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Beyond Judging: France to Fine and Jail Beauty Pageant Parents

Photo credit: Glitter Girls Pageants on FlickrHere in North America, there is a lot of finger pointing judgment and feminist critique of the sexualization of girls in the child beauty pageant industry. What are those parents thinking? Why would they put their children through that? Don't they understand the consequences of it? Those are questions that we ask, while hoping that parents will eventually wake up and just put a stop to it once and for all. But will they, if we all tune in and give them the ratings and the fame they are looking for?

In France, they are moving beyond the judging and the critiquing and the hoping.  As part of proceedings in relating to a law on equality of men and women, the French Senate voted 196 for and 146 against an amendment proposed by senator Chantal Jouanno making it illegal for parents to enter girls under the age of 16 in beauty pageants ("mini-miss"). Parents who enter their children in these competitions could face two years of prison time and fines of 30,000 Euros (around $40,000). UPDATED TO ADD: It isn't just parents who could face jail time and fines, but anyone (including but not limited to parents) who is organizing, promoting, encouraging or condoning children's entry into beauty contests.

Another proposal by Jouanno to regulate child modeling was defeated.

Speaking about the issue on CBC last year, Chantal Jouanno said:

Our duty, as a government, is to ban things which are contrary to equality, which are contrary to the dignity, and which are contrary to the high interest of the children.

Some are applauding this move and others are saying that the government has more important things to do than to meddle in a family's choice of hobbies for their child.

What do you think? Are beauty pageants for girls:

  • A fun activity, like any other extra curricular that a child might choose to participate in?
  • Cringe-worthy, but not something we should be legislating?
  • Damaging to children and should be banned by law, with appropriate enforcement mechanisms in place?
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Reader Comments (8)

I think I fall into cringe-worthy but not something that I'd like to see legislated. Because slippery slope on over-legislating life.

September 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNina Badzin

I'm not sure how I feel about banning them, to be honest. I don't like them. I would never enter my daughters in them. I don't get them.
But I wonder if that's the thing: I don't get them. I think, possibly, that for people who live in the South where pageants are the norm, there's a different perception to them. They're part of the culture and just maybe we're gawking at them from without and imposing our own ideas of sexualization and objectification on them that are not necessarily inherent in the pageants themselves. I don't know. Maybe.

September 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I find them cringeworthy and I think legislating against them isn't a bad idea. . . .even though it would happen in the US. We regulate other "adult" things for children - they can't drive, their work hours are monitored in the entertainment industry, they can't get tattoos, they can't go to tanning booths. Why not regulate beauty pageants that require them to have adult things like lots of make up, spray tans, acrylic nails and hair extensions?

September 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTriplezmom

I share Nina's wariness about over-legislating life, but I can't help feeling delighted that the French are trying to protect children in this way. Anything that encourages girls and women to focus on their image rather than their intellectual or manual skills is deeply damaging. We should be working towards creating a society that respects women and promotes equality and to my mind beauty pageants offer nothing positive to such a society.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

I for one am all for supporting a ban on these kind of pageants. Any event/activity which sexualizes young girls and promotes such a narrow definition of beauty should be banned. Great job France!!!

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKavita

If we legislate child abuse, prostitution and exploitation, why not this? It's not over-legilating life at all.

November 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLourdes

I think it's not a good idea to legislate this, especially since it puts the burden on the parents to know that it's illegal. How about instead addressing the way the pageants are done? I don't think it's child prostitution exactly, but I do think it's inappropriate for children to be judged on sexiness and beauty in general. Would it outlaw all talent shows or just beauty contests? How will they get around this? We have Honey Boo Boo -- she wouldn't have gotten as far as she has if a large part of our population wasn't enjoying watching her. Maybe we should be going after the ones who run the contests, and make them have stricter rules about clothing and behavior? Such as no sexy clothes, or imitating adult behavior?

November 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer R

"...making it illegal for parents to enter girls under the age of 16 in beauty pageants ("mini-miss")."

And so, it would be perfectly legal to do so with boys? ....

November 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMagdalena

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