What is it with the French? We’ve embraced their French manicures and French twists, but they turn up their noses at American pageantry?
The French senate recently approved a ban on pageants for girls up to age 16, with fines of up to two years in prison and a $40,000 fine for adults who pimp and “hypersexualize” little girls.
The French, whose pageants are toned down versions of America’s beauty contests for girls, don’t want reality shows like Toddlers & Tiaras and Honey Boo Boo. They don’t want their girls to obsess over body image, makeup or dress. They want their girls to grow up with a healthy sense of who they are and what they can accomplish–with their brains, not their faces.
It doesn’t get more un-American than that.
I know; you’re probably thinking, here in ‘merica, where it’s our right to do what we want with our kids, this sort of nonsense would never fly. Parents would be so pissed that their god-given rights were infringed upon. These pageants, after all, are all about the girls and doing what’s best for them, right? We should allow our toddlers to choose the activities they want to do–like sitting, standing and parading around for hours under the critical eyes of strangers. At least, that’s what Mommy thinks.
Opponents believe that penalties are too high. They see nothing wrong with girls being “princesses for a day.” It helps them overcome stage fright and make friends. That’s exactly how we get our boys, who are little princes in training, to overcome their stage fright and make friends. Right?
If you’ve been a girl or if you have a girl or if you are breathing, then you know what this obsession does to the culture of girls. It doesn’t help them make friends. It helps them make frenemies. When we teach our girls to compete for the title of “who’s the fairest of them all,” it pits girls against each other. We could spend all day on examples from middle school and high school. We could spend a week on examples from college and beyond. And women objective themselves and other women just as much as men do as the beauty pageant culture continues well into adulthood. You see it at clubs, parties, even the gym. When an attractive woman walks into a crowded room, it’s often the other women who are watching and rating her, inspecting for flaws and strengths. Do you ever hear men commenting on what another guy is wearing, that his stylist gave him a shitty dye job or that he must have fake….um….biceps because they just don’t look real?
So, I think the French have got this one right, and perhaps we should embrace their sensibilities on this issue. It’s the girls who pay the price when they get older and realize that they really are not princesses and that life is not one big beauty contest.