Child Pageants: Should they be legal? France Says No

We've all seen it - the terrible and terribly addicting reality TV shows that are continuously infiltrating our televisions. Some in particular that have become a cultural phenomenon are shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Both of these shows tell stories about the craziness of child pageants, from the bratty pre-tween girls to the mothers trying to live vicariously through them.

However, while child pageants may be a cultural phenomenon in the United States, within the past week Parliament has moved to ban child pageants in France for anyone under the age of 16. The bill must now be passed in the National Assembly in November before coming official French law. Pageant organizers may face up to 2 years in jail and a fine of 30,000 euros.

Chantal Jouanno, the lawmaker that wrote the amendment, believes that the children should focus on acquiring knowledge rather than fixating on physical appearance. "I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child," Jouanno states. She aimed the amendment towards protecting girls, explaining that, “When I asked an organizer why there were no mini-boy contests, I heard him respond that boys would not lower themselves like that.”

The amendment bluntly states “Organizing beauty competitions for children under 16 is banned.” It does not specify whether or not the law applies to online photo contests.

Michael Le Parmentier, organizer of the “Mini Miss” pageants in France since 1989, said that he is disappointed that the draft law includes an overall ban. The Socialist government’s equal rights minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, suggested that the Socialists may push for a compromise when the bill goes to the lower house.

Will such a law ever make its way to the United States legislative system? It’s up for debate. Many agree with the ban, believing that child pageants should not be sexualizing girls at such a young age. Those that disagree with the ban believe that child pageants are not a government issue, but a social issue and family issue. Some have suggested compromise, such as not allowing children to enter pageants until they are at a more appropriate age where they can make decisions for themselves, such as 9 or 10 years of age.

Outlawing child pageants is a slippery slope when the government starts dictating what activities are available or unavailable to children, especially in the United States. We do not have to worry about such laws in our legislative system quite yet, but the growing popularity of child pageants in the media does cause one to question its repercussions. In a society where women already feel pressured to look a certain way, are child pageants worth the entertainment?