My complicated thoughts about the Angels Pageant

January 31, 2013

a close-up of a plastic crown

image courtesy of Allison Ko via Flickr

People keep asking me if Chloe is going to be in the Angels Pageant. And I want to say “do I LOOK like someone who enters her kid in a beauty pageant?” But I do look like someone who enters her kid in this pageant, because it’s not a beauty pageant exactly, it’s a pageant for disabled kids. They get dressed up in fancy pageant gear and get their pictures taken with crowns on. The website is full of grinning girls in wheelchairs. And, since this is a feel-good, “exciting and super-fun experience,” I assume everyone is a winner.

And when you have a disabled kid, you do stuff like that. There are so few activities out there that are guaranteed to be fun for disabled kids, you leap at every chance to give your kid something exciting to do. But I have complicated feelings about this one, and here they are:

  1. This is great. The kids love it, the parents love it. The kids get to feel pampered and recognized by people other than their parents, which for many of them probably doesn’t happen very often.
  2. So why do I feel so repulsed?
  3. When I see “beauty pageant” and “kids” together, all I can think of is Honey Boo Boo.
  4. At the Angels Pageant, they believe every child is a gift from God. Okay, fine, but is this religious? Am I expected to be religious for this?
  5. The pageant is open to “any boy or girl newborn to 105, with a special need,” and the website constantly refers to children.  So apparently, if you have a disability, you are a perpetual child.
  6. It’s “not about ability.” It’s about celebrating our kids just for existing. That’s not enough for me. My kid has abilities. Every kid, no matter how disabled, has something to offer the world, and these things are rarely celebrated. Other kids are recognized for what they can do, why not kids with disabilities?
  7. I’ll admit, number 6 is probably a politically correct attempt to say it’s not about disability. In other words, it’s a break from the constant obsession with large challenges and tiny achievements that make up our kids’ lives. And that’s great. But it IS about disability. Because it’s for disabled kids. It’s not a typical beauty pageant. It’s a disability pageant. Just admit it.
  8. I’m not against this in general; it’s probably the greatest thing ever for some kids. But I don’t think we’ll be doing this. Chloe already goes to drama camp, where her awesome teacher finds ways to make her a star right alongside the typical kids. If we want to get her dressed up in taffeta for pictures, I’ll take her to my friend’s photography studio. Extra attention from adults outside her family? She already gets too much of that, because she’s a charmer. Before I had Chloe, my plans for parenthood never, ever included a beauty pageant. And I’ll be damned if I let a diagnosis change that.

2 Responses to “My complicated thoughts about the Angels Pageant”

  1. This actually doesn’t seem all that complicated – it doesn’t work for you. for a bunch of valid (I think) reasons…some of them going back to before Chloe was even born.

    But even if everyone you asked said, “Your reasons don’t make sense at all,” this still doesn’t work for you…and I suspect that you know that you don’t owe anyone any explanations about why.

    If Chloe didn’t have much opportunity to socialize and you had reason to believe that participating in the pageant was something she’d enjoy, perhaps that would be different. But the drama camp sounds much more fun, quite frankly.

    I’ve always been wary of activities that where there’s an assumption that disabled people will enjoy being together just because they’re disabled. I realize that often disabled people do prefer being with each other, for a variety of reasons. But it’s too easy to get complacent and forget that we should be making “typical” activities more inclusive, for those that would prefer that option. It’s a gripe that I’ve had with the Special Olympics movement for quite some time – it should be *an* option for those that want to participate in sports, not the only option.

    Great post. 🙂

    • camillajoy Says:

      Thanks, Sarah. Yeah, I go back and forth on the Special Olympics-type stuff. It’s so hard find activities that are truly inclusive and accessible, especially for kids with as many challenges as Chloe has. But it makes me feel good to think that maybe the kids who are Chloe’s class at school, and the kids who meet her in the community, will grow up expecting the world to be more inclusive and appreciative of diversity, and maybe some of them will help make that happen. Chloe is already doing her part!

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