Have you heard about the pageant mom who gives her eight year-old daughter botox to ‘smooth her wrinkles’ and leg waxes to remove ‘unladylike’ hair?
The mother, Kerry Campbell, confessed to GMA to performing the ‘beauty’ treatments on her daughter, noting that ‘all the mothers’ in the pageant circuit do it. The mom is a part-time aesthetician who has given herself Botox shots and won’t reveal where she got it from.
I was saddened to watch the video and see the daughter clearly display early warning signs of low self-esteem. My heart nearly broke when she said the botox injections hurt, but they made her look prettier. Child Welfare Services is investigating the mother, mainly because botox isn’t approved for us on children for cosmetic purposes. THANK GOODNESS!
Now, I think we can all agree that this mother is 1) a little nuts; and 2) damaging her daughter. Clearly, botox should not be used on children. But, as I was laying on the beach today, I was thinking about how we, as adult women, feel compelled to engage in grooming rituals and what messages we send to children about why we do these activities.
When I was a kid, I remember BEGGING and PLEADING with my mother to let me shave my legs. I don’t remember thinking my leg hair was disgusting or being teased about it, but I do remember believing that shaving one’s legs was a mature thing, a sign of being an adult. Little girls had leg hair; adults did not. Hence, my desire to shave! My mother insisted that I could NOT shave me legs so soon (I think I was in the 5th grade) so one night, I snuck into the shower, grabbed her razor, and proceed to slice open my leg. My mom discovered the truth when she spotted my smooth calf and bloody band-aid.
Another beauty ritual I started on my own was plucking my eyebrows. Now, I REALLY wish my mother had taken control of my eyebrows. I naturally have a really bushy unibrow, which was the source of much bullying, so I decide to pluck my own. As a result, I had severely tadpole-shaped brows for much of middle school. Finally, my mother intervened and saved me from my overzealous tweezer ways. I remember when she told me that my tadpole brows were unsightly and needed to be corrected.
When I started to coach Girls on the Run, I promised to never, ever wear makeup to GOTR if I could help it. I didn’t want my girls to think they NEEDED to wear makeup. A few girls asked me about makeup, and I said it was okay to wear it for fun, but you didn’t want to get all your self-esteem from wearing a mask – I think they understood this point.
But at the same time, I know (and the GOTR girls probably already sense) that our society has really strong views on beauty rituals in women. Things like shaving your legs, plucking your bushy eyebrows, wearing at least some makeup to the office or out to dinner, shaving your armpits, wearing certain clothes, painting your nails, wearing jewelry, and other pursuits are all concerned ‘things that grown-up women do.’ Women who break these rituals – especially the stronger ones – are few and far between. It’s almost like these grooming rituals are as mandatory as brushing your teeth.
A while back, I read a great article from Blogher’s Own Your Beauty movement on one woman’s choice to not shave her body hair. I loved her points, but when I thought about it, I realized that I don’t break the rules on ANY of the typical grooming rituals, with the exception of makeup during the day. I shave, I pluck, I wax, I paint… Half because being a girly-girl is kind of fun, and half because I suppose I subconsciously feel like I have to do it. I’m not sure which side is stronger.
Clearly, I think the pageant mom who forces extreme beauty treatments on her daughter is – at best – misguided. But not all grooming rituals are bad. I don’t have any conclusions on the topic of grooming rituals, but I am curious to know YOUR thoughts.
Do you engage in all the ‘traditional’ female beauty rituals? If you break with a beauty ritual, which one and why? Have you met any judgment over your choice?If you have kids, what do you tell them about plucking, shaving, waxing, and painting?