I shouldn’t be surprised when I see disturbing photos of provocatively dressed and made up young girls in an issue of French Vogue or that some French company is launching a line of lingerie for 4- to 12-year olds.  After all, this is the same country which gave convicted child rapist, Roman Polanski, safe haven for over thirty years.  Nor should I be surprised that parents in Northhampton, England, pay ₤5 an hour to have their daughters, as young as three, learn pole dancing.

Anyway, that’s all happening offshore, right?  Nope.  The other day, I saw a clip from Toddlers & Tiaras, a reality tv show here in America, of a very little girl sashaying across a stage in a Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman costume.  Thankfully, I’m not the only one that thinks dressing a 3-year old up as a hooker isn’t cute.

I’d heard of T&T but had never watched an episode.  After seeing the clip, I knew that before I could actually write about it, I’d have to watch an episode.  I did and I’ll never watch another.

The episode I watched featured children about to enter the “Hearts and Crowns Pageant.”  I saw a lot of two-piece bare midriff outfits on the show and far more make-up than the touch of lipstick and drop of rouge I wore when I performed in dance recitals and marched in parades as a youngster.  Some of the coveted crowns were for most beautiful, best fashion, best hair, most photogenic.

Four-year old Maddie, whose own mother boasted of being in 600 pageants from the age of nine months, was outfitted in a Dolly Parton costume with fake boobs and buttocks.  Her mother said, “Everyone thinks it’s hysterical when she wears them; it’s an added bonus.”  Maddie’s comments were, “I wanna show the judges how beautiful I am” and “I was the prettiest girl on stage.”  During her time on stage, her mother wildly gesticulated from the sidelines to get her to smile and perform her routine.  Even the make-up and hair stylist in charge of visually turning toddlers into young women, said, “I wasn’t a big fan of the boobs in the outfit.  Hopefully, the judges will perceive it in good taste.”

Ten-year old Queen said she liked pageants because “I like winning crowns and money and I’m very pretty too.  I’m a beauty queen.”  Her mother was okay with her participation in pageants after Queen told her it was “her passion.”  After Queen had her eyebrows waxed and tons of make-up applied and looked about twenty, she won several crowns, and her mother said, “When a mother or father sees their child on stage just drop-dead gorgeous, it gives you an excitement and you want to see more.”

Not once, in the hour I excruciatingly sat through, was there any mention of homework, school or anything else truly significant in life, other than the emphasis on the children’s routines, hair, make-up, walking and smiling.  If the parents were at all interested in their children’s futures, and to show some semblance of normalcy in their lives, schoolwork should’ve been mentioned.  How well can a ten-year old function in school when she’s practicing her “popcorn” routine over and over with a mother shouting, “With more attitude!”

I’m not a child psychologist so I can’t say whether any of these children are going to be permanently emotionally scarred by all this, but, in my legal career, I’ve seen far too many children sexually exploited.  I know I’d be a little perturbed if I knew my mother dressed me up in a hooker costume when I was three years old.  It’s hard to imagine how a child wouldn’t be affected when all they’re taught is that how they look and how they smile is what’s important in life with no concern for what’s really significant.  What happens if, God forbid, they’re somehow disfigured – even by a pimple?  I would think they’d fall head first into an abyss of depression.

The use or abuse of children in this manner is nothing new.  Can anyone forget those photos of Jon Benet Ramsey?  I can certainly remember the controversy surrounding 10-year old Brooke Shields appearing in Pretty Baby as a child prostitute and the nude bath photos her mother sanctioned for publication.  Young actress Dakota Fanning’s rape scene in Hounddog caused a stir as did the nude photographs of Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair just a couple of years ago.

But this latest sexualization of children by parents pimping their daughters out in Toddlers & Tiaras is beyond the pale.  I’m not sure who’s watching this show but I’m betting it’s a pedophile’s wet dream.

I don’t get it, but if you do, God bless you.

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