Something I have been very intrigued by throughout this course is the effect that society and culture have on children in terms of body modifications and expectations. During our classes about hair/shaving and cosmetic surgery I kept thinking about the pressures we put on young kids who are just trying to find ways to fit in.
The show Toddlers and Tiaras is an extreme example of these expectations, however, I’m not sure society really agrees and encourages the types of changes that the pageant moms force onto their daughters. I watched a few episodes of the show when it first came out and was shocked to see the amount of makeup the girls wore, the elaborate hairdos, and extravagant dresses.
I searched “Toddlers and Tiaras controversies” in Google and spent over an hour reading the news articles and blog posts from the search results. Among age-inappropriate outfits, forced practices, and eyebrow waxing, I found an article published by Fox News stating that one of the contestants, 5-year-old Mady Verst, dressed up as Dolly Parton and wore padded breasts and padding on her backside. The father petitioned for full custody over his daughter accusing the mother of exploitation.
After reading controversy after controversy, I started to research children’s cosmetic surgery. It is pretty normal to hear of adults getting cosmetic surgeries but hearing about a child receiving these alterations is quite different. I understand cosmetic surgeries if it is necessary for a child’s health, for example, a cleft palate surgery. I was very interested to read about children receiving surgeries for aesthetic purposes. One child was born without an outer ear, but had fully functional hearing. After being teased during a playdate, the parents decided to have an ear “built” for their son. Bullying seemed to be the reason for all of the aesthetic surgeries; however, the reasoning gets pretty fuzzy.
In most of our class discussions, we have talked about where the line should be drawn with body modification practices. This is another one where it might not be possible to draw a line. Some of the doctors who have performed these surgeries made comments that “medically necessary” is a term that has a large range of meanings depending on who you talk to. Medically necessary might mean it is vital to the child’s life, but others argue that a surgery may be medically necessary for the child’s well-being and self-esteem. A doctor at Children’s Hospital in Boston claimed that the system is “very much ad hoc”.
I am interested to see how these ideas will continue to evolve as technology becomes more advanced and cosmetic surgeries become more ‘normalized’. Using the phrase “drawing the line” seems very redundant because a line really can’t be drawn. Each situation needs to be evaluated on its own, perhaps by more than one doctor. Creating a “zone” may be more beneficial in determining whether or not these surgeries should take place.
"Pageant Parents Face Criticism Over 'Toddlers & Tiaras'" Fox News Insider. 11 Sept. 2011. Web.
Cosmetic Surgeries: What Children Will Do to Look 'normal'" USATODAY. USA Today, 25 June 2009. Web.