This Morning: Beauty Pageants and Self-Perception Issues/’Mirror Stage’ Theory
I came across this clip whilst watching This Morning several days ago, and found it very appropriate to to my current practice and research topics surrounding the beauty and fashion industries, and self-perception issues. I was struck by the fact that Sami Bushell, the mother in question, has been fake tanning her daughter since she was two-years-old in the name of beauty pageants. Sami noted that the only reason which this alone causes problems to the public, is that the term, ‘beauty’ is involved, and that if cheerleading or gymnastics were in question, as ‘sport’ going through such vanity-led processes are a ‘normal’ part of this experience. However, the argument being with this in particular is that Psychologists, believe that this from such an early age can have an on-going affect with ‘subjects’ more likely to develop Mental Health issues such as Body Dysmorphia and Eating Disorders surrounding their own issues with their bodies and self-perception as a rise of recognising early on that this is ‘how women should be’ because from the age of 3, girls are being judged and marked on this, even tho pageant goers may argue that the competitions are about ‘talent’, despite the name ‘beauty pageant’.
I found this resonant with Lacan and Freud’s understanding of the ‘Mirror Stage’, whereby between 6 to 18 months old, a child becomes self-aware of their reflection in a mirror, and becomes concious of such reflection, even though at this stage of their lives have very little mental or physical abilities which are possessed by adults. This shows that whilst even though a child can not control how they look, they become aware, and become aware of what they see is normal, relating back to the Beauty Pageant and Saami Bushell’s daughter as noted above. By applying fake tan and cosmetic products at an early-age, not only can this damage their skin and dermatology due to the formulations and chemicals for example which are used in such products, but could also can also affect their self-perception if this is what they become aware of seeing, and used to ‘looking’ like in their reflection. Lacan and Freud also relate this back to the ‘ego’, stating that “the ego is the subject rather than a subject” and one should be free as “I”, so go and make their own fate. I found this interesting in regards to the “ego” which as Freud notes can be built and discovered from an early age, allowing for issues with identity and belonging to subside alongside this as shown in the example above, whereby one loses their identity due to ego-defying tasks and competitions for instance. This is highlighted in the quote below.
“By contrast with the ego and the illusory sense of fictional selfhood it supports, the psychoanalytic subject of Lacanianism is an unconscious kinetic negativity defying capture by and within ego-level identificatory constructs.”
Furthermore, as well as thinking about the above theory in relation to the Beauty Pageant issue as noted above, I also found this theory and idea relative to the topic of previous employment and ethical issues as a designer, whereby I was asked to design cosmetic products for children from as young as 8 years old. During the presentation I discussed this and how a company could produce and design such products without considering the long-term impact on a child whom is using such vanity-led products from an early age. Some argue as in the video also, that children may want to copy the actions of their mothers, however, I personally feel that the same principal on the Mirror Stage resonates with this, regarding how from a young age with an ‘altered’ and unnatural appearance, one due to self-awareness at such a young age, may actually develop mental health and self-perception issues growing up, and feel that this should be considered more across the Fashion and Beauty industries to help alleviate some of these problems going forward. If children were brought up to love themselves for whom they are, and didn’t feel the name to be accepted within a certain group of society, for example dance groups or cheerleading groups, perhaps growing up they would continue in this vein and not be so swayed by the visuals the media puts out there and dictates at an early age how we should act like and look like.
Furthermore this also made me think again about the Beyonce Barbie Box Halloween costume as discussed in a previous blog post, and how in a way Beyonce is actively encouraging her daughter to grow up as herself and create her own identity based on her ego, as Lacan and Freud state in the Mirror Stage theory, however Sami Bushell is actively doing the opposite and whether realises or not is standardising and conforming her daughter to follow a set of guidelines and tick boxes on what is deemed ‘beautiful’ opposed to believing in that, and feeling that for oneself.