should be spent learning and playing and socializing with friends.
Teaching young girls a very narrow version of beauty, transforming their bodies so that their beauty can be measured and judged, or to use their sexualized bodies to earn money for the family is disgusting. I take great offense to this. When you add to this the chemically dangerous spray tans, butt glue, nail glue, eyelash glue, hairspray, and cosmetics applied to these tiny, developing bodies, it is not a stretch to say these pageant programs are both emotionally and physically abusive.
The content of the show is reprehensible and the time has come to stop being a complicit entity to the unfair and unhealthy treatment of these little girls. Surely the world holds more intersting storylines than overdone, unhappy toddlers wearing hair pieces and sequined Vegas showgirl costumes while their obnoxious mothers puppet unimaginative talent routines as they pathetically live vicariously through their very young daughters.
TLC and Discovery’s decision to not renew the show certainly won’t stop these families from exploiting their daughters, but we don’t have to give audience to it. Please cancel “Toddlers & Tiaras.”
Owner, Pigtail Pals LLC
It’s time we change the way we think about our girls.
Want to contact the show? Have at it:
Owners: Discovery Communications, LLC Viewer Relations
1 Discovery Place, 5th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Discovery Ethics Hotline: 1-800-398-6395
Melissa Atkins Wardy is the owner of Pigtail Pals – Redefine Girly, an empowering apparel and gift company for girls. She advocates and writes about issues involving the sexualization of girlhood.
Photo credit: Siti Saad
By Melissa Atkins Wardy