Keeping the Faith

Walking the Catwalk of True Beauty

A friend went to the dancing competitions recently with her three young girls in tow. She expected a chance to appreciate the talent and dedication of our city’s fledgling dancers, to ooh and aah over the costumes with her daughters and just have a fun, girly time together. She also expected to feel that old pang of connection to her childhood days when it was her up on the stage, leaping and twirling, smiling heartily in a cloud of glitter and sequins.

Instead she walked away feeling cold.

“How things have changed,” she said to me.
“I wish I hadn’t taken my daughters to see that.”

What seven or eight-year-old’s performance could evoke such a response?

She described little girls dressed in costumes more suited to a gentleman’s club, gyrating like Miley with saucy moves and expressions far beyond their years.

Another dad relayed how uncomfortable he felt seated in the stalls of the local theatre, waiting for his daughter to perform. He thought they’d all be wearing pretty dresses, leaping and pirouetting around the stage with the joy of a child, not emulating the pop music videos of raunchy divas like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.

But the child dance scene isn’t all lace and leather!  Our city has many brilliant dance teachers and conscientious mothers who are aware and proactive about the sexualised culture girls are spinning into.

Some still need that wake-up call.

Last month activist group Collective Shout petitioned against a US-style child beauty pageant in Melbourne. It quickly attracted around 25,000 signatures in a petition against the Universal Royalty Child Beauty Pageant.

“Girls as young as five years old are made to undergo ‘beauty’ treatments like waxing, tanning, even botox. They’re told to ‘flirt’ with the judges and be sexy,” Collective Shout activist Coralie Alison said.

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Do we really want to endorse this for our daughters?

“The pageants teach girls from a very early age that their worth is based on their appearance… Research shows that reinforcing an emphasis on looks and attractiveness leads to negative body image, disordered eating, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.”

Incidentally, in France last year child beauty pageants were outlawed for children under 16 with pageant organisers facing possible jail time and fines.

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From the Collective Shout Facebook page

I have a daughter.  She’s not even three months old and I’m fretting about the influence of the world on her beautiful innocence.  “You can’t wrap them in cotton wool,” they tell me, but I wish you could.  Somehow I must strike a balance between chastity belts and pole-dancing classes for five-year-olds (true story – as reported in the Geelong Advertiser, although you won’t find the story online anymore!).

It’s an irony that while the world is doing all it can to hurry-up the maturing of our infants, Jesus spoke of attaining child-likeness.

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me,” you will read in Matthew 18:3-5.

I have learnt so much from my kids:
Look at how quickly and completely a child forgives, for example.
Look at their unbridled joy.
Look at the way they bestow love so generously.

If you have a child in your charge and you’re wishing away their tender infancy – stop it! (face slap) Just STOP!

They don’t need you to dress them up like Barbie dolls and inadvertently teach them the sinister expectations placed on the female populace. That needs no prompting.

We must parade true beauty: love, respect, compassion, peace.

I’ve learnt it from my kids and they will learn it from me.

First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday August 4, 2014.

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8 Comments

  1. Bert Kuipers says

    You have spoken up so clearly and well. I felt exactly like that when I watched the Voice Kids last night. Pre-teens don’t need to be singing that stuff. God bless you! Bert Sent from Huawei Mobile

    Faith like a mushroom wrote:

    > a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; } /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ WordPress.com Claire van Ryn posted: “A friend went to the dancing competitions recently with her three young girls in tow. She expected a chance to appreciate the talent and dedication of our city’s fledgling dancers, to ooh and aah over the costumes with her daughters and just have a fun, g”

  2. I agree with you. Children should be able to be children for as long as they are children. Not expose them to adult behaviour’s and dress.

  3. Sally says

    I wonder if any of you have been to a dance competition or concert? I by no means agree with kids dressing up as adults, the make up on children or pageants but I want to say that my daughter has danced since she was 2. She has worn “stage make up” She is now a teen and has worn fake eye lashes on stage! one of her recent dances she was a rag doll and wore old fashioned bloomers, a doll dress, long socks ….along with fake eyelashes!!!!! She has had a fake tan and I know and she knows she is beautiful without these things. I know and She knows she is loved by God and is a princess in his eyes. You might get the odd song or costume that some would find inappropriate but lets not judge hey! Lets appreciate the skill, the love of dance, the creative side, the passion these kids have!! I was always taught to look at the positive and good in everything and in love. Lead by example! Please!!!!!

    • Hi Sally – I certainly have been to many dance competitions and concerts. I danced until I was 18, participating in competitions and concerts, not to mention the exams (ballet, RAD syllabus). And I’m not opposed to fake eye lashes – I have worn them too 😉 Perhaps you’d like to read my comment beneath Melinda’s comment for further thoughts. Thanks for sharing yours.

  4. Melinda van donselaar says

    I both agree and disagree with what you say… My two daughters have been dancing since they were 3yo… They are now 15yo (and still dancing) & 17yo ( recently retired from dancing due to school/work commitments) and I was blessed to have found a dance school with a teacher that WILL NOT let the students dance to inappropriate lyrics, WILL NOT let the students dance in inappropriate costumes, and WILL NOT allow the students to do any of those “full open crutch to the audience” dance steps ( Oh, and pelvic girations are out too)…… Please don’t tar all dance schools/teachers with the same brush…. There is also a recent shake up in the dance world in Australia in relation to these inappropriate costumes/dance moves etc… I watched a lot of the senior / open dancers at these last Launceston Competitions and felt that half of those dancing should have been performing at the Gentlemans club down the road!!! I was horrified at what was presented – having said that, those routines were not given any placings!! There is a shake up due to the inappropriate dealing of child dancers, by a dance teacher, in Sydney last year or the year before!! I’m pretty sure all dance judges in Australia are on notice in relation to condoning those dance moves by granting placings to them….. Basically, if teachers/parents/choreographers allow those inappropriate things to be presented as a dance, they can rest assured the dancers will not be given prizes!! My girls, having danced most of their lives, have worn “stage/dance makeup” regularly for competitions, fake eye lashes, spray tans ( only started spray tans this year )..but they know beauty comes from within, they know what clothing is modest and acceptable, they know that Jesus loves them and they love Jesus too, – ALL BECAUSE my husband and i have taught them that!! …. Just because dancers wear makeup during competitions, does not mean they wear it like that all the time!!! My girls generally only wear a little mascara on a day to day basis!! This comes back to the parenting…. and allowing our children to wear inappropriate clothes/makeup from an early age etc.. In saying that – it is hard to find nice, modest clothing for teenagers!!! All the dresses reach to just below their butt cheeks ( if you are lucky).. the tops all show cleavage… it is awful!!! My girls choose their own clothing, and have done for a few years now, and , I am thankful that we taught them modesty from an early age, because, they are yet to bring home new clothing that is inappropriate 🙂 If you have a look at the “instructions” that go along with the SHowcase National Dance Championships ( regional comps are here in L’ton in Sept) in the rules it has written that inappropriate moves/costuming will not be tolerated!! Only costuming / lyrics / dance moves that can be shown in a G or PG ( Disney Channel) setting will be allowed…. Dancing is an awesome sport for children. It gives them self confidence, teaches co-ordination, good breathing techniques (especially for asthmatics), it is social, is both an individual and a team sport, gives them poise and gracefulness, core body strength, flexibility, just to state a few positives. I would love for a few ( probably most) of the dance schools in and around Launceston to take a good hard look at themselves and what they are doing. But, they are not all like that!!

    • Thanks for your perspective Melinda – it sounds like you are raising your girls to be well balanced and informed when it comes to their body image. I’m so thankful for people like you and I pray that I can be the same for my daughter. I acknowledge (and did acknowledge in the article too) that there are “many brilliant dance teachers and conscientious mothers who are aware and proactive about the sexualised culture girls are spinning into.”

      I danced until I was 18, and then went on to begin a bachelor of dance (I didn’t finish it however – for various reasons). I am still thankful today for many of the disciplines I learnt through those years. I am not for a moment suggesting that dancing is wrong, only that as parents and teachers we must be careful of the culture and the potential harm that can be done there on a young woman’s developing concept of body image and beauty.

      As Sally said – we must lead by example. The most powerful tool in guiding our kids is demonstration.

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