I tried to picture the type of woman who would enter her daughter in child beauty pageant after news broke that the Texas-based outfit Universal Royalty would hold such an event in New Zealand in June.
I don't know of any specific women who have expressed a desire to do so, but I do think there are those who would want to, even here in New Zealand. Well, clearly, as Universal Royalty would not be looking at coming all the way out here if there wasn't money to be made.
But unlike their more sophisticated, money-and-fame driven US counterparts, who can command huge fees for daughters who win consistently (like US pageant star Eden Wood, whose mother took her to Melbourne for the Aussie event but pulled her out at the last minute for a reportedly huge media paycheck) the Kiwi pageant mum would be perhaps an ex-beauty herself or someone seeing the chance to taste the glory of being a beauty queen through her daughter.
I bet she would see entering her daughter in these competitions as little different to entering them into tap dancing or cheerleading competitions.
She would be oblivious to the protests of outsiders - joining a small but determined group of women who persist in seeing nothing wrong with plastic surgery for young teenagers, or padded bras and pole dancing classes for eight-year-olds.
Certainly that was the reaction of the 80 or so mothers who entered their daughters in the Melbourne pageant- many of whom were genuinely perplexed as to why these events attract such criticism.
An overwhelming and heartening majority of New Zealanders polled on this issue find the whole thing grotesque, but as it's not illegal, I can't see the argument for banning it outright.
As a mother of a little girl who refuses to brush her hair, insists on wearing her shoes on the wrong feet and would tell anyone to "stuff off" if they asked her to stand and pose for a photo, I find it hard to believe that the little girls involved aren't in some way enchanted by the idea of dressing up like beautiful princesses, and must, to some extent, enjoy the process.
More than the business exploitation of the girls, more than the ever-present and often hysterical fear of encouraging paedophiles, and more than the sometimes loopy and deluded stage mothers, the real danger from these pageants, to my mind, is their role in enforcing to young girls that their ability to successfully consume all the trappings of 'femininity' - the waxing, blow drying, hair dying, make-up wearing inanity of it all - is something worth doing.
It happens quickly enough as a woman once you reach puberty, it's sad it's even a possibility at the tender age of three.
On a side note (perhaps), and in case you ever wondered if there was a part of the female body that couldn't be judged in isolation and compared with others, spare a thought for the women who entered, and failed to place, at the 2nd Annual Vagina Beauty pageant in Portland, Oregon a few weekends back.
As with any modern beauty pageant, the "vag pag" apparently had a distressing lack of variety on show - no hair to be seen and everything as slick and photogenic as any Playboy spread. But there was one that stood out from the crowd, apparently. And in case you wondered, Miss Beautiful Vagina 2011 won a large trophy and $500 for her efforts - whatever they are (probably endless Brazilian waxes).
On the web: Vagina beauty pageants really exist: Here's why we think that's a good thing, from Fashionista.com