I was going to ship this story to another one of the writers, but when my pitch suggestion ran nearly two paragraphs, I figured that meant I should write it myself.
Here are the basics of the story: In North Carolina, Rep. Annie Mobley, a Bertie County Democrat, introduced a bill to study pageants whose contestants are younger than 13. The bill itself aims only to form a 10-member North Carolina Agency to Regulate Beauty Pageants for Girls Under Thirteen. They’ll be stuck together with butt glue and sashes as they attempt to research the following items:
(1) How youth under 13 years of age are affected by competing in beauty pageants, both positive and negative.
(2) Any data regarding regulation of the beauty pageant industry in this State as related to youth under 13 years of age.
(3) Legislation adopted by other states addressing the regulation of beauty pageants for youth under 13 years of age.
(4) The appropriate agency to regulate the beauty pageant industry for youth under 13 years of age in this State.
(5) The criteria under which beauty pageants for youth under 13 years of age should be regulated in this State, including minimum age requirements of participants, requirements for parental involvement, and any restrictions as related to the use of excessive makeup and competition focus areas.
(6) Any other issues the Committee considers relevant to the study.
They’ll present their findings at the 2010 Regular Session of the 2009 General Assembly and then self-destruct once they’ve filed their final report. So we’re not actually talking about making laws here. Not yet, at least.
What prompted the formation of this committe? Is it the gasps of shock engendered by hour after hour of Toddlers & Tiaras and Little Miss Perfect? (Full disclosure: Those are totally two of my favorite shows.) Do local authorities feel they have to do something about it? And do they?
In a time when every state government is in an unprecedented economic crunch, I’m going to look at this using an approach I learned very early on in business school: What is your desired result? What, specifically? What do you want to achieve at the end of this political maelstrom? What, exactly, will have changed? You never begin a process toward change without knowing precisely what change you want, and why. This bill isn’t very clear on that.
Is the goal to have an oversight committee to root out and arrest the sexual deviants who hang out at these pageants (and occasionally, I’m sure, judge them)? Because that makes sense, but I doubt it’s what’s happening.
Are you planning to create legislation that excludes girls under a certain age from participating in beauty pageants? Are you going to ban spray-tanning a four-year-old? Criminalize spending over $1000 on a dress that your six-year-old will wear for fifteen minutes? Lock women in the slammer for forcing fake eyelashes onto her screaming child?
None of this is reasonable. I don’t plan to put my daughter — who doesn’t yet exist — into beauty pageants. But I certainly hope she’ll take to other interests, like team sports, and I hope she’ll excel at them. I hope to start her at a very young age — that is, of course, if we’ve not banned soccer for girls under the age of 8 by then. Maybe she will be able to play, but maybe little girls won’t be allowed to wear cleets on the field. Maybe her little team of cleet-less 6-year-olds will go to nationals, and maybe she’ll struggle to handle the pressure, and maybe she’ll throw a temper tantrum when I try to get her dressed and into her non-cleets and ready to go to the game that’s causing her so much anxiety. And maybe we’ll get to that game and maybe we’ll lose and maybe she’ll be devastated. All in all, she’s had an experience, and it was tough, and she grew as a person resultantly. Throughout it, she was behaving like a 6-year-old girl. Sometimes shit makes her really, really stressed out, and she doesn’t yet have a lot of coping strategies, so she rages and cries. Just like the little girls do at the beauty pageants.
I don’t always agree with the assessment of why glitz beauty pageants are good for little girls — what they’re learning is how fake confidence, not how to internalize it. But they do learn a lot about competition, and about handling a win and handling a loss, and those are valuable life skills — they’re the same skills my soccer-player daughter will be learning, and Lord knows she’s not going to grow up to play professional soccer. She’s there to have extraordinary experiences that will help her mature into a well-rounded young woman.
My point is this: It is completely unfair to take away any of the extravagances involved in little-girl pageantry, or to pose age limits on the girls competing. While I personally detest the idea of a two-year-old being trained to waive at judges after being spray-tanned and manicured and coiffed with a wiglet, that family has a right to do just that. And I think, in North Carolina, they’ll agree with me.
My guess is that, if this committee even ends up being formed, it’ll make a handful of recommendations, most if not all of which will be immediately discarded before they even get a chance to become a bill. That way we will have wasted millions of tax-payer dollars in a trampled economy so that ten people could sit around in a room and talk about pretty little girls. And that really was the end goal, wasn’t it?