Thank you so much for your comments on “My daughter is a Blessing not a Curse,” post a few days ago. It is terribly disheartening to learn about the perils still suffered by our gender.
Today’s post, while not a life-or-death issue as is happening in Pakistan, is still appalling.
We’re going to focus on beauty pageants for children, an issue before the French Parliament. Last week, the French Senate voted to ban beauty pageants for children under 16. The measure still needs the approval of Lower Parliament, and that vote is still a few weeks away. Violators, most likely pushy parents and pageant organizers, would be fined up to 30,000 euros and/or two years in prison. That may seem harsh, but is it really?
Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at this outright – and in our opinion – blatant form of child abuse.
The first child beauty pageant on record was organized as the “May Queen Festival” in England’s Whitelands College in 1880 by John Ruskin, an art critic and renowned historian. The idea was to have little girls parade in their finest while judges chose the most likeable and loveable of them all. One tiny glitch learned years later. According to Harvard University psychologist Hilary Levey Friedman and others, the esteemed Mr. Ruskin was a peadophile. Here is a little excerpt from a letter he wrote to his doctor in 1886:
“I like my girls from ten to sixteen—allowing of 17 or 18 as long as they’re not in love with anybody but me.—I’ve got some darlings of 8—12—14—just now, and my Pigwiggina here—12—who fetches my wood and is learning to play my bells.”
“Pigwiggina” was the term of so-called endearment he used for his “playmate,” Jane Anne Wilkinson, a local child who looked after pigs. Poor Jane Anne.
Apparently, Ruskin’s attention on the appearance of young girls did not deter parents from dolling up their daughters to be gawked at by strangers. Hundreds flocked to the contest in hopes their darling would be crowned the May Queen.
Dreams of May Queens sailed overseas and “Baby Parades” attracted up to 30,000 spectators a time at venues in Asbury Park and Hoboken, NJ, and Coney Island in Brooklyn. Soon child beauty contests were annual events at county fairs across the United States. One is even the subject of one of Thomas Edison’s first movies. Pageants were an unavoidable fact of American life until the polio epidemic discouraged clusters of children in the 1950s. Then Jonas Salk discovered the vaccine in 1955, pageants resurfaced, and “Toddlers and Tiaras” a hit reality show on TNT, begins its sixth season.
(Full disclosure: My publicist once judged a beautiful baby contest. Her entries, like those of the other peon judges, were brushed aside for the head Selectmen’s picks. The contest has since been scrapped for being in such poor taste.)
So there’s a little more history than you bargained for about pageantry
What prompted the issue before French Parliament was a 2010 layout in the French Vogue which featured a 10-year-old beauty pageant winner overly done up with makeup and a provocative wardrobe which included lingerie. Until researching this piece, my pub and I had no idea lingerie was designed for six year olds. We have yet to find the right words to comment on this.
The language of the amendment says it best, that pageantry encourages girls to focus solely on their looks and the “hyper-sexualization” of minors.
We’ll follow the measure as it navigates it way around the French lawmakers, and report back. Thanks for reading, xo LMA