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In light of children’s’ participation in child beauty pageants, controversy has ignited concerning the issue of the pageant’s ethics and its negative influences on young individuals. Robyn Riley criticizes parents of child beauty contests for exposing their child to an environment where their children are psychologically and physically at risk. Riley advocates parents not to “sexualize” their children and to protect their innocence in an informative yet attacking manner. A plethora of statistics are utilized to authenticate the fact that the mental health of young children is at risk as quoted form individuals expert of their fields. Furthermore, she verifies that her sources are reliable and increases the likelihood for the reader to concur that beauty pageants have a detrimental effect on contestants. Riley claims that it is imperative for children to avoid this dark path of pageantry, and confronts the parents or guardians of child beauty contestants with the need to take more responsibility and withdraw their children.

The heading, “Leave the kids alone” highlights the writer’s conviction that children need to be protected along with the sentimental value of their childhood. The use of emotively charged words in the heading appeals to the reader’s sense of security for their children by exploiting the value of adequate protection and need for increased safety. The illustration of six-year-old murdered child beauty queen, JonBenet Ramsey featured in the Herald Sun (October 09, 2010) further attempts to accentuates why it is crucial for parents not to register their children in child pageants. It also highlights the exploitation of child contestants. At first, the reader is lulled into viewing JonBenet as an angel-like figure with her white dress representing her purity, emerald gemstone symbolizing her joyful life, and the background effect giving her a sense of glow and luminance. The emerald ring that she bears on her right hand is an expensive gemstone, which suggests to the reader that Ramsey must have been very successful at the beauty pageants to be able to afford such luxurious items. Conversely, JonBenet’s made-up porcelain doll face, in combination with her unnatural stance as she posed for the camera, perfectly sculpted eyebrows and nail polish makes it clear to the audience that this is no ordinary six-year-old child. The image does not portray what most children of such an age look like, instead illustrating a mature looking girl who may attract attention by pedophiles. Riley depicts the horrifying characteristics of a typical child beauty pageant queen and uses it to engage her readers with the shocking nature of such an industry.

Riley establishes a relationship with her audience with her informal introduction to reduce the tension of the matter and create a friendlier environment where she creates an identity for herself. The establishment of a rapport with the audience humanizes her character. She provides a personal anecdote about herself reading the paper like any ordinary person can relate to the same as the reader is doing as they read Riley’s very own article. The expression in response to the child beauty show, “Toddlers and Tiaras” making her “skin crawl” immediately portrays her repulsed attitude towards the issue of child pageants. Furthering this connection with her audience, Riley identifies the reader and writer as one with inclusive language like “we” and “us” to win the readers’ trust and increase the likelihood of readers agreeing that we are all engaged in this conversation and have a role to play.

Contrastingly, Riley approaches the case of JonBenet Ramsey’s death in a remorseful sombre to insinuate the detrimental ramifications of participation in child beauty pageants. Commenting that Ramsey had been “sexually assaulted, brutally beaten and strangled” emphasises the grueling outcome of a past child beauty queen. By deploying this emotional punch, Riley attempts to incite sympathetic and appalled responses from the audience, positioning the reader to feel disgusted towards the practice of these pageants. Seeking to dissuade any remaining positive attitude in relation to the ethics of pageants for children, the author highlights the destructiveness of child pageants to kids’ childhoods through the repetition of their physical appearances when they are on stage. Addressing the children in their “inappropriate costumes”, “big, big hair”, and their “heavy make-up” challenged any positive impression the reader has towards child beauty pageants, and the reader comes to the conclusion that children are being made into adults before their time.

To reinforce how illogical beauty pageants are to children, psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg shines a new perspective by providing a scientific angle towards the issue. Claiming that child beauty pageants “could hurt children psychologically,” Carr-Gregg advocates his support of Riley’s position of the protection of child contestants and adds strong credibility as his professional stance on the issue makes the reader acknowledge that his opinion must be factual if he is an expert of his field. It helps that he is well known for his work in the popular media.

Riley denounces “hell-bent” parents of their ill-fated decision to enter their child in such contest that strip away children’s innocence. Attacking the parental demographics, she triggers the parents’ emotions by evoking thought of their children’s “fragile self-esteem” being possibly crushed. By manipulating the typical parent’s protectiveness of their child’s psychological mind-state, Riley convinces the reader that this competition is not worth it and asserts that it is crucial that the child is not involved in child beauty pageants. Riley castigates opposing parents in a sarcastic tone that denigrates the ethics of child pageants. The reader then becomes more receptive to the underlying principle that the “edge” the child beauty contestant gains is miniscule in comparison to the “price” the young child has to compensate for their participation in these pageants.

Both the article and image challenges the parents’ decision to register their child in beauty pageants and diverts any positive impression. The emotive pull of the article, “Leave the kids alone” reinforces to parents that child beauty pageants have strong ramifications to a child’s psychological and physical health; as a result the readers must concede that child beauty pageants should be discontinued.



Good riddance VCE is over! My name is Daphane Ng, and I finished VCE in 2011! I studied English, Japanese SL, Psychology, Chemistry (yuk!), Biology and Methods. I'm hoping to do a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne and later do a DipEd to become a science teacher in the future. I hope my resources help you achieve the ATAR you deserve. Best of luck!

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