Toddlers and Tiaras
Being born a man or a woman in todays society is more than a simple biological fact. It’s a biological fact that harvests social consequences. From delivery, gender is assigned to males and females in life binding forms by way of blue or pink. Gender is the social construct of what we know biologically as male or female, but masculinity and femininity is how the two roles are played out in society. Our role as feminine and masculine are institutionalized through social interaction and is perpetuated through our social institutions.
Forms of social institution include hospitals, family, churches and schools. These institutions tie gender roles to individual identity from infancy to death. Kids of all age’s roles are learned and formed through parents and marketing. Boys are taught to be tough, aggressive and active, while girls are socialized to be submissive, passive and nurturing in nature. Any deviation from these settings is frowned upon in society as in the instance of “My son, the pink boy. Another mother observing casually, targets the boy because he prefers his hair long, enjoys ballet dancing and occasionally wearing dresses to preschool or in other words behaving like a “sissy”. To emulate the characteristics of woman is considered demeaning and class reducing in western society. The other form of deviation accepted as a practical phase, is called a Tomboy. A Tomboy is young girl who models her behavior after a young boy i. e. climbing trees or digging in the dirt.
A girl who behaves like a boy has no loss in class standing until she reaches adolescence or adulthood. It is only then that her actions might be associated with being a lesbian (Pratt). The construct comes down to Nurture vs. Nature. We see from the beginning, girls learn to accept diminished value and opportunity in the form of their toys. Boys are given Legos and blocks to articulate that aspect of their brain function, on the flipside women are given Bratz dolls, make-up and easy-bake ovens that assimilate early the ideas of being pretty and being able to cook for a husband.
As a result, fewer girls pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Sexualization of Girls). Instead these fields are all male dominated. Parents that foster these stereotypes of a women’s value being linked to her beauty and capability to be a good mother or wife, set there daughters up with a lifetime of self-objectification. Parents may convey the message that maintaining an attractive physical appearance is the most important goal for girls. Some may allow or encourage plastic surgery to help girls meet that goal (Sexualization of girls).
Sexualization can have a positive effect in one of deterrence. Girls and their supporters now and from the past have resisted mainstream characteristics of girls as sexual objects. Positive approaches include increased access to athletics and other extracurricular programs for girls and have aided in the development and presentation of comprehensive sexuality education programs across schools everywhere. These processes can be exploitive in different ways. Large corporations such as Wal-Mart market anti-aging creams to 8 year olds, narrowing the younger look for girls.
Children are instilled with an adult sexuality that is usually imposed on them rather than chosen. And parents, patriarchal society and media (advertisement & social networking) are the ones at fault. Negative effects can occur in an assortment of areas, including intellectual functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs. Self-objectification has been shown to weaken the ability to concentrate and focus attention in girls. Sexualization and objectification has also been linked to eating disorders, low self esteem and depression.
Because of the narrowing view of women having to be skinnier or younger looking, many girls feel boxed into a femininity that can only be met by a fraction of the population. Feminist would disagree with the show, because it teaches young girls that they have to do everything in their power to be beautiful and that winning pageants with their beauty is the ultimate goal for them. The argument sets the work of past feminists back hundreds of years since girls are to strive for using their beauty to gain recognition and the future is only as bright and as long as her beauty can withstand.
Many early feminists adopted the liberal conception of society and social change as a way to criticize inequalities between the sexes. Liberalist believe that, “human society will gradually improve and progress if and only if people can be left free to learn how to improve society by trial and error and the development of science and technology” (BB). Like feminist liberalist would also disagree that the show has a positive effect on girls. Only if society places no artificial constraints on their lives can women be equal and free at birth with virtually limitless potential for improvement.
Since these girls are being taught to act and think a certain way at a young age they have no real potential for development in future social roles. Antifeminist would agree, and argue that this show illustrates true value and helps young girls appreciate their beauty and family values. Pageant girls will contribute with restoring family values back in to society. Since, “the change of women’s role, from being primarily mothers to self-defined professional, has been a social disaster that continues to take its toll on family” (BB).