The BBC reported this morning that the French Parliament has voted on a bill that would make beauty pageantry illegal for participants under the age of 16. The vote passed the French Senate 196-146, and the ban will be headed to the National Assembly before it’s made law.
Lawmakers kept the language short and sweet: “organizing beauty competitions for children under 16 is banned.” Pageant organizers as well as parents who pressure kids into entering could face two years in prison and a 30,000 euro fine, and the language is general enough to cover basic photo competitions or “pretty baby” contests.
Beauty pageants have been a controversial topic as of late, and though they are more common in North America than Europe, the message for young women across the world is clear: in this hypersexualized world, you need to look as good as humanly possible, even before pubescence. ABC News noted that department stores the world over are now selling lingerie directed at tweens.
Chantal Jouanno, the French conservative and former Sports Minister who authored the report that spurred the ban, said that the “foundations of equal rights are threatened by the hyper-sexualization that touches children between 6 and 12 years old… At this age, you need to concentrate on acquiring knowledge. Yet with mini-Miss competitions and other demonstrations, we are fixing the projectors on their physical appearance. I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child.”
The new French law is explicitly designed to protect young girls, who are perceived to be more vulnerable than boys. Jouanno: “When I asked an organizer why there were no mini-boy contests, I heard him respond that boys would not lower themselves like that.”
The idea came about when a French Vogue photo shoot involving 10-year-old girls in make-up, jewelry, dresses and high heels came out in the fall of 2010. Vogue defended the images as fulfilling the common fantasy of girls dressing like their mothers, but the lawmakers were unconvinced. After agreeing to hear Joanno’s report called “Against Hyper-Sexualisation: A New Fight For Equality,” Parliament took action.
“Let us not make our girls believe from a very young age that their worth is only judged by their appearance,” Joanno said at the time, a sentiment that the lawmakers clearly echoed.