Woman of a Certain  Age by Marcia Barhydt

Where do I start? How can I approach writing an article about a TV reality show and also about a way of life for many little girls? How can I write about a new activity, equally offensive, for little boys?

The TV show is Toddlers and Tiaras and it’s about the beauty pageant life of little girls. It’s also about Cage Fighting with little boys wrestling inside of a cage. The boys are generally between 8 and 10; the girls are generally between 4 and 7.

Watch this short video to have a glimpse into life on Toddlers and Tiaras:

And watch this short video to see these little boys fighting:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-15015790 .

One match was temporarily stopped because one of the little boys was crying.

What’s happening here? Why are we doing this to our kids? And if we’re not the ones doing it, why are we the ones watching it? And if we’re not the ones watching it, why aren’t we making it stop?

I’m not sure which competition is more harmful; maybe they are equal damagers to the participants. They both certainly reinforce gender specifics. Boys need to be tough and strong; girls need to be pretty.

Oh really.

And so if my son isn’t a rough and tough kid, does he have less value? Will he grow up to be a wimp? OR will he grow up to be perhaps a scientist or doctor or any of the other hundreds of things that little boys can become.

Ditto for the girls. But it seems to me that there are more levels of role models, more levels of misguided image importance, for little girls. Maybe that’s because I have daughters only and I’m not aware of the challenges facing little boys. Little girls grow up with constant bombardment of ads based on beauty and body image. And it continues throughout their lives.

None of this is about whether or not the kid likes what he/she is doing, because frame of mind, acceptance, is instilled often before the event takes place.

People, not just parents, say to these kids, “Look at that cute little girl all dressed up.” And, “Look at that brave little boy acting like a real man.” Our kids see their contemporaries on TV and want to emulate the activity in order to reach for unobtainable standards, in order to “measure up.”

Television and the momentary fame it brings to all those in the camera’s eye is both hypnotic and hugely desirable for many people. Our kids see us watching reality TV shows about almost every kind of activity. Survivor started the trend and it continues to envelop all kinds of aberrations from Hoarders to Bachelors to Jersey Shore to Intervention and every conceivable weirdness in between.

But the adult reality shows are populated with grown-ups (more or less) who have the ability to make their own choices to be part of it or not. Reality shows for kids are never populated with little girls and boys who are able to make their own choices about participation. Others are making the choice for them.

I’d like to think that there’s some explainable reason why reality shows are so popular and what that says about our own voyeurism. I’d like to think that reality TV is a passing fad, over more quickly than a Kardashian marriage. I’d like to think that exploiting our kids on TV is an even quicker flash in the pan.

But I’m not sure. And that’s the scary part, isn’t it?

I’m a Woman of a Certain Age and I’m certain that exploitation of our kids is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

©Marcia Barhydt, 2011