The very word “French” has its connotations, of cancans and certain kinds of kisses and naughty movies, not to mention postcards. So who would have imagined that the French senate would approve a ban on beauty pageants for girls under 16, citing the danger of hyper-sexualization of children?
The same country that brought us benchmarks in intolerance, like the ban on face coverings for Muslim women and virulent outbreaks of anti-Semitism, has taken an enlightened stand against the exploitation of young children.
And yes, that is an opinion, although it seems to me self-evident. When you put a 6-year-old in high heels, a feathered dress and rhinestone earrings; when you slather on makeup, dye her hair, apply fake eyelashes and hair extensions; when you train her to affect sexy poses and sign her up for dozens of beauty pageants a year— then, yes, you are exploiting the child. And you are telling her that she isn’t good enough the way she is, that she needs to enhance the attributes with which she was born.
France doesn’t come close to the level of exploitation we enjoy here in the USA. In America, child beauty contests are a $5 billion-a-year business involving thousands of contestants and some 250,000 events. The industry is complemented and encouraged by various reality shows like “Toddlers & Tiaras,” “Little Miss Perfect” and the immensely popular “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” I won’t talk about these shows other than to say they encourage the mistreatment of very young children, particularly girls, as sexual objects.
Some parents argue that their children learn self-confidence by participating in beauty contests; that the experience helps them mature. They say that all the way to the bank. In print interviews and on TV, pageant mothers, especially, are transparently ambitious and merciless in the way they manipulate and program their daughters. Some images of the little girls are truly grotesque, featuring 3-year-olds in bikinis and so much makeup that they look like mannequins.