Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, the child beauty pageant contestant made famous on the TLC reality series "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," may have millions of fans — but don't go looking for any in the French Parliament.
The government earlier this week passed a sweeping women's rights law that includes language banning beauty pageants for children younger than 16. The measure, created as an effort to "protect girls from being sexualized too early," comes with a stiff penalty for anyone going against it: $40,000 in fines and up to two years in prison.
"The foundations of equal rights are threatened by the hyper-sexualization that touches children ... between 6 and 12 years old," conservative lawmaker Chantal Jouanno, who authored the amendment, told the AP
. "At this age, you need to concentrate on acquiring knowledge. Yet with mini-Miss competitions and other demonstrations, we are fixing the projectors on their physical appearance. I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child."
While child beauty pageants have been around for quite some time in the U.S., the scene is currently exploding thanks to reality series like "Honey Boo Boo" and "Toddlers in Tiaras." The season two finale of "Boo Boo" drew an average of 2.3 million viewers
, its largest audience yet. But while it may seem like harmless entertainment, critics say serious injury is being done to children who grow up believing beauty trumps everything else.
"Toddler beauty pageants set a superficial expectation about what makes someone beautiful – that beauty is primarily about your pose, your smile, your hair, and the clothes you wear. Self-worth should not be tied to competitions," childhood behavioral health psychologist Dr. Mike Bishop told Fox News in 2010
. "Toddlers are not old enough to make an informed decision as to whether they should compete. Nor are they able to separate the competition from reality, which can make participation even more damaging to their self-esteem."
France's new legislation will now go to the lower house of parliament for further debate and another vote.
"At this age, you need to concentrate on acquiring knowledge," lawmaker Jouanno added
. "Yet with mini-Miss competitions and other demonstrations, we are fixing the projectors on their physical appearance. I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child."
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