The French Upper House of Parliament just voted to ban beauty pageants for girls younger than 16. The reason? Many are concerned that young girls are being hypersexualized and objectified. They protest public scripting and reinforcement that a girls’ worth comes largely from her looks- which by the way, aren’t the looks of children, but the looks of adult women stuck in children’s bodies. This is extraordinary for France considering the fact that they are the epicenter of fashion and that they take pride in being sexually “progressive” with peep shows located next to grocery stores and Starbucks cafes.
My hat’s off to them. How is it that we, who champion equality between the sexes and pour millions every year to educate our children’s minds, keep these ridiculous pageants alive? I think that I might have a clue. We think they’re entertaining, harmless and (as mothers of the tikes might say) a good way for girls to boost their self confidence. If these are entertaining, then shame on us. Many who watch Honey Boo Boo, I believe, do so because they think the show is funny. And others who tune in to Toddlers and Tiaras would protest that they think the contests are cute and just fun to watch. Let’s tease these arguments apart a bit.
First of all, is it morally acceptable to watch a small child on television in order to laugh at her? It’s one thing to laugh at an entertainer’s jokes, but I don’t think that’s why Honey Boo Boo is on television. As a parent, I would abhor millions of people laughing at my child. Second, the idea that we watch because the pageants are cute, harmless and entertaining. Who are we trying to kid? Every American adult with an IQ over 80 knows what television eventually does to female entertainers- they make them sexy. We just witnessed Miley Cyrus make a fool of herself with an obnoxious attempt to shock us old people by acting like a prostitute. Remember, when she was young, she was the cute Hannah Montana. She started out as a nice girl who wore age appropriate clothes. Over time, she decided she needed more attention.
Pageant girls start out at a more provocative level than Miley did. They wear frilly dresses (OK) and then cake their faces with their mothers’ makeup. They wear adult high heels and learn to walk like a sultry Vogue model. At least Miley got to wear jeans on television when she was 13. Not to look like a fuddy-dud, let’s track these pageant girls a year or two into their “careers.” The heels get higher, the walks more seductive, the clothes sexier and pretty soon, they learn that looking sexy gets more attention.
Child beauty pageants might look cute to the passing viewer, but make no mistake, once girls step onto the stage, they walk on a slippery slope with a gentle incline. Each girl will end up looking too old, too sexy and garner attention for both. She will quickly learn that attention makes her feel good and liked. So what will she do? Push the envelope just a bit more to attract more eyes so that she will feel even better about herself. And that is very, very sad.
When, America, are we going to get sick and tired of our obsession with sex- even to the point where it hurts our little girls? Are we so empty that we have resorted to finding the sexualization and objectification of little girls fun? Come on, let’s follow France just this once.