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"There Outta Be A Law" - Toddlers And Tiaras Edition

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AUTHORS NOTE: This is a piece of informal commentary (with a certain amount of Christopher-Hitchens-esque controversial humor) about the Moral Panic which occurred when Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant decided to hold a pageant in Melbourne, Australia. The title of the piece is a deliberate misspelling intended to mock the attitude that I am discussing.

As a piece of informal and semi-humorous commentary, it should be noted that some of the humor and examples used in certain parts of the work may potentially offend some readers. If the average episode of South Park offends you, this might not be the piece for you.

This piece has also been posted at the blog of the Australian Libertarian Society.

"There Outta Be A Law!" - Toddlers And Tiaras Edition

By Andrew Russell

Ever since the announcement that Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant was planning to hold a children's beauty pageant in Melbourne, plenty of Australian parents flocked to the latest and greatest Moral Panic. The pageant is now over, but the Moral Panic makes for interesting analysis.

As is depressingly typical in Australian politics, said parents (mostly affiliated with the group Pull The Pin) were not happy with merely privately boycotting the event or protesting it; they aim to make children's beauty pageants illegal in Australia (see: http://www.pullthepin.com.au/). In other words, "I don't like it, so There Outta Be A Law against it!"

The Pageant was going to feature Eden Wood; child Beauty Queen who was extensively featured, gyrating around in a pink sequinned Stripper Cowgirl outfit, on several Current Affairs shows. Eden cancelled; conflicts between Today Tonight and A Current Affair prevented her from attending.

As per usual, the Moral Panic over Universal Royalty's event included every libertarian's most loathed four-word logical fallacy; "think of the children!"

According to both Pull The Pin and Australians Against Child Beauty Pageants, these events harm the stars of the show. They harm the children they claim to be celebrating.

Pull The Pin's petition for laws against child pageants (http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/pull-the-pin-on-beauty-pageants-for-children.html) reads as follows;

"We believe that child beauty pageants instil harmful messages in children (girls in particular as they make up the majority of participants), including that their looks are their currency.

We feel that child beauty pageants are exploitative and not in the best interests of the child, but the commercial interests of pageant promoters and parents living vicariously through their children.

We would like to see age restrictions applied (16+) so that the decision to compete against their peers in a beauty contest is made with full consent, and when their emotional maturity better enables them to fully comprehend and handle any negative self esteem impacts. We oppose the narrow gender messages child beauty pageants help perpetuate, doing nothing to improve the status of women in general, and encouraging ever younger games of 'compare and despair'."

In this article, I will make four basic arguments;

1) Fears of 'child sexualization' are clearly overblown,

2) Some anti-Pageant forces may be acting out of wounded pride rather than the interests of the children,

3) The Pageant critics make some very legitimate identifications of problems with child beauty pageants, but these problems are also found in children's sports and no one is trying to ban them,

4) Finally, there seems to be a troubling undertone of xenophobia amongst anti-Pageant forces.

1. Sexualization, The Pedophile's Veto, and Monkey-See-Monkey-Do-Kids

Both Pull The Pin and Australians Against Child Beauty Pageants also raise the specter of "sexualization." PTP says "children should be allowed to be children without being adultified and/or sexualized" (http://www.facebook.com/pullthepinonpageants?sk=info) and AACBP brings up "research on the sexualisation of children" (http://www.facebook.com/AustraliansAgainstChildBeautyPageants#!/AustraliansAgainstChildBeautyPageants?sk=info).

Bringing up "sexualization" and "children" is a sure-fire way to provoke a Moral Panic. After all, you're basically accusing the Pageant of either pedophilia or enabling pedophilia.

A desire to protect children from pedophilia is noble, but these campaigns produce not a shred of evidence for any link between child beauty pageants and actual pedophilia! Do these pageants create more kiddy-fiddlers? If not, why should we worry?

Video Games are the subject of a similar Moral Panic, with the argument against them being that they encourage psychotics. But it has been realized that restricting the freedom of completely sane people to engage in a fictional activity that harms nothing but pixels just to prevent the nutcases from going on rampages (and this assumes video games actually can influence people to do such a thing, which is a highly contestable proposition) generates a "maniac's veto" on free speech.

Pull The Pin is essentially asking for a Pedophile's Veto on child beauty pageants. They are arguing that because some twisted oily sexual deviant may be, somewhere, reaching for a tub of vaseline and a box of tissues upon viewing pictures of Eden Wood, we should make child beauty pageants illegal.

Should The Passion of the Christ have been banned just because some twisted sexual deviants may have, erm, 'gone to war in the South Pacific' over the scene where burly and butch Roman soldiers were whipping, flogging and caning Jesus (who himself was clad only in a loin-cloth)? I doubt Christopher Hitchens was the only person that believed the film to have a certain level of homoerotic subtext; he described the film as "a movie that relies for its effect almost entirely on sadomasochistic male narcissism" and compared it to "the culture of blackshirt and brownshirt pseudomasculinity" for having "massively repressed homoerotic fantasies, a camp interest in military uniforms, an obsession with flogging and a hatred of silky and effeminate Jews" (http://www.slate.com/id/2096323/).

Some may counter the above example with the fact that homosexual sadomasochism, if consensual, is not a crime. They'd be correct (although the scene depicted in The Passion is clearly not consensual, and Universal Royalty's beauty pageant did not depict any criminal acts whatsoever). Sex with a child is a crime (although it should be pointed out that the previous example of someone pleasuring themselves over a picture of Eden Wood, whilst stomach-churning, is not a criminal act; masturbation in a private place does not constitute a crime irrespective of the object of the masturbatory fantasy) because children cannot render informed consent.

Rape, however, is a crime. Lets take, for example, Disney's The Little Mermaid. Should this film be banned just because, in some dingy basement somewhere, someone is enjoying a graphic sexual fantasy of forcing copulation upon Ariel at gunpoint? What about Little Red Riding Hood; Red's underage and I'm sure someone out there has fantasized about being the Wolf and saying "all the better to screw you with, my dear!" Should we ban any real life event with any person involved just because someone out there might be sexually fantasizing about raping one of the involved people? I'm sure most of the Australian Olympic team have been the objects of rape fantasies before; lets withdraw from the Olympics! Its the only way to stop rape!

The anti-Pageant forces have argued a position far stronger than "depicting pedophilia will generate pedophilia." They've argued that "presenting a young girl in stereotypically 'adult' kinds of appearances will generate pedophilia." This is a far flimsier hypothesis than, say, "depicting murder in a video game will make more people want to commit murder" or "depicting a fictional rape in pornography will make more people want to commit rape." The latter hypotheses are variants on "monkey see, monkey do," the anti-Pageant hypothesis is that merely a potential suggestion of a pre-turn girl as 'a young woman' will turn monkey into a raging rabid pedophile.

But even the "monkey see, monkey do" hypotheses are empirically false. Crime (including violent crimes and sex crimes such as rape) in the US peaked in the early 90's and began to fall as internet market penetration (i.e. porn avaliability) and violent videogame avaliability began to rise (http://reason.com/blog/2011/04/13/do-video-games-hone-players-ki)(http://reason.com/archives/2005/06/29/video-violence-real-violence). This is the exact opposite situation to that which would be predicted by the "monkey see, monkey do" theory. Indeed, what it indicates is that porn and violent video games function as substitute goods for the real thing by creating a Catharsis; instead of shooting your teacher in the head and/or raping them, you play a Half-Life 2 mod where you shoot a naked image of your teacher and then 'teabag' the corpse.

But what about pedophilia? Well, there aren't many proxies we can use for pedophilia given that kiddy-porn is illegal (and it should be; actual pornography of real children is the recording of a crime and the material by definition was produced via a violation of an individual's rights). However, fictional depictions of pedophilia are a different matter.

In Australia, even fictional depictions of child sex (cartoon drawings, etc) are illegal. But this is not the case in Japan. In Japan, sexualized fictional images of young, often pre-teen, children (called "Lolicon" for the female variety and "Shotacon" for the male variety) are a well-known subgenre of Manga (and even some Anime). If the "monkey see, monkey do" theory is correct, than Japan should have a very high rate of pedophilia.

With respect to rape, Japan has one of the lowest rape rates; indeed, it has the lowest rape rate in the OECD (see http://www.independent.org/pdf/working_papers/50_prostitution.pdf)(http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_rap_percap-crime-rapes-per-capita). Note also, nationmaster's statistics show Australia has the <i>third highest rape rate per capita</i> and Canada has the fifth highest. Both of them have more rape than the United States and both Australia and Canada have more legal restrictions on pornography than the US (Canada, in particular, has adopted Catherine MacKinnon's (a radical post-Marxist collectivist-feminist) definition of obscenity into law (http://www.wendymcelroy.com/plugins/content/content.php?content.73)). This correlation of "more porn, less rape" has also been observed by Northwestern University Law Professor Anthony d'Amato (http://anthonydamato.law.northwestern.edu/Adobefiles/porn.pdf).

Does this general correlation apply to pedophilia?

According to the paper "Pornography and Sex Crimes in the Czech Republic" ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21116701), it does. Denmark, the Czech Republic and Japan all have experienced a prolonged interval during which possession of child pornography was not illegal and during such time, the incidence of child sex abuse "showed a significant decrease."

Since real life child pornography is a recording of a crime created via the violation of an individual's rights, it is proper to ban it even if if functions as a substitute good for actual pedophilia. But illustrated fictional material such as the Lolicon and Shotacon of Japan cannot be criticized on this basis. Whilst further study is required to ascertain whether Lolicon/Shotacon can be a substitute for pedophilic acts (because it clearly isn't 'real porn' and thus it would be a more imperfect substitute), this fact clearly puts a hole in the "monkey see, monkey do" case.

But in spite of all of the above, one point hasn't been adressed; even if one were to argue that the Universal Royalty pageant presented children in a sexualized fashion (which, again, is contestable), the pageant is not pornographic. Short skirts, heavy makeup and suggestive dancing do not make something pornography (most music videos would count under that definition). Outrageously over the top costumes, glitter eye-shadow and musical numbers do not make pornography (plus, most drag shows would probably count as porn if we accepted that definition). A standard beauty pageant is no more risque than what you'd find in a fashion magazine, and a children's pageant is typically tamer.

In short, accusations of "sexualization" are, at best, hyperbole. At worst, they're an attempt to exploit fear of pedophilia and use it to stoke a moral panic and restrict freedom.

2. Resentment and Envy

The "Pull The Pin" rally held in Melbourne had many interesting banners (pictures here: http://melbourneprotests.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/pull-the-pin-no-child-beauty-pageants-in-australia-rally-at-parliament-house-melbourne-24-may-2011/). However, one sign in particular was interesting. Specifically, a sign reading "all kids are beautiful."

Now, lets accept the premise; "all kids are beautiful." Why does that imply that there can't be any ranking of beauty? We can grab several different objects that we might class as "yellow" but they could all be various different shades of yellow, and naturally some yellows will be closer to 'pure' yellow than others.

The answer, of course, is feelings. "You'll hurt the feelings of the losers," goes the common reply.

But this rebuttal applies to more than beauty pageants.

It applies to any and all competitions between kids. Do we ban scholastic competitions because the feelings of less intelligent children? No. Do we ban athletic competitions of any sort because of the feelings of slower, less physically strong, less physically co-ordinated children? Of course not. Indeed, given the immense amount of reverence Australian popular culture has for sporting prowess (see http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/mia-culpa-cadel-evans-and-my-week-from-hell-20110730-1i5lx.html), it is at least arguable that sporting failure hurts the self-esteem of more kids to a higher degree individually than a beauty pageant. Do we ban artistic contests? Untalented, unmusical, uncreative people might have their feelings hurt! But no, we have art contests very frequently (and art, like beauty, is a highly subjective field primarily ruled by faddish critics).

Clearly, the "feelings" argument is deployed inconsistently.

Why?

I'm going to suggest an hypothesis; the reaction against the pageant is not an attack on "games of 'compare and despair'" (if it were, they'd be more consistent). Rather, it is a reaction against the idea of competing on beauty.

It is no secret that many people are superficial and thus will judge others on appearance. This is unfortunate but common. Regardless, I think that the anti-Pageant forces are themselves very fed up with that state of affairs, and I don't blame them.

They don't object to ranking kids on the basis of intelligence, artistic creativity, or physical skills/prowess. But they do object to a ranking on the basis of beauty. Why?

Perhaps they object to what they perceive as an over-valuation of beauty. People are often superficial, and this superficiality can indeed hurt feelings. If I were to be Nietzschean about it, I'd suggest that some (certainly not all and possibly even not most) people with strong anti-Pageant sentiment have themselves experienced hurt feelings at the hands of superficiality; they may have been bullied for an insufficient level of beauty, they may feel especially envious of people more beautiful than them, etcetera.

Note that this isn't necessarily the twisted nihilism that manifests itself in a desire to 'destroy all beauty.' I doubt that many of them are going around and fantasizing about mutilating Eden Wood. Beauty is desirable by definition, but I doubt that many people are thinking "if I can't be beautiful, no one can!"

The attitude is more of a subtle and inconsistent ressentiment (resentment that motivates the resenter to generate moral beliefs which back up the resentment). Now, first it must be said that ressentiment is not necessarily bad, and not necessarily irrational (although it can be both).

In this situation, we begin with something which the resenter accepts as desirable, and lacks. Lacking something one wants is not a pleasant experience. It gets worse when people at large commonly have the same basic desires and these desires get manifested in various institutions, such as beauty pageants. To the resenter, this feels like rubbing their nose in their defeat; it amplifies their feelings of inadequacy.

In order to deal with these feelings of inadequacy, they have to confront the premise which society at large (and they, at least subconsciously) have ultimately accepted; that the object they lack is truly desirable.

Take, for example, a person of limited economic resources. Said person, assuming they actually desire more money, would naturally be frustrated at people flaunting wealth, or goods of high quality (and the typically-accompanying high price tag). In order to convince themselves that they really weren't losing out and mitigate their feelings of deprivation, they'd be more likely to generate some sort of moral belief that makes them feel better.

Hence religious doctrines about a god that favors the poor over the rich, and sayings like "money doesn't buy happiness" (a saying which, in my experience, is never sincerely believed in, unless one takes it literally (since happiness is not a physical good or service, hence it can't be bought with money per se)).

This isn't classical Nietzschean ressentiment. It differs in that the self-justifying moral belief (or set thereof) is not sincerely accepted. The resenter is trying to soothe their feelings of jealousy.

Again, it should be noted that this isn't necessarily bad or irrational (although it can be both). But in the case of the Universal Royalty beauty pageant controversy, we've reached the stage where this ressentiment may to some degree be motivating a push for yet more curtailments to liberty. As such, it needs to be analyzed.

If the anti-Pageant people didn't truly desire more beauty for themselves (i.e. they sincerely believed that the Pageant's ideals of beauty were silly), they wouldn't feel a sense of lacking. They'd probably just roll their eyes at the Pageant for overvaluing something that really didn't mean much, scoff, and let it be. But they are calling for a law, calling for the banning of an institution that lives by the premise that people (including children) can be ranked according to beauty and that beauty is a desirable thing.

Since they tacitly accept this premise, but their failure to measure up to their own standards causes pain, they try to convince themselves the premise is wrong. Hence, the argument that "all kids are beautiful" (with, of course, the tacit position that they're all equally beautiful), the lashing out against an institution which contradicts this proposition, and the consistent attempts to delegitimize the Pageant's idea of what constitutes beautiful.

Now, to be fair, there are many reasonable criticisms of the Pageant's idea of beauty; the anti-Pageant people make quite a few. The Pageant's idea of beauty arguably is narrow (then again, so is the cliche Bottle-Blond-Bondi-Beach-Bikini-Babe, and it should also be stated that many pageants have more criterion than physical apperance (such as talent and intelligence)). Additionally, I am not arguing that all opposition to Universal Royalty is a product of this inconsistent ressentiment. But the point remains that there is a clear likelihood that a certain amount of opposition to the Pageant is powered not by disagreement with a specific ideal of beauty, but rather frustration at failing to measure up to it.

3. The Sporting Life, or Tu Quoque

Anti-Pageant activists have often made very valid points about beauty pageants; the primary problem with their activism is not their criticisms per se but their desire to use the State to ban beauty pageants for children.

But I do agree with quite a few of the anti-Pageant's activists claims. The events clearly attract some pushy parents that are living vicariously through their children as a way of compensating for their own failed dreams of glory (and of accumulating glory for themselves for being "such good parents for producing such a successful child"). The events also arguably promote very restrictive concepts of "acceptable" femaleness (specifically, women are meant to want to be physically beautiful in order to impress men, and that's all a woman should aim at doing). Pageants also do arguably encourage people to overvalue the physical aspects of a person, rather than to evaluate people's personality traits, intellect or any other aspects. Finally, pageants do indeed have the potential to encourage games of "compare and despair," or (to rephrase) encourage children to evaluate themselves comparatively rather than objectively (i.e. to be more interested in "I am better than X" rather than "I am good").

These are all reasonable criticisms and I won't contest them. But why are pageants criticized for these flaws when they exist in far more widely-spread activities for children?

Specifically, every single one of these flaws applies to children's sports; a hobby which is beyond "commonplace" in its participation level.

The prevalence of pushy parents in the children's sporting arena cannot be denied. Certainly, many children participate in sport because they wish to, but in my experiences the presence of pushy parents 'encouraging' their children into sport is definite. And naturally, said pushy parents greatly enjoy basking in the reflected glow from said child's trophy and awards collection.

Beauty pageants tend to be contested primarily (but not exclusively) by females. Children's sports, whilst less skewed towards one specific gender, are still principally male in their appeal. And just as Beauty pageants arguably market a rigid kind of feminity, children's sports do the same thing with respect to masculinity. They define one's maleness principally in terms of physical exertion, endurance of physical pain, and ability to supress individual identity and work in a pack with a well-defined dominance hierarchy (this last point doesn't apply so much to non-team sports, but team sports are emphasized far more than individual sports in the Australian children's sporting world).

These traits were useful in a hunter-gatherer society of tribes and still have use (unfortunately) in matters relating to the military. But they have progressively less and less use in a world where capital replaces and augments labour productivity, where wealth is primarily generated by mental effort and competence in creating and distributing novel ideas, and where individuals (rather than collectives) are considered the building blocks of society.

Of course, you'd never guess this if you looked at how most schoolyards operate.

My time in high school was a period of utter torment, endured at the Anglican Church Grammar School (colloquially known as Churchie). Churchie was a strong supporter of its extracurricular sports programs, and as such had a culture which heavily valued sporting success (all to glorify the School Community, of course... that place was the spiritual equivalent of North Korea and only varied in matters of degree rather than principle). It should come as no surprise that the social understanding of "proper" masculinity was indeed very narrow. Basically, one was a "proper" male in proportion to one's level of success at sports and fitting in with the group (to an extent these two standards were interrelated; team sports especially being social-cohesion mechanisms, and one's acceptance into the pack presupposing someone accepts the pack's standards in the first place). War-cries which more or less were about encouraging people to identify with the group and devolve into a primal tribe of grunting and yelling Vikings (an image which I'm sure would strike some people as even more homoerotic than The Passion of the Christ) were a regular feature, analagous to the "Two Minutes Hate" from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

If one were to be so unlucky as to have competencies principally in non-sporting areas, such as music and art, or even worse, academics (because academic achievement didn't glorify the School Community sufficiently; its selfish and hence bad (naturally, during the QCS test (which takes schoolwide average into account in grading individual students), this was reversed and suddenly intelligence became a good thing, only because it would help the School Community (indeed, there was a pre-QCS meeting where two of the, erm, less intellectually capable students basically pleaded for the smart people to try harder so as to lift up their scores (please John Galt! Save us! Save us!))), then one was socially emasculated on a regular basis. Using words of more than two syllables instantly brought up the suspicion of homosexuality. Are you a musician, artist or actor? You can't possibly have a girlfriend!

There was but one metric of proper maleness; sporting participation and proficiency. In this, children's sports were no different to beauty pageants; both promoted rigid gender norms and hence supressed individuality.

And lets not forget some of the parents. Whilst there were plenty of exceptions, I was personally acquainted with many parents that were psychotically pushy and redefined the concept of 'sociopathic social climber' on a regular basis. All of them loved to bask in reflected glory from their sons, who's achievements on the playing field were of course barometers of their own fitness to be parents. There were frequent Churchie-parent get-togethers, the content of which was little more than said parents more or less competing with each other as to who's child is the most amazing. And of course, several parents were more than happy to lend 'assistance' to the school in order to ensure preferential treatment for their kids.

Mothers like Joan Crawford are clearly not confined to beauty pageantry.

So, pushy parents exploiting their children's glory, and the cultivation of rigid gender norms, are present in children's sporting. By definition, sporting success is a predominantly physical endeavour, and thus the valuation of sporting success over success in other fields translates into propagating the belief that physical perfection is the only valuable attribute someone can have.

This leaves one final attribute of beauty pageants which is shared by sports; games of "compare and despair." Indeed, "games of 'compare and despair'" could pretty much be a synonym of "sport." Sports, by definition, are competitive activities which rank the participants from "winner" to "loser," glorify the winner and humiliate (and in the case of men, symbolically emasculate) the loser. In many situations, trophies are distributed, allowing said games of "compare and despair" to be continued when children (or their parents) compare trophies.

Why does it matter whether the trophies come from sporting achievements or beauty pageants?

Maybe my own experience is atypical; maybe my high school's culture was a product of Adverse Selection and all the Stage Mothers of Sporting sent their sons to Churchie because it was basically Jock Central and thus I was subjected to a higher concentration of Sport-Love than the average Australian young male (of course, I'd actually be more inclined to believe this hypothesis if, like Mia Freedman makes clear here (http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/mia-culpa-cadel-evans-and-my-week-from-hell-20110730-1i5lx.html), general Australian culture weren't so completely, pathologically obsessed with sporting success!).

But in my experience, every single reasonable criticism that Pull The Pin and other anti-Pageant campaigners make about Universal Royalty's pageant applies just as much to children's sports; games of 'compare and despair' which implicitly endorse restrictive ideals of 'correct' gendered-ness and the overvaluation of the physical (and undervaluation of all else) and are often powered by pushy pathological parents wishing to live vicariously through their Little Winners.

4. "I'm Afraid of Americans"

As stated above, the vast majority of the flaws of beauty pageants for children exist in children's sports.

So why do children's sports emerge relatively unscathed? I don't see anyone arguing that sports for the under 16's should be banned. Even me, who is bitter and twisted over the idolization of sport above all else, wouldn't ban it (then again, I'm a libertarian so I don't fall prey to "There Outta Be A Law").

I think the best clue is given by another sign held up at the aforementioned Pull The Pin rally reading: "Keep Their Tiaras Off Our Toddlers" (http://melbourneprotests.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/line-up1.jpg).

Note the invocation of "our" and "their," or an "us" and a "them." So, who is the "us" and who is the "them?" Who are we, and who is the sinister Other out to destroy our society?

In answering that question, I can't help but point out that I have not seen a single piece of news coverage of the Universal Royalty pageant that didn't explicitly remind us that Universal Royalty is an American organization. NineMSN's headline reads "US child pageant hits Melbourne" (http://news.ninemsn.com.au/glanceview/180443/us-child-pageant-hits-melbourne.glance). Pull The Pin themselves characterize the pageant as "Universal Royalty announcing their Australian invasion" (http://www.facebook.com/pullthepinonpageants?sk=info). Pull The Pin's leader, Catherine Manning, even said in the video at this news report (http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/toddlers-tears-and-tv-tussles-at-usstyle-beauty-pageant-20110730-1i5qh.html?from=age_sb) "we're Australian, we're not American."

This helps explain the double standard between sports and pageants. Sports are a national pasttime, a tradition, a foundational element of the Australian identity (in popular culture). As Mia Freedman recently discovered (http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/mia-culpa-cadel-evans-and-my-week-from-hell-20110730-1i5lx.html), to question the worth of sport and specifically sporting achievement in international competition will result in a firestorm of abuse being directed towards you and for your Australian-ness to be questioned.

Beauty pageants, on the other hand, are a strongly American pasttime (although, naturally, when an Australian woman wins Miss Universe, not too many Australians go on complaining about pageants then).

Both children's sports and pageants can be fairly accused of being inegalitarian, promoting unattainable ideals of personal adequacy, being full of pushy parents eager to live vicariously through their children, setting up the vast majority of kids for disappointment, encouraging negative body image, self-esteem problems and eating disorders, encouraging kids to judge themselves merely on physical levels etc. but one of these is part of being truly Australian (apparently), and the other is imported from Texas (Mickie Wood's rather thick Texan accent was not good PR, unfortunately).

In short, I find a troubling subtext of anti-American xenophobia and Australian nationalism running through some of the backlash against Universal Royalty. With protestors wanting Mickie Wood to keep her American, Texan Tiaras away from our wholesome, innocent Australian children, it seems hard to avoid the impression that at least some of the disdain towards Universal Royalty stems from some sort of anti-Americanism.

5. A Libertarian's Perspective

I loathe beauty pageants. I have an endless reservoir of hate for pushy parents. Superficiality, one-upmanship and proverbial 'pissing contests' all can have negative effects on children. And yes, somewhere, some sick pedophile might proverbially get wood from the publicity shots of Eden Wood.

But I don't think There Outta Be A Law.

Whether you like them or not, beauty pageants have not been demonstrated to be psychologically more potentially damaging than school sports. The question should not even be whether or not a beauty pageant is a good thing, but whether or not it is proper for the State to ban it.

And clearly, it is improper for the State to ban beauty pageants. The role of the State is not to protect people's feelings, but rather their lives, liberty and property.

To all those that wish to ban beauty pageants (or, more broadly, enforce moral preferences against nonviolent behavior at gunpoint), I think you should realize this; a government powerful enough to ban beauty pageants is a government powerful enough to mandate them. A government with the power to enforce moral preferences becomes nothing more than a weapon which various pressure groups will fight over, and the simple fact is that your moral preferences may not be shared by the ruling class.

Voluntary, peaceful boycotts and protests, even on the basis of irrational or semi-rational positions, are always permitted. But to advocate the use of the power of the State to ban a non-violent activity you don't like ends up enabling Australia to take one more step down the Road To Serfdom.

Freedom requires tolerance. Tolerance doesn't mean you have to like it, you just have to refrain from starting or advocating the use of violence, fraud or threats thereof against it. Clearly, many people find pageants can stir feelings of unease, and there's nothing inherently wrong with disliking them. But merely disliking something is no reason to make it illegal.

And yes, tolerance even extends to little girls that resemble Shirley Temple in a pink-sequined cowgirl outfit, as well as their Texan mothers.

Edited by studiodekadent

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Interesting piece, Andrew.

I agree that there should be no banning of these profitable enterprises. I think they're grotesque, and undoubtedoubtedly exploitive, and I'd rather read Finnegans Wake again than watch one of those pageants and that's the worst alternative I can think of. But no banning because of any group's presumptive moral outrage.

The sports comparison is a little wobbly though. Compulsory sports in school are part of the phys.ed/exercise component that kids need now more than ever; of course there should be equal emphasis on individual sports or physical activities, but the schools have to get those kids moving. It's as important to their future lives and health as history or geography.

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Compulsory sports in school

The piece was discussing extracurricular sports.

are part of the phys.ed/exercise component that kids need now more than ever; of course there should be equal emphasis on individual sports or physical activities, but the schools have to get those kids moving.

There are ways of doing that other than sports, but lets look at another factor;

Compulsion means force, and after all the humiliation I endured due to compulsory curricular sports, I am unlikely to be sympathetic. If you want to attempt to justify the forcing me through all the suffering I endured, go ahead.

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In my eyes, pageants in which five year-olds are presented in a sexualizing manner are a form of child abuse.

In picture number four in this link, the child's pectoral area is s photographed in a way (or photo-processed) that it suggests cleavage (!). Poor child.

http://www.highglitz.com/index.html

For the children, taking part in the pageants often means endless sessions with the make-up artist and at the hairdresser's (they often have their haird dyed or/and get hair extensions); at night they freqently have to sleep with curlers in their hair if a pageant is schedualed for the next day. The wearing of false teeth is also common when kids enter the tooth-gap age.

When the mother of Jonbenét Ramsey, the six-year-old pageant queen who later was found dead in her own home on Dec 26th/1996, had looked for a photographer for her little daughter, a friend recommended to her a photographer "who could make a six-year-old look like twenty". Quite a disgusting example of faking reality.

Edited by Xray

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In my eyes, pageants in which five year-olds are presented in a sexualizing manner are a form of child abuse.

That's a reasonable position to take, but the point is that 1) not all beauty pageants actually sexualize the kids (indeed, the one held in Melbourne was reportedly very tame!), 2) is it really fair to ban any under-16 participation in a beauty pageant just because of the excesses of some specific pageants?

You do have a point. Perhaps there's a rationale for some level of child protection regulation for beauty pageants for kids. But a ban?

Edited by studiodekadent

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Compulsory sports in school

The piece was discussing extracurricular sports.

are part of the phys.ed/exercise component that kids need now more than ever; of course there should be equal emphasis on individual sports or physical activities, but the schools have to get those kids moving.

There are ways of doing that other than sports, but lets look at another factor;

Compulsion means force, and after all the humiliation I endured due to compulsory curricular sports, I am unlikely to be sympathetic. If you want to attempt to justify the forcing me through all the suffering I endured, go ahead.

Noting the efficacy of physical activity in the schoolday is not the same as justifying coercion and suffering. As you say, there are other means than sports (I assume you mean team sports), and ideally each child might get a choice of squash, gymnastics, the loneliness of the long-distance runner, Tae-bo or whatever along with the team options; how the schools could organize and pay for such programs beats me.

The issue of compulsory curricular team sports must be a private school thing. As far as I know, at least here, the school teams are extracurricular and voluntary , though they teach and practice the basics of a variety of sports among other things in the public school phys ed programs. I remember how my older son really, really hated folk dancing which was on the Grade 8 gym curriculum.

Edited by daunce lynam

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Noting the efficacy of physical activity in the schoolday is not the same as justifying coercion and suffering. As you say, there are other means than sports (I assume you mean team sports), and ideally each child might get a choice of squash, gymnastics, the loneliness of the long-distance runner, Tae-bo or whatever along with the team options; how the schools could organize and pay for such programs beats me.

The issue of compulsory curricular team sports must be a private school thing. As far as I know, at least here, the school teams are extracurricular and voluntary , though they teach and practice the basics of a variety of sports among other things in the public school phys ed programs. I remember how my older son really, really hated folk dancing which was on the Grade 8 gym curriculum.

I think I made an error in my early contextualization.

Compulsory sports (of all kinds, including but not limited to team sports) clearly had similar effects to what critics of pageants argue that pageants do, sans the pushy parents (the pushy parents are confined to the extracurricular sports, but otherwise extracurricular sports have the same effects)) are only a subgroup of my target.

Now it seems the discussion topic has shifted as to the proper role of sports in a school curriculum. Personally, I think that all compulsion should be removed from schooling, but I know many people would disagree with that position.

As I think I said repeatedly, I have no desire to ban school sports (either curricular or extracurricular). Whilst I believe they frequently encourage and perpetuate the same attitudes that beauty pageants for children do, my primary problem with them is the coercion. I think that if participation were voluntary, we'd probably have less of the beauty-pageant-esque attitudes about sport as well.

This article was written in the context of a moral panic in Australia, and so the general populace's attitudes are probably different to those of a North American audience.

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Noting the efficacy of physical activity in the schoolday is not the same as justifying coercion and suffering. As you say, there are other means than sports (I assume you mean team sports), and ideally each child might get a choice of squash, gymnastics, the loneliness of the long-distance runner, Tae-bo or whatever along with the team options; how the schools could organize and pay for such programs beats me.

The issue of compulsory curricular team sports must be a private school thing. As far as I know, at least here, the school teams are extracurricular and voluntary , though they teach and practice the basics of a variety of sports among other things in the public school phys ed programs. I remember how my older son really, really hated folk dancing which was on the Grade 8 gym curriculum.

As I think I said repeatedly, I have no desire to ban school sports (either curricular or extracurricular). Whilst I believe they frequently encourage and perpetuate the same attitudes that beauty pageants for children do, my primary problem with them is the coercion. I think that if participation were voluntary, we'd probably have less of the beauty-pageant-esque attitudes about sport as well.

Your clarification puts us on the same page about the sports.

The question of coercion is a tough one. There is certainly the coercion of legally requiring everyone to attend school, or be state-sanctioned home-schooled, until age 16, and schools are institutions and all institutions have rules and protocols. The ideal goal is ensuring the least compulsion and best learning results for each individual student. What are your thoughts on how this could best be achieved in practice? What do you think schools should actually do?

(I think more of them should do the folk dancing. It provided a treasured memory for my son and his friends in later years. The gym teacher, Mr Papadakis,who doubled as the football coach, did not enjoy teaching it any more than the kids enjoyed learning it, and it has inspired many a delightful re-enactment over the years).

Sorry for the frivolous parenthesis but my previous question is serious.

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Your clarification puts us on the same page about the sports.

The question of coercion is a tough one. There is certainly the coercion of legally requiring everyone to attend school, or be state-sanctioned home-schooled, until age 16, and schools are institutions and all institutions have rules and protocols. The ideal goal is ensuring the least compulsion and best learning results for each individual student. What are your thoughts on how this could best be achieved in practice? What do you think schools should actually do?

Tough question. Ideally I'd want schools run on a mixture of Montessori and Summerhill methods, foster a culture where the individual (NOT the "School Community" (or the tribe or the pack or the group or the master race or the brotherhood of the proletariat or the nation state)) is seen as the fundamental unit, there's no "school spirit" and no religion, and there are absolutely no rules EXCEPT "do not start force/fraud/coercion/bullying."

Run classes like a University. No coerced attendance, lecturers have expertise but not authority (observing Sharon Presley's distinction between the two).

No uniforms.

In other words, treat children like human beings rather than pack animals. As a consequence, they'll be less likely to act like pack animals themselves (i.e. bully others and create conformist cliques). Authoritarianism CREATES and PERPETUATES bullying; the military is full of 'hazing' but there's almost none in universities (some fraternities are an exception but they're basically structures that exist for those that gravitate towards pack-animalism). Montessori schools are basically bully-free, authoritarian schools are full of bullies. More freedom, less bullying.

Some people might say some kids "need" structure and control, but I say that people naturally thrive under freedom. I certainly did and I'm not Superman. Call me a social darwinist if you will, but those that "need" structure and control strike me as malformed examples of human beings.

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Nice piece. You might be better off without the disclaimer--if you're going to write humor, guns forward, no apologies.

Would you like me to put this on my blog? I was thinking of asking you.

As to the subject at hand . . .the real sickness in little girlie beauty pageants is the mothers. Sick shit.

Again, very good read!

r

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Nice piece. You might be better off without the disclaimer--if you're going to write humor, guns forward, no apologies.

Rich,

Thanks! Glad you liked it. The disclaimer was there because, well, some people that are unfamiliar with my Op-Ed style will at times criticize the work under the impression that I was trying to write a relatively dry treatise (a certain audience in particular had this reaction). I didn't have trouble with this at the ALS blog, but there most people are familiar with the kind of commentary I do.

Would you like me to put this on my blog? I was thinking of asking you.

Feel absolutely welcome to do so.

Again, very good read!

r

And again, thanks! :)

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Nice piece. You might be better off without the disclaimer--if you're going to write humor, guns forward, no apologies.

Rich,

Thanks! Glad you liked it. The disclaimer was there because, well, some people that are unfamiliar with my Op-Ed style will at times criticize the work under the impression that I was trying to write a relatively dry treatise (a certain audience in particular had this reaction). I didn't have trouble with this at the ALS blog, but there most people are familiar with the kind of commentary I do.

Would you like me to put this on my blog? I was thinking of asking you.

Feel absolutely welcome to do so.

Again, very good read!

r

And again, thanks! :)

Oh, don't worry about your op ed style. Point the gun, shoot it. If you don't ruffle feathers, you're not doing anything. If someone doesn't doesn't like you, you wrote a shit article. OK, I'll put it up this morning--I'm working on a substantial piece, real big thing, so this would be the perfect time to share you in.

Best!

r

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It's up, dude: Toddlers And Tiaras

Also shared from there onto my Facebook page.

rde

Thanks! I hope your blog's readers enjoy it :)

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In my eyes, pageants in which five year-olds are presented in a sexualizing manner are a form of child abuse.

That's a reasonable position to take, but the point is that 1) not all beauty pageants actually sexualize the kids (indeed, the one held in Melbourne was reportedly very tame!), 2) is it really fair to ban any under-16 participation in a beauty pageant just because of the excesses of some specific pageants?

You do have a point. Perhaps there's a rationale for some level of child protection regulation for beauty pageants for kids. But a ban?

A pageant ban is indeed problematic since not all parents dress up their children in those sexualizing outfits. Instead I'd suggest keeping a close watch over those pageants.

Edited by Xray

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Your clarification puts us on the same page about the sports.

The question of coercion is a tough one. There is certainly the coercion of legally requiring everyone to attend school, or be state-sanctioned home-schooled, until age 16, and schools are institutions and all institutions have rules and protocols. The ideal goal is ensuring the least compulsion and best learning results for each individual student. What are your thoughts on how this could best be achieved in practice? What do you think schools should actually do?

Tough question. Ideally I'd want schools run on a mixture of Montessori and Summerhill methods, foster a culture where the individual (NOT the "School Community" (or the tribe or the pack or the group or the master race or the brotherhood of the proletariat or the nation state)) is seen as the fundamental unit, there's no "school spirit" and no religion, and there are absolutely no rules EXCEPT "do not start force/fraud/coercion/bullying."

Run classes like a University. No coerced attendance, lecturers have expertise but not authority (observing Sharon Presley's distinction between the two).

No uniforms.

In other words, treat children like human beings rather than pack animals. As a consequence, they'll be less likely to act like pack animals themselves (i.e. bully others and create conformist cliques). Authoritarianism CREATES and PERPETUATES bullying; the military is full of 'hazing' but there's almost none in universities (some fraternities are an exception but they're basically structures that exist for those that gravitate towards pack-animalism). Montessori schools are basically bully-free, authoritarian schools are full of bullies. More freedom, less bullying.

Some people might say some kids "need" structure and control, but I say that people naturally thrive under freedom. I certainly did and I'm not Superman. Call me a social darwinist if you will, but those that "need" structure and control strike me as malformed examples of human beings.

My daughter went to a Montessori pre-school and is now in a Montessori elementary school. She will be entering sixth grade, the final year of her Montessori elementary school. I cannot say enough good things about her school. It is truly a wonderful, nurturing place. All of the Montessori values are strongly emphasized. In addition to a first rate academic education, the entire educational experience is beautifully balanced. The focus is on the development of the total child, not just academically but socially and ethically. Needless to say, kids are strongly encouraged to be nice and to respect each other's rights. This is an integral aspect of the school's culture. Bullying is absolutely not tolerated. And there are no school uniforms. The idea is most definitely not to prepare the kids for a regimented, soul-destroying life in the military or anywhere else.

Maria Montessori was definitely a woman way ahead of her time. She was a true heroine.

Martin

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A pageant ban is indeed problematic since not all parents dress up their children in those sexualizing outfits. Instead I'd suggest keeping a close watch over those pageants.

That's a reasonable position. Although I do think that if we grant that there is a legitimate role for the state in preventing abusive and pushy parents from coercing their children into extracurricular activities that the child does not want to participate in, shouldn't we expand that close watch to other activities, such as children's sports?

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My daughter went to a Montessori pre-school and is now in a Montessori elementary school. She will be entering sixth grade, the final year of her Montessori elementary school. I cannot say enough good things about her school. It is truly a wonderful, nurturing place. All of the Montessori values are strongly emphasized. In addition to a first rate academic education, the entire educational experience is beautifully balanced. The focus is on the development of the total child, not just academically but socially and ethically. Needless to say, kids are strongly encouraged to be nice and to respect each other's rights. This is an integral aspect of the school's culture. Bullying is absolutely not tolerated. And there are no school uniforms. The idea is most definitely not to prepare the kids for a regimented, soul-destroying life in the military or anywhere else.

Maria Montessori was definitely a woman way ahead of her time. She was a true heroine.

That's good to hear about your daughter. My best wishes to her.

And I agree. Montessori was a genius.

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