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Friday FTW: France bans youth beauty pageants

Joe Thomson

In an unprecedented move France has actually banned something that wasn’t strictly for the purposes of race-baiting. (Sorry Tom Tucker.) Earlier this week, the country’s senate announced children’s beauty contests will be banned, pending adoption by France’s National Assembly—a move that’s sure to send the glitter and baby-thong markets reeling in France.

Thong market aside, the bill is designed to fight against the now buzz wordy “hypersexualistion” of children (particularly girls) under the age of 16. Senator Chantal Jouanno initially introduced her concerns in a parliamentary report back in March 2012.

Apparently, like creepy berets (the next ban?) child beauty pageants had a “proud” tradition in France and have become more popular in the past few years. Jouanno defended the senate’s decision, saying: “Lawmakers are not moralisers, but we have a duty to defend the superior interest of the child.”

Sadly, in Canada no such legislation has been proposed or debated in Parliament and Americans would probably go all Alex Jones if you tried to take their pageants away. USA! USA! USA!

When I first saw this story I expected there to be very little dissenting opinion but the Internet, as always, has proven that people will take up any cause no matter how stupid (usually with a vaguely libertarian bent).

CBC’s The Current even couched the topic in a segment they ran Thursday as a “debate” that is “ongoing beyond France’s borders.” A debate? We’re calling this a debate? A debate would imply that there are two valid arguments on opposing sides of an issue. This is a debate in same sense that this discussion between Noam Chomsky and William F. Buckley is a “debate”.

But arguments in favour of pageants feel hollow, and equating them to other children’s activities (like team sports or dance) completely dismisses the proven sociological and physiological benefits that those activities have.

Does a child parading on a stage in a halter-top, weighed down by two pounds of makeup, dancing suggestively while being judged by a panel of adults (who have enough expertise in the area of—Children Gyrating to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way—to be considered authority figures) have a social or physiological benefit? If you answer “yes” to that question please light yourself on fire.

But wait! It’s the parents you say. The parents are the problem. You can’t legislate against bad parenting, or else all of our parents would be in jail (KA-POW take that mom!) and I say to you yes, you’re right Mr./Mrs. mom-zinging contrarian, the parents are the problem. But how does one propose we prevent adults from exploiting their offspring and validating a completely toxic stereotype linking women’s value to their aesthetic appeal if not by banning that exploitative or damaging activity?

Also, the idea that governments should be worried about bigger, more substantial issues than children’s hobbies is thoroughly flawed.  Maybe governments do have more important things to be worried about but I grow tired of arguments that propose we neglect acting against behaviour that is wrong because there are other issues or behaviours that are worse.

And while I don’t generally like to play armchair-anthropologist (Ok. I do), my observation is that these pageant moms are simply bored. They need to find meaning in their lives and like most emotionally troubled people they find the worst possible outlet to satiate their boredom. In this case, at the expense of their child. Well I say to these people what Bill Clinton said in 1994 to gun advocates who were against an assault weapons ban because target practice was their favourite hobby—”Well, they need to read a good book.” Maybe start with Lolita?

Kudos to France for taking this incredibly commendable step. Not convinced? Check out this creepy website.

Obvious connections and/or jokes I chose not to make for this blog post include:

Honey Boo Boo, France’s perceived lack of military prowess, JonBenét Ramsey, French berets, Flippantly using the phrase zut alors or sacrebleu.


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