A bill seeking to outlaw child beauty pageants—arguing that they hypersexualize minors—has passed in the French Senate 196 to 146 votes. If the bill is passed by the National Assembly it will officially become law, leaving hordes of purposeless stage mères to drift the narrow French lanes in feral packs, hawking used flippers to curious tourists for a few drops of flat go-go juice. Sacre bleu.
Via BBC News:
Organisers of such pageants may face a jail term of up to two years and a fine of 30,000 euros (£25,000; $40,000).
The measure was prompted by a row over a photo shoot in Vogue magazine.
The photos published in December 2010 showed a girl of 10 with two others, all three in heavy make-up and wearing tight dresses, high heels and expensive jewellery.
Vogue defended the pictures, saying they merely portrayed a common fantasy among young girls - to dress like their mother.
Parliament heard a report entitled Against Hyper-Sexualisation: A New Fight For Equality, which called for the ban on beauty competitions for the under-16s. It also recommended other measures, not included in the bill, including a ban on child-size adult clothing such as padded bras and high-heeled shoes.
"Let us not make our girls believe from a very young age that their worth is only judged by their appearance," said the author of the report, former Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno.
Kudos, Chantal Jouanno, that is some progressive shit coming from official government channels! (Not that French culture is somehow more enlightened than the rest of us when it comes to upending traditional beauty standards—the extent to which the supposedly "effortless" "natural" beauty and confidence of French women is idolized by American women is its own whole world of insecurity. But I appreciate the nod.)
As much as I cherish the presence of Honey Boo-Boo in my life, and believe in affording children a certain amount of personal agency (though whether child beauty pageants are even about the children is debatable), I gotta go with these French people on this one. Strapping fake teeth and fake hair and fake boobs to a little baby child so that she can compete against other babies to win the title of "Fake-Sexiest Tiny Woman" hardly seems like a recipe for a well-adjusted adult. And setting up prettiness as a competition from birth doesn't do the rest of us women any favors either.
I'm sure some kids have fun doing pageants. I'm sure a lot of moms get...some sort of satisfaction out of...whatever it is this whole thing is for. I'm not here to advocate banning anything, necessarily—like I said, agency, etc.—but if we as a society tacitly endorse this system by exploiting it for cheap entertainment, the least we can do is think critically about its wider implications. The fact is that beauty pageants (child and otherwise) prop up a system that treats women like decoration and keeps them locked in a lifelong state of anxiety—chasing impossible aesthetic goals and paying through the nose for it. And childhood beauty pageants get little women started down that road before they have any perspective on themselves, before they can even read Pat the Bunny—let alone The Beauty Myth. I think the French might be on to something.
Images via Getty.