While Miss America is Subjected to Racial Slurs, French Senate Outlaws Beauty Pageants For Kids

Judging children under 16 on their physical appearance in beauty contests is now a crime under French law.

The French Senate has voted to ban beauty pageants for children under 16 in an effort to protect young girls from “hyper sexualisation” too early in life, France’s The Localreported.

Under the new laws, anyone who organizes or enters a child under the age of 16 into a pageant may now face up to two years imprisonment and a fine of up to €30,000 ($40,000 USD).

The Senate backed the move by 196-146 votes as a amendment to a law on women’s rights proposed by conservative lawmaker Senator Chantal Jouanno, author of “Against Hyper-Sexualisation: A New Fight for Equality”"

 “Let’s not let our daughters think from such a young age that they will be judged according to their appearance. Let’s not let commercial interest impact on social interest,” Jouanno told the Senate.

However, not all were in favor of the move with Michel Le Parmentier who has organized the “mini-Miss” pageants in France since 1989 saying that regulations rather than a ban would have been a more appropriate solution.

Beauty contests in France and worldwide have been rife with controversy and subject to public outrage in recent months following a number of incidents including a contest dethroned for posing in semi-naked photographs; a Vogue magazine cover which featured a provocative image of a 10-year-old girl and the recent disappearance of a beauty queen and her mother days before she was to compete in a competition.

Such pageants which involve dressing girls up to look like adults with extreme hair and makeup have been criticized for sending a negative message to young girls – namely that they are sexual beings that should be judged by their physical appearance. 

Furthermore, advertising and marketing campaigns have been guilty of promoting children as sexual objects with some designers even selling lingerie for girls as young as 4.

Yet, the problem is not isolated only to child beauty contests.  This week, the newly crowned Miss America, Nina Davuluri, was subject to numerous cruel and racial taunts on social media based on her physical appearance – that she was the first woman of Indian descent to with the pageant, USA Todayreported.

The 24-year-old was referred to as “the arab”, while at least one commentator called her a terrorist.  Such an incident raises another concern with the Miss America and similar beauty contests which is how female 'accomplishments' are inextricably linked to physical beauty in our society.  

While all the Miss America contestants are arguably smart, educated and talented women, they’re reduced to sex objects under a glassy façade of selecting a ‘role model’ to represent ‘American womanhood’, as Equality for Women lamented:

“Here's the problem with Miss America/Miss USA: remove the college degrees, charitable endeavors, advocacy efforts, and otherwise wonderful personality traits....

...and what you still have is a "tradition" that tells young women and girls that their success will forever be scaled on how conventionally beautiful they are, the sparkle and sheen of their ball-gowns, and how well they strut in stilettos and a bikini for a panel of judges that assign them role-model-worthiness based on that,” the feminist community Facebook group said.

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018