We are not here to lead a battle between the sexes
September 18, 2013 9:11 AM   Subscribe

France's upper house of parliament, the Sénat has passed a women's equality bill, which aims to redress some of the persistent inequalities between men and women, in the sphere of pay, jobs and parental leave.

One clause of the new law getting a lot of media attraction is the ban on all beauty contests for girls 16 years or younger.

The Senate approved the pageant ban measure 197-146 overnight, as an amendment. The legislation now goes lower house of parliament for further debate and another vote.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (38 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fingers crossed. Good on you, France.
posted by emjaybee at 9:15 AM on September 18, 2013


Vive la France!
posted by bearwife at 9:30 AM on September 18, 2013


Any guesses as to the likelihood of this passing?
posted by Ardiril at 9:57 AM on September 18, 2013


You can't show your body, but you must show your face.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:09 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't show your body, but you must show your face.

Yes, that's about the size of it. Western society generally expects clothing. Hiding one's face is associated with violence or deception in an almost instinctual way. Our brains are particularly good at identifying faces, even when they're not actually faces. Children are frightened by clowns because they occupy the uncanny valley of faces.

That there happens to be a niche cultural belief that women (and only women?) should cover their faces in public clashes strongly with the fact that outside of extreme winter conditions, people don't wear face masks in public unless they're burglars or ninjas.
posted by explosion at 11:05 AM on September 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


> ban on all beauty contests for girls 16 years or younger

Hell yeah.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:29 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


First link goes to an article on the banning of children's beauty pageants. Interessant!
posted by mareli at 11:34 AM on September 18, 2013


Sounds good on paper....
Let's see how this plays out.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:40 AM on September 18, 2013


The French have learned from our mistakes

'Toddlers & Tiaras' eventually leads to 'Honey Boo-Boo'

posted by mmrtnt at 11:57 AM on September 18, 2013


I love how the French do not seem to hold the "right to be stupid" ever so dear.
posted by amanda at 12:01 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't show your body...

Can children consent to show their bodies?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:09 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The paternity leave thing is pretty interesting too:

The key measure of the minister’s attempts to combat inequality is a reform aimed at encouraging more fathers in France to take parental leave.

From July 2014 parents with just one child, who are currently entitled to six months leave, will be permitted to take another six months as long as it is the second parent – normally the father – who takes the option.

For parents with two or more children the period of leave will remain three years but only on condition that six months of it are taken up by the second parent. If not then the legal period will be cut down to two years and six months.

posted by inertia at 12:56 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Promoting equality by banning girls from an activity they may want to do, eh?
posted by Drinky Die at 1:08 PM on September 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are <16-year-old boys encouraged to do beauty pageants?

Shame they're not being taught about an activity boys may want to do. /sarcasm, eh
posted by fraula at 1:42 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've seen some of my (stay at home mother) french friends on facebook mocking the paternal leave idea as 'never going to happen' and 'basically just means there is still six months paid leave' with a side of 'wtf good is it to have my husband who can actually get a good income take time off so we can live on the shitty job I can get?'.
posted by jacalata at 2:02 PM on September 18, 2013


Isn't the paternity leave also paid? And three years is amazingly generous. No wonder there's a problem with women and jobs in France.

I know that here, where the father must take at least 5 of the weeks, every single father I know took those weeks. I have no idea what happens in same-sex relationships, but I assume that 5 weeks is reserved for each parent, and the rest of the year can be split as desired.
posted by jeather at 2:18 PM on September 18, 2013


Posted on Suffrage Day (in New Zealand), and this year it marks the 120th anniversary of New Zealand becoming the first self-governing nation in the world to grant women the right to vote. But it shows there is still a long way to go.
posted by Metro Gnome at 2:27 PM on September 18, 2013


Isn't the paternity leave also paid?
Yes, but presumably less than the dad's existing salary so a net reduced income for the family. Those that I know are fairly young and didn't really have jobs before having kids, so don't have an existing career to go back to and are typically fairly strongly 'natural parenting good/daycare bad' style anyway. I disagree with a lot of their positions, but I thought this was an interesting perspective to share.
posted by jacalata at 2:36 PM on September 18, 2013


Are 16-year-old boys encouraged to do beauty pageants?

I think in France they are encouraged to hit a ball into a net with their head or something. I don't really see it as a more or less serious pursuit than wanting to perform or express oneself or compete via a polished presentation of beauty. That should be open to anyone who is interested and it's a shame interested boys are discouraged. (Though a few have competed, and many boys and men will be involved in activities like modeling.)

Of course, anyone who allows their children to participate in an activity that focuses strongly on developing a particular personal skill or trait of course has to be careful to put the importance of that trait in proper perspective for their children so the participation does not become problematic. A lot of parents fail at that and society puts more emphasis on some traits than they deserve, but taking away the access children have to those activities does not seem like the best possible response.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:44 PM on September 18, 2013


Yeah I'm happy there are attempts at improvement, but I do not think gestating and birthing and lactating and the bonds that result are -generally and with exceptions- the same as parents who do not do this. (And yes I am adopted and am plugged into the adoption community- yes adoptees are allowed to have their own individual opinions on this.) This isn't really a "men" vs "women" issue, a trans man who creates, births, and lactates might have a stronger desire to continue that bond and artificially breaking it for the sake of"equality" seems not only absurd but harmful.

It freaks me out as societal trend because women already have so many pressures trying to force them into, and I'm not actually all that interested a women's right movement doing the same thing-- shoving women into behaving exactly the same as men and not being allowed to have different views about how they want to mother that might include things like being a sahm for a while... and GASP liking that.

But if it comes with a general trend in better protections for families that will hopefully sort itself out.

I think women's right's movement has put so much emphasis on MEN AND WOMEN ARE EXACTLY THE SAME- EVERYTHING IS SOCIALIZATION AND BIRTHING CHILDREN IS EXACTLY THE SAME AS NOTBIRTHING CHILDREN that it gets weird, and kind of nonsensical but it's because any breaking down of that mantra erodes some of the rights that were fought withthat mantra.

It's like the being gay is biological argument-- only in reverse. (If you're not sure what I mean by that email me cause it will create a tangent). I mean what if there are actual biological differences to being male vs female? I mean sure and hormonal variations such that some men might even have more "female" biological features and the opposite for males and yes it's all gray and murky and subject to cultural influence- but I really think the concept that being a female (or a trans man) who births and nurses a child is exactly the same as a male who doesn't is getting kind of to denial of reality. I mean, a lot of adoptive parents do kangaroo care and induce lactation and do extra nurturing because it's become more ok to acknowledge interfering with that bond might not be ideal.
posted by xarnop at 2:53 PM on September 18, 2013


BTW I want families to get to make their own decisions about this and the father can be the ideal person to do this-- I just don't like that being forced on families as "equality" there should be a choice.
posted by xarnop at 2:55 PM on September 18, 2013


All this paternity leave stuff works fine in Scandinavia, so at minimum it'll get used by Germans, Scandinavians, etc. who happen to live in France.

In fact, I'd expect paternity might prove most effective in countries with more gender, pro-family, etc. discrimination specifically because it removes a major reason to promote men over women, and erodes a major reason to promote married men over single men.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:05 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Promoting equality by banning girls from an activity they may want to do, eh

They can do it when they're 17, and then for the rest of their lives. There are many other activities girls can do. They'll be fine.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:59 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are many other activities girls can do. They'll be fine.

That's a terrible excuse for banning them from doing something, and not one with a great history of expanding opportunities. The kids that want to participate in pageants and express themselves that way should not be told that that desire is wrong for them. It's a completely arbitrary line that separates it from other forms of performance or competition, and one informed (in the US at least) by a major tabloid crime story and reality television that highlights the worst of the activity. You could find stories like that and parents like that in any activity kids engage in.

The stereotypes about women who participate in pageants are not representative of the whole. Miss America appears to be an intelligent, talented, well rounded individual who is a pretty damn good role model for kids. There is no reason not to let them do a child appropriate version of what she did and compete.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:22 PM on September 19, 2013


Yang also notes that runner-up Crystal Lee’s platform was based around women in technology and was an intern at Dropbox as well as a Stanford graduate. She is also working with a start-up company developing a transportation method for vaccines that doesn’t require refrigeration. While the function and message sent by beauty pageants in and of themselves is worth discussion, it’s at least encouraging that this year’s top two finishers are not only women of color, but involved in STEM fields.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:23 PM on September 19, 2013


> There is no reason not to let them do a child appropriate version of what she did and compete

That's the core of our difference. I can't imagine any way to have a child-appropriate beauty contest.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:36 PM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why not? If we break it down to essentials it all seems to be things were are already willing to judge kids on in other contexts.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:41 PM on September 19, 2013


The essentials of child beauty-pageants? Surely it has just one essential feature: adults lining children up on a stage and telling them which one the adults find most attractive.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:51 PM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Note that France did not ban beauty contests per se - they banned children from participating. Count me in as one who doesn't think that beauty contests are child-appropriate. If grown women want to enter beauty contests, that's their business. If a girl wants to enter a beauty contest, she can wait until she's 16. There's lots of things that people have to wait until they are adults to do. Beauty contests should be one of them, IMO.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:29 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm fine with the beauty pageant ban that prevents importing child pageants from the U.S. I'm fine with their ban on religious symbols in schools too. There are enough gender issues in France without importing other people's tricks for molding children to their cultural ideal of gender oppression.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:54 PM on September 19, 2013


The essentials of child beauty-pageants? Surely it has just one essential feature: adults lining children up on a stage and telling them which one the adults find most attractive.

They are judged based on several creative aspects of presentation including the fashion, make-up, hair, etc. If you think there is no creativity worthy of competition involved in that work it seems an overly dismissive attitude towards things girls are often very interested in. There are also things like talent competitions involved. There isn't much going on here you wouldn't find in a dancing competition. (Or, adults lining up a bunch of kids just to see how graceful they are!)
posted by Drinky Die at 11:09 PM on September 19, 2013


> They are judged based on several creative aspects of presentation including the fashion, make-up, hair, etc

OK, so adults put makeup and wigs on the the children before lining them up and telling them which one other adults find the most attractive. I don't see how that's an improvement.

As far as the talent competition: don't elementary schools in France put on talent shows, aren't there parades, don't parents go to piano recitals? What children are there who want to show off their skills but won't be able to unless they're in beauty pageants? Other than those whose skill is "entering child beauty-pageants," that is.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:19 AM on September 20, 2013


Can't adults just dress up some dolls in outfits, makeup and wigs and parade them around and then decide who is the prettiest?

There are plenty of things little girls might be interested in that they aren't allowed to do until they are older.

And sure, there are probably some 12 year old girls who could drive a car better than some people I have seen on the road, but as a society, we've decided it's better to not let 7th graders drive. I have no problem lumping participating in a beauty pageant with things like driving, getting a tattoo or a piercing, getting a credit card, and a whole host of other things that kids are probably interested in. The consequences of doing all those things are not all negative, either, but I can definitely see the argument that it's something children shouldn't participate in until they are older and able to make that decision for themselves.
posted by inertia at 12:26 PM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, so adults put makeup and wigs on the the children before lining them up and telling them which one other adults find the most attractive. I don't see how that's an improvement.

Can't the adults just put on a costume and do a dance or use dolls, why do they have to see which kid are most graceful? Well, because it's an activity for kids and they often want to participate and have fun, positive experiences as a result.

As far as the talent competition: don't elementary schools in France put on talent shows, aren't there parades, don't parents go to piano recitals? What children are there who want to show off their skills but won't be able to unless they're in beauty pageants?


Who said it's the only way? Look, you're arguing for a ban. You are arguing for, "I personally dislike this activity so much that I have decided that law enforcement should put a halt to it if anyone tries to engage in it. I have decided that every kid and parent that participates it is wrong and shameful and engaging in self harm." You have a higher burden of proof for harm then, "Well, they can do the exact same thing I want to ban elsewhere!"

Every little girl that might take pride in cultivating a personal appearance and want to compete on that basis should not be told that this is wrong and only something that can be done as an adult. And for boys? I mean wow, the patriarchy spends an extreme amount of effort making sure they know doing so is shameful and wrong and something only a "sissy" would do. The patriarchy is assholes who are wrong.

It's a perfectly decent, child appropriate activity as long as kids know how to put their participation in a proper context. It is fine to try and be beautiful, it is less fine to define yourself solely around that trait. You should try and raise kids who understand they should try and be well rounded people. If Miss America 2014 is a guide, that seems to be the modern pageant ideal.

Anyway, I think I have defended this as much as I can. Don't want to suck the air out of the parental leave topic more going forward. I've never watched a pageant or felt an urge to defend them in conversation before. I don't have real insight into the psychology of how it impacts participants. I am almost certainly deep into mansplaining territory at this point in fact, so sorry if I have done so. That said, I have deep skepticism over the idea of banning things. I feel they should only be deployed after softer touch regulation has been seriously attempted. I got into a similar conversation on MeFi recently over the large soda ban in NYC. I hate sugary soda, but the ban just pissed me off so much because I am sure there are plenty of healthy people much thinner than me that fit a large soda in as an occasional treat. I don't think it's fair to inconvenience them because of an ineffective policy attempt to fix my fat ass.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:35 PM on September 20, 2013


(Also, when it comes to piercing or a tatoo we outsource the decision to the parents to make sure it is an informed choice, we don't ban it. Same with credit cards, if a teenager is authorized/cosigned by the parent they can hold one. Bans are for clearly dangerous things like alcohol use or driving that a kid simply can't participate in with a reasonable expectation of safety and an appropriate level of responsibility. If you can make an argument pageant participation is in that category I would listen, but I haven't heard that case convincingly before.)
posted by Drinky Die at 2:43 PM on September 20, 2013


> Also, when it comes to piercing or a tatoo we outsource the decision to the parents to make sure it is an informed choice, we don't ban it

I don't know about France but where I live nobody under age 18 can legally get a tattoo, with or without their parents' permission. There are all sorts of things that children are required to do, or are prevented from doing, even if their parents would be okay with it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:06 PM on September 20, 2013


Ah, sorry, I misread your comment. We agree that there are things children shouldn't be able to do, even if their parents give permission. We disagree about child beauty contests being inherently harmful.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:10 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm in PA and the law as I understand it requires parental consent for a tatoo, but you are right a lot of states don't allow it at all. More than I expected.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:15 PM on September 20, 2013


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