A ban on beauty pageants for children under the age of 16 passed the senate in France, as reported earlier today by France 24, CNN, The Huffingtong Post, NBC World News, The New York Times, and BBC News report. The ban was introduced to the senate as part of a broader bill concerning women's rights, and it includes a possible two year jail sentence and 30,000 euro fine for any adult who breaks it. This action has yet to be voted on by the French parliamentary lower house, the National Assembly, but it has still sparked a controversy in France and abroad. Americans have been quick to speak out on both sides of the ban, and some feel the U.S. should also address child pageantry. What comes through the argument most clearly for this Examiner, however, is a much larger societal issue.
A comment made on CNN's Facebook page by Wynn Westmoreland, an Atlanta-based woman who has appeared in pageants since the sixth grade, rings closer to the truth than much of the debate. "It's not a government issue,” stated Westmoreland. “It's a social issue and it's a family issue."
Westmoreland places the responsibility back where it belongs, with the family. Banning child pageantry might end the pageants that take things too far, but it would also end the pageants that focus on talent and raising self-esteem over physicality or objectification. A ban might end the pageantry, but it doesn't dismantle the attitude or thinking that created the problem in the first place. The ultimate responsibility parents have is to guide their children through life and teach them what it means to be a functional part of this world. Is this a responsibility that is being ignored in the United States?
America does not need a ban, it needs a mirror. With the popularity of television shows such as "Toddlers and Tiaras," and characters such as Honey Boo Boo, it becomes apparent that the problem is not pageantry. The problem is ourselves. The parents who subject their children to the kind of treatment exemplified in documentaries such as HBO's 2001 "Living Dolls" are certainly a big part of what is wrong, and we should address the mentality that might cause parents to objectify their child in such a way. We should also address why so many Americans feed into this system. By doing so we are reinforcing to ourselves time and again that degrading behavior is worth fifteen minutes of fame. We are also showing the world, once again, that we will not only degrade ourselves but also our children. Is it really worth it? Only time will tell.