French ban on child beauty pageants? Merci
By Thomas Hargrove September 20, 2013 7:18PM
3-9-07 Staff mug shot of Herb Gould. photo by Jean Lachat/Sun-Times
Updated: October 22, 2013 6:10AM
Fanned by fears that their sex-obsessed society is producing “hypersexual” young girls, the French Senate has voted to ban adults from entering a child under age 16 into a beauty pageant.
The measure, approved in Paris on Wednesday on a 197-146 vote, would set criminal penalties of two years in prison and 30,000 euros — roughly $40,500 — in fines in an effort to protect girls from becoming sexualized too early. The measure next goes to the National Assembly for further debate.
The bill was written by conservative French lawmaker Chantal Jouanno, who said the “hypersexualization that touches children between 6 and 12 years old” strikes at the foundation of French equal-rights laws. The ban was an amendment to broader legislation intended to increase gender equality.
Jouanno was commissioned by the French health ministry in 2011 to report on hypersexualization of children following outrage at a Paris Vogue magazine photo display that showed 10-year-old model Thylane LÈna-Rose Blondeau striking a sultry pose while lying in bed and dressed in slinky adult clothing.
Lawmakers also complained that some French girls were reporting to public school wearing high heels, padded bras and makeup.
Although many of the loudest critics of the Vogue photo shoot came from our side of the Atlantic, the French Senate’s vote was widely seen there as anti-American.
Child beauty pageants have been the stuff of a major U.S. movie — “Little Miss Sunshine” — and reality TV shows like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Toddlers & Tiaras.”
Video clips of pageant performances by 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey went viral worldwide immediately after her 1996 murder in Boulder, Colo.
But crossing the line on child sexuality has long been a controversy for both countries.
French film director Louis Malle produced the American-underwritten 1978 film “Pretty Baby,” which detailed the life of a New Orleans child prostitute played by 12-year-old actress Brooke Shields, who appeared nude in the film.
The most common reaction this week by Americans who’ve posted comments on Twitter and on blogs about the proposed ban on child beauty pageants has been to tell French lawmakers: “Merci.”
Thomas Hargrove is a national correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.