You've probably heard Maurice Chevalier singing Thank Heaven for Little Girls... it's a favorite for the father/daughter dance at weddings. The French singer croons about how delightful little girls so quickly grow into beguiling women who will bat their eyes and break your heart. Yup they do grow up fast, but little girls aren't women... they're children and shouldn't be prematurely 'womanized'.
A few days ago, in my blog post Misleading Lolita, I discussed how we're closing the gap between childhood and womanhood by sexualizing little girls. I'm not the only one concerned about this trend. Today I read that the French Senate has voted to ban beauty pageants for girls under 16... anyone violating this rule could face stiff fines and up to 2 years in prison. The legislation has not yet been adopted, but the proposal sends a clear message about exploitation of girls. The bills author, legislator Chantal Jouanno states this is a women's rights issue.
While entering children in beauty pageants, dressed in makeup, high heels, and pageant clothing, may not seem like a global concern, it speaks to the larger issue of child exploitation. Certainly worldwide, the sexualization of young girls results in abhorrent practices such as rape, trafficking, and child brides.
I applaud the French for the courage to take a stand on this women's rights issue. They're not demonizing beauty pageants; but they are sending a message that these events should be age appropriate and the participants should be old enough that they can understand and consent to whether or not they wish to participate. It will be interesting to see what happens with the proposed legislation.