Viral Video Sheds Light On A Global Problem – What Do You Think?

For years, girls and young women have been influenced by the media to think they must look a certain way, and that physical beauty is more important than personality or intelligence.

This quest for “perfection” has led to all sorts of problems within our culture – from eating disorders to low self-esteem.

It’s not just a problem in the Western world, and we can see the scope of the danger in a recent video that went viral.

A mother in Hangzhou, China was caught on video kicking her exhausted three-year-old daughter at a modeling event.

The little girl, Niuniu, is a popular children’s clothing model in the area, and the incident has drawn attention to an industry where young children are pushed to their limits to perform.

The clip was taken at about 10pm after the little girl had worked all day.  Not only does it show her being kicked by her mother to keep going, but other footage shows the mom beating the child with a clothes hanger, striking her hand, and yelling at her to “concentrate her energy,” according to the New York Times.

It is reported that many children as young as two and three are pushed to their limits in China’s modeling industry, and it points to the dangers of a global problem.

“This mother could arguably be suspected of using her child as a cash cow,” wrote Yang Wenzhan on his social media platform in response to the incident. “It’s not right to kick children; the psychological impact of the kick is greater than its physical injury.”

In the U.S., the child pageant industry is big business, and one woman is working to bring attention to the dangers for little girls.

Dr. Martina Cartwright is the author of a paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and states that modeling and participating in pageants are harmful for young girls’ health and self-esteem.

As soon as they can walk, toddlers and young girls are dressed in costumes, even bikinis, with heavy makeup and styled hair.

They wear wigs, are given fake tans, taught to walk in heels, and even undergo dental procedures or wear false teeth to make them into mini-adults.

They are taught routines with dance moves that sexualize them well beyond their years.

And as they grow up in the pageant circuit, it becomes ingrained in them that they must maintain a certain look and weight, which often leads to eating disorders and depression at a young age.

The stress can be overwhelming on these little girls, and the worst part is, they are usually pushed to continue by overbearing parents – particularly mothers.

In the U.S., the child pageant and modeling industries have even found a forum on popular reality television shows.

Dr. Cartwright sees the danger for these girls, and also the real reason behind the exploitation.

“She posits that some pageant parents exhibit what she calls ‘princess by proxy,’ a unique form of ‘achievement by proxy distortion’ in which adults are driven primarily by the social or financial gains earned by their child’s accomplishments, regardless of risk involved for the child,” according to Psych Central.

Dr. Cartwright has attended many pageants, including tapings of reality shows like Toddlers and Tiaras.

She has seen the pressure that parents put on these young girls to win, no matter the cost.

She is especially concerned about the sexualization of young girls, recounting one incident in which a very small girl was dressed as a Playboy bunny as her father carried her onstage dressed as Hugh Hefner.

And it’s not just the emotional trauma.  Cartwright notes that young children are denied naps so they don’t “mess up their hair and makeup,” pushed for hours on end to maintain flawless dance performances, and given energy drinks and candy to stay awake – referred to as “pageant crack.”

She wants to shed light on the real reason behind these pageants and parents pushing their children into modeling at a young age.

It is about the emotional need for attention in the parent – ironically, often a mother who has low self-esteem herself and lives vicariously through her child’s beauty and success.

“If we can understand why the parents are doing what they’re doing, then we can start addressing the problem. And I think if the public understands why the parents are doing that then they won’t pay as much attention to these pageants,” says Cartwright for Psych Central.

“We need to talk to adults and to kids about other ways to garner self-esteem than through appearance.”

With the alleged abuse of little Niuniu in China, her mother is being called out for that very reason – the need for attention for herself.

The mom posted an online apology of sorts, stating that the family is not financially dependent on Niuniu’s modeling career and that she kicked her to keep her from “running into the road,” something witnesses dispute.

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But her statements and excuses are falling on deaf ears.

Social media users in China are sickened by the treatment of the little girl and asking for better regulation of the child modeling industry.

For their part, over a hundred children’s clothing retailers in China say they are working together to create better conditions and protections for their most vulnerable citizens.

A joint statement was released to the media by these clothing companies, and we all hope that something comes of this shocking incident in the way of reform.

“By employing little ones, we intended to show the delight that children’s clothing brings and to pass that on to even more children.  But if children are hurt in the process of being photographed, this completely goes against the original intent,” the New York Times reports.

All over the world, young children – mostly girls – are paraded around, sexualized, and manipulated to model and participate in pageants.

Their physical and mental health are at stake – and it is often at the hands of overbearing parents and an underregulated industry.

The long-term effects can be devastating, and it’s time that these kids are simply allowed to be kids.

What do you think of the child modeling and pageant industries?  Leave us your comments.