Who’s the fairest of them all?

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.

PS  Kudos to Pope Francis for bringing the church into the modern world. We should all love this guy.




36 responses to “Who’s the fairest of them all?

  1. Uh-oh. Chevalier’s in trouble!

    Isn’t Honey Boo-Boo a pageant child?

    Nuff said.

  2. Oooo as a mother of a daughter the princess culture is one of my (many) grievances with America. I certainly think its okay for my daughter to read fairytales and play dress up, and I hope she thinks she is beautiful, but more importantly I want her to be smart, strong, independent, and secure in things that are not just skin-deep.

    Re America’s infatuation with God-given parenting rights… I would certainly not mind if America did a little more infringing on some parenting rights. Specifically, stricter monitoring of home-schooling, required visits to check for child abuse, stricter enforcement of some vaccines, among other things. Some people can’t be trusted with children, that’s the sad truth.

    Re Pope Francis, you know I’m a fan. I have been waiting to see your reaction to this, as I’m sure you have read it: http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2013/09/11/news/the_pope_s_letter-66336961/?ref=HRER3-1

    • oops, meant to say “some people *can’t* be trusted with children”

    • I am not a fan of beauty contests for little girls (I loved the movie, “Little Miss Sunshine” – which really nails the whole excessive beauty contest thing). That being said, I don’t think you can police how to raise a kid without becoming a police state. It is not a big enough issue to me to pass laws which include fines to stop them. To me, swaying general public opinion against them over the long run would be better, and just let them slowly go out of style. Let’s start with Miss America and those bathing suits!
      As for the rest, I would like to stop child abuse, but I think the enforcement rules are the best they can be without total intrusion of the average family (this is probably not what you meant by regular visits). You were dead right about the vaccines, I am on board with that 100%. I can’t believe the junk science people swallow.
      Lastly, I home-schooled my son, because the expensive little district I went to failed to teach him to read. The last think I needed were those jerks intruding on my privacy while attempting to undo their mess. Let that stay free. He went to college and did just fine, most home schooled kids are way better off than their counterparts in public school.

      • Sandra do not interpret that I am opposed to the homeschool movement as a whole… some of the brightest kids I know were homeschooled. I just think *some* parents are not doing enough (or are not qualified) in their homeschooling, and perhaps there should be more monitoring to ensure the children are learning all the subjects they should be learning. Doesn’t sound like this was the case for you or your son.

        It is tricky though, you’re right, on where to draw the line. I’m not a fan of big government on principle, but I just get so effing sick of reading about these stories of kids who are abused / starved to death / left in hot cars / found wandering in the street (those are all just news stories from THIS WEEK). I wish there was more of a check system for these kids so their home environment could be discovered and maybe changed.

        • Put the shoe on the other foot, you are obviously a good mother, however, would you like the authorities to check to make sure you were doing a good job with your kids? Nothing like a knock at the door at dinner time and a house search to make sure junior is eating his veggies.

          • My husband and I just had this conversation yesterday! A little boy in our area died after getting left in his hot car for hours, so we discussed it. I don’t have the answers on child abuse; I know its a very complicated issue. No, it would be annoying to have the authorities check in on me. But I would gladly agree to weekly or bi-weekly checkups to make sure I’m a safe and competent parent if it meant that parents who weren’t were getting found out, and those children were being taken out of unsafe environments. I just wish we had a better way to find and solve the problem before a death occurred.

            • That’s horrible, Molly. I hear about those every year, too.

              I know what you mean about having someone check to make sure you’re a safe and competent parents. I also see Sandra’s side. My son had an accident on Thanksgiving when he was a little kid. I got in a big argument with the nurse (long story…she got fired, the hospital apologized), but she turned me into CPS (child protective services). Having a stranger come and question you when you are trying to do the best you can for your kid can be a bad experience–and it affects the kids, too. The CPS agent also told me that abuse happens allll the time. Abuse of the system, that is, where angry friends or relatives or neighbors will call CPS when it was not warranted. They get bogged down with unnecessary cases. So, the least government involvement the better.

              In Texas, I heard the kids have to pass a state exam to receive their diploma when they’re homeschooled. Does anyone know if this is correct?

              • @Debbie, interesting story. I’m sure corruption does flood CPS… although I did not realize it was to that extent. How sad. Like I said, I don’t know the answers, I just wish we could find out about kids in unsafe environments before we hear about their deaths on the news.

              • I don’t know what the rules are now about a high school diploma, I have always assumed you had to take a test to get one. At any rate, 12 years ago, we simply enrolled him at Collin County Community College. He earned his Associates degree there. He took some entrance exams when he enrolled to determine whether he needed remedial courses, that was all.

      • I hear you, Sandra. We shouldn’t need more legislation. Ever. And you have every right to step in and take control of your child’s education. The thing is, it’s a one-size-fits all and we don’t all have the same learning styles.

        I seriously doubt we would ever pass legislation against pageants anyway, but it would be nice if parents came to this realization on their own. The girls pay the price for the parent’s desires.

    • @Molly I fixed the word “can’t” in your comment.

      You probably guessed that I’m a fan, too. I’ve been following him, and I think he’s great for the church and for humanity. He’s been cleaning house in the church, and in 6 months has already done so much. I love that he sold all the expensive cars, that he is reconsidering celibacy and the role of women and judging other’s lifestyles. He embraces tolerance and love and peace, and rejects judging and hating. This are the qualities I want to have and that I want to teach my kids. So, there’s more of the same! 🙂

  3. You’ve struck a nerve with this topic. I think parents (usually mothers living out their own fantasies) who put their little girls in pageants ought to be shot (figuratively speaking, of course). Vive la France!

    • If I could “like” this, I would! My daughter participated in Irish dance for a while. And while she loved the pretty costumes and the chance to dance on stage, she couldn’t stomach the dog-eat-dog competition or the catty attitudes. Even at age 7, she knew that scene wasn’t for her. As much as she enjoyed the dancing, and as much as she enjoyed the theatrical performance aspect, she hated the competitions. I wasn’t heartbroken when she said she was done. I spend a lot of time at the competitions being disgusted with other parents.

  4. This is why my daughter does archery. LOL

  5. Kitty Farmer:
    Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.


  6. 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.

    Pfff. You women get the craziest ideas in your pretty little heads sometimes. *ducks*

    Nothing quite showcases American values like fighting tooth and nail to preserve the right to parade our little girls around in preparation for a lifetime of being objectified.

  7. Yup. We should be embracing the sensibilities of a lot of other countries. Like Australia and their gun laws, for instance.

    • @Lisa For sure on the gun laws. In TX, their stance is kind of sickening. It puts everyone at risk (or as the NRA would say, it keeps everyone safe because EVERYONE can have a gun).

      • As a father of a 10 yo daughter I should be able to say something about this (not that anything has ever stopped me before) 🙂
        It is two distictly two different things to act and play princesses and fashion shows and then those pageant shows in which (usually chubby) mothers parade their plastic little girls. I have already faced the issues of self-image. Pretty enough, skinny enough, popular enough etc. It just breaks my heart to see the position little girls are put. I just want to hold her and tell her that she is just perfect…and hope that some of it sticks.

        In here there is basically no home-schooling so I cannot say anything else but if it is religiously motivated, then I am dead against it. It is paramount to child abuse and I cannot say anything good about parents who selfishly rob their children of many parts of education.

        “I see only with deep regret that God punishes so many of His children for their numerous stupidities, for which only He Himself can be held responsible; in my opinion, only His nonexistence could excuse Him.”
        — Albert Einstein

        • @saab93f I agree–it is tremendously hard for girls. They have self-image issues that boys don’t even think about. I do think the pageants are not for the children but for the parents and their ego. But, of course, same is true with a lot of activities parents push kids into…

  8. My daughter is the youngest of 4, with 3 older brothers. I thought she was going to turn out to be sparkly and prissy, but she has surprised me. She ‘s 15 & loves clothes & hair, but she also is starting to understand the value of hard work, including a little sweat. (She plays softball & mows the yard!) 😉 She has never expressed interest in pageants (YAY!) and I think I would have tried to discourage it if she had. I completely agree that they are training grounds for bitchy behaviour, and do nothing to build the self-esteem of anyone but the winner. In the immortal words of Ricky Bobby, “If you aren’t first, you’re last,” so everyone but the girl who is deemed “fairest of them all” goes home feeling like a loser, regardless of how well they performed or beautiful they looked. I don’t think that pageants need to be banned, but I would hope that we are evolved enough to realize that they have no redeeming value.

    • @Theresa I like this quote and it’s so true, even in class ranking: “In the immortal words of Ricky Bobby, “If you aren’t first, you’re last,” so everyone but the girl who is deemed “fairest of them all” goes home feeling like a loser, regardless of how well they performed or beautiful they looked.”

      I don’t think we need more legislation either; it would be nice if parents would just do “right by their kids.”

  9. Here’s some timeless gender neutral advice –

    The Big Kahuna (1999)
    Screenwriter(s): Roger Rueff

    Advice, Wasted on Youth

    The film’s final voice-over monologue (known as the “Wear Sunscreen” essay) before the credits was taken from a newspaper column by Mary Schmich, published by the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1997. The essay also appeared in lyric form in Baz Luhrmann’s 1998 music single, Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen). [The beginning and end of the monologue varied slightly from the original.] The three industrial lubricant salesmen, desperate Phil (Danny Devito), cynical and argumentative Larry (Kevin Spacey), and new guy Bob (Peter Facinelli), prepared to leave the hotel after a manufacturers’ convention.

    Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

    Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday. Do one thing every day that scares you. Sing. Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours. Floss. Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

    Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. Stretch. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t. Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

    Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

    Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly. Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

    Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

    Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85. Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth. But trust me on the sunscreen.

  10. Thanks for yet another thought provoking post Deb. What I love about trying to raise my kids to be freethinkers it that I really have to be careful about not pushing my agenda on to them. I don’t always succeed but I really try hard not to. I think the little girls in beauty pageants and the little boys pushed by dads to excessive competitiveness in sports are both examples of parents living vicariously through their children. If truth be told, it has more to do with the parent’s deep-seated insecurities. Kind of – “if I can’t live up to the insane idea of perfection I see in the media, I’ll make darn sure my kids do”. These poor parents are as much victims of the system as their kids are. The French seem to be quite a bit more relaxed about standards of “physical perfection” as a whole. We are all guilty of laughing at other nations who don’t demand the same kind of levels of physical perfection as the US does. We laugh at the British for their lack of orthodontic fanaticism, at the French for not being as fastidious about body hair removal as we are. I’m guilty along with everyone else!!

    • Good points, Anne. Those parents are just as much victims of the system, too, or surely they would not be subjecting their kids to those sorts of activities.

      And, yes, I know I’ve been part of that judging and criticism of citizens from other countries…

  11. Debbie, between this post and your last article, I thought of this video that fellow blogging friend (Victoria) posted on my blog this past weekend.
    “I do love little kittens.”

    • The Fast Show is one of my all-time favourites. Sarcasm and black humour can achieve so much 🙂
      There´s a regular character “Insecure woman”, who in one episode talked with her girlfriends about her considering whether she should buy a BMW 318iS with a 16-valve engine and continued with all the tech stuff. Then one man entered the room and all of a sudden she was like…”I don´t know anything about cars but was thinking whether the car should be red or blue…” 🙂

      • Konsta,

        I do love my beat up Benz. Mine is dated back to that fantastic German engineering and style. It’s black and the interior is shredded gray leather. I want to get covers for my seats, but I don’t want to do leather.

        The reason why some people have horrible issues with the transgender community is because we are obsessed with gender identity issues of our own. Two or three years ago, while my husband and I were still Christians, our youngest boy picked up a baby doll at the grocery store. (Do you all call it a co-op like the English do?) He wanted to take it home. I told him we’d buy it for him. My husband gave me that look of “oh, I don’t know”. It was a tiny doll of a baby boy and I didn’t see what the big deal was. I told my husband. “Oh, yeah cus’ he may learn something like kindness or gentleness or worst yet, how to be a good daddy!” Yeah, we took that baby home. And guess what? My little boy might have some stuffed animals in his room, but do you know what he ALWAYS asks for at bedtime? Yep, that cheap little baby doll from the grocery store. He’s five now and in kindergarten. We tuck him and our eight year old boy in their beds in their bedrooms and I have to kiss baby doll goodnight every time.

        We live in west Tennessee in the US and we’re just an odd family to our local community. Neither of my boys are into American football or baseball, everyone else pushes their sons to be involved in at least one of those. My oldest does soccer, but only to exercise and socialize. We understand that better now and try not to shame him at games or at home. We do tell him he needs to follow through with his commitment and at least try to listen to coach and help his teammates out. He’s an intellectual and can talk about Harry Potter, Greek mythology, science and history facts all day long. He’s an honor roll student, has been since preschool and he usually makes all As. Our youngest boy is extremely smart about birds and nature. He’s a big collector of rocks, sticks and feathers, yes, feathers. He’s also very understanding and a good listener and it’s no surprise that he has great comprehension skills. Both my boys take music lessons, the oldest electric guitar and the youngest piano. I’m not looking to raise clones of everyone else’s kids or of myself or my husband, I’m raising good human beings who are strong, empathetic and perceptive. I’m raising two little boys to be comfortable with themselves so that they won’t flip out when someone different comes along who is comfortable with his or her self.

        I believe our gender identity crisis has strengthened the divide not just between gay, straight and transgender, but also between men and women and boys and girls. I’m a woman co-parenting with my husband and we have the power to tear that wall down brick by brick by being compassionate and teaching our little boys the same.

      • Konsta- I’d like to say this doesn’t happen in “real life,” but sometimes women do “dumb themselves down.”

    • Ha! I love that. Charity! It also applies to the other post about women an education! Thanks for sharing it with me. I love kittens!

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