TLC’s controversial show “Toddlers and Tiaras” premieres tonight to what I am sure will be a judgmental audience. But one writer on Slate.com wonders if the moms on “Toddlers” aren’t being judged for being on the pageant circuit but instead for being “white trash?” She wonders if these moms are really all that different from Tiger Moms pushing their kids academically or with activities, such as playing the piano. But the Tiger Moms aren’t judged as harshly.
“While not uniform among the pageant families, many featured on Toddlers and Tiaras are from poor, rural, Southern areas, which the show highlights with stark establishing shots of sparse and depressed towns. The “white trash” markers of the mothers—strong accents, ungrammatical speech, obesity—are also highlighted on the show, providing a classist subtext to the media’s judgment of parenting. It’s not whether waxing your young daughter’s eyebrows or depriving her of dinner is objectively worse. It’s that a Toddlers and Tiaras mother’s participation in supposedly “trashy” culture makes her a beastly parent, while Dara-Lynn Weiss is a merely controversial or micromanaging one.”
“The media takes a certain thrill in humiliating and hating the Toddlers and Tiaras mothers, and this would not necessarily be a problem (it is reality television, after all) were it not happening against the backdrop of the reaction to Weiss and others, like Amy Chua, a mother who also came forward with controversial parenting techniques and leveraged them for her personal success. In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua admitted to denying her then 7-year-old daughter bathroom and water breaks until she learned to play a piano piece just right. She certainly faced criticism, but she was never vilified as the Toddlers and Tiaras mothers have been because her ultimate goal for her children, admittance to prestigious universities, is accepted as legitimate by bourgeois parenting standards.”
“The mothers on Toddlers and Tiaras are chastised for ignoring their children’s feelings, forcing their own desires upon them, and spending exorbitant amounts of money to do so. If the mothers on Toddlers and Tiaras expended their funds and parental pressure on SAT tutoring, squash instruction, or foreign language immersion, they likely would not be dismissed as broad caricatures that are all too easy to hate. Because in reality, the main difference between a pageant mom and a tiger mother is just a matter of accessories.”
What do you think? Are the moms on “Toddlers” being judged for being low-class or for what they are they doing with their children on the pageant circuit? Are they any better or worse than the self-avowed Tiger Moms that won’t let their kid pee before they learn a certain piano piece or have friends over for a spend-the-night party?