January 18, 2011

An Open Letter to TLC: Cancel Toddlers & Tiaras

Originally written for Pigtail Pals- Redefine Girly by Melissa Wardy. Cross-posted with permission.
Recent beauty pageant contestant. She is two years old.

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 her bustier and five year olds who sit 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.

Contestant on the children’s beauty pageant circuit.

“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 daugthers, but we don’t have to give audience to it. Please cancel “Toddlers & Tiaras”.

Sincerely,

Melissa Wardy

owner, Pigtail Pals LLC

Its time we change the way we think about our girls.

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Want to contact the show? Have at it:

Producers: ToddlersTiarasCasting@authentictv.com

Owners: Discovery Communications, LLC     Viewer Relations   1 Discovery Place, 5th Floor    Silver Spring, MD 20910

Discovery Ethics Hotline: 1-800-398-6395


6 Comments »

  1. [...] Feminist Fatale » An Open Letter to TLC: Cancel Toddlers & Tiaras [...]

    Pingback by Little girls in crowns | Sekyu — January 18, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  2. THIS SHOW MAKES ME SICK!!! WHY ISNT CHILDREN SERVICES ON THERE BUTTS.. THIS IS A FORM OF CHILD ABUSE, WHY DOESNT ANYONE SEE THIS, AND HELP THESE BABIES. THE PARENTS NEED TO SEE A SHRINK , THERE MAKINING THESE BABIES UP TO LOOK LIKE LITTLE WHORES.. JUST THE COMMERCIALS MAKE ME SICK TO MY STOMACH TO HAVE TO WATCH> PLEASE STOP THIS NOW!!!!!! ITS t,V, FOR PEDAPHILES… PLEASE STOP..STOP..STOP.. IT !!! NOW

    Comment by sandy butterfield — February 5, 2011 @ 4:03 am

  3. [...] http://www.feministfatale.com/2011/01/an-open-letter-to-tlc-cancel-toddlers-tiaras/ [...]

    Pingback by Toddlers, Tiaras and Hooplas- Oh My!!! « Coffee N Chat — September 3, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

  4. This program must be stopped making children like whores, TLC has really gone overboard on many shows. The best way to combat them is trought the discovery channels advertisers. Go after those products who advertise on these channels. Boycott the products and services. CPS needs to go after the parents as many host on the show are canidates for dateline TV show with police involvment. Arrest them including the guy dresses ass CHer. I am sure he has some photos on his computer that would knock you out.

    Comment by rick — September 6, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

  5. Thanks for the efforts! I found that program to be disturbing. I hope it stops. I hate that exploitation. Think of the harm it would do to those kids and think of the nasty peds who would watch it.

    Comment by Susmita — September 17, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

  6. Does anyone beside me recall that the letters TLC once stood for The Learning Channel, and that it showed educational programming? I was a big fan of that channel! It used to be subsidised by the cable companies, but they decided to “privatise” it, and this was the result.

    The following may seem off-topic, but it really isn’t. It’s the logical conclusion of this type of thinking:

    Let this be a lesson for those who think privatisation is the way to solve “problems” — as in the real world, this was a problem that didn’t exist; privatising it was merely an opportunity to make more money. We’re told that public utilities that people depend on are also “problems” that must be “solved” via privatisation, but the reality is, those municipal utilities (water, water treatment, and for the fortunate among us, power) are doing just =fine= as they are. You have been warned, America; this is the true face of privatisation: everything turned into commodities to be sold to the highest bidders and charging what the market will bear thereafter.

    Comment by thixotropic — May 12, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

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