France is moving to ban beauty pageants for girls under-16. Hear, hear says Anna Hunter.

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If Honey-Boo-Boo ever pays a visit to La France, she better lie low. Mama June and Sugar Bear should probably go undercover too. This isn’t a move against low-quality reality television, although that ought to be added to Parliament’s agenda at some point; instead France has moved to ban child beauty pageants.

In a proposed amendment to the bill of women’s rights, the measure was approved on Tuesday evening by 197 votes to 146. The ban must now be passed by the National Assembly before it can become law, but pageant organisers should probably hotfoot it down to the Job Centre sharpish; former Sports Minister and author of the report Chantal Jouanno isn’t messing around.

Entitled “Against Hyper-Sexualisation: A New Fight For Equality”, the report recommends an outright ban on beauty pageants for children younger than 16, with organisers and parents facing up to two years in prison or a fine of  €30,000 (£25,000). The bill also put forward other measures, such as a ban on child-size adult clothing such as high heels and padded bras.

Ms Jouanno, who has been campaigning on the issue since 2011, expressed her concern that children, and especially young girls, are being presented as ‘sexual candy’. Her proposal was pushed forward following the global outcry provoked by photos published in Vogue magazine in 2010 that featured 10-year-old Thylane Loubry Blondeau and two other young girls posing and pouting suggestively whilst wearing heavy make up, tight dresses, high heels and expensive jewellery. According to Ms Jouanno, such presentations of children are ‘contrary to the dignity of the human being’, and she stressed that:

“We mustn’t tell our daughters, even when they are tiny, that all that matters is the way they look”

In terms of the pageants themselves, Ms Jouanno stated that:

“We are shining lights on their physical appearance. I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child”

Whilst the bill is undoubtedly harsh and has attracted criticism from other ministers for being unrealistic, Jouanno is making a bold move in a positive direction. Of course, many little girls play with Barbie dolls, but by no means should they compete to become them in a tournament more often than not reigned over by neurotic mothers and profit-hungry organisers. Challenges within The Hunger Games could be deemed kinder and more constructive than some of the costumes and pointless charades that these youngsters are put through, and the after-affects must be almost as harrowing. To judge a girl by her looks, body and attractiveness at such a young age re-instils society’s evaluation of women as aesthetic ornaments, and more worryingly brainwashes girls into thinking that their physical appearance is what will get them far (or not) in life. Cruelly, they haven’t even begun on their journey to womanhood; yet pre-pubescent pageants (or any looks-based pageants at all for that matter) measure and weigh girls’ worth on the prettiness of their face or swing of their yet-to-develop hips. How wrong is that?

Jouanno was a karate champion in her youth; the Glossy team delighted in a game of rounders and a good old-fashioned recorder jamming session when the opportunity arose. This is what little girls should be enjoying; save the heels for later. We still can’t walk in them anyway. That’s not what being a woman’s about.