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French feminist politician faces criticism for posing on Playboy cover

French Secretary of State Marlene Schiappa poses upon arrival prior to the 48th edition of the Cesar Film Awards ceremony at the Olympia venue in Paris on February 24,2023
French Secretary of State Marlene Schiappa poses upon arrival prior to the 48th edition of the Cesar Film Awards ceremony at the Olympia venue in Paris on February 24,2023 Copyright Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP
Copyright Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP
By Johan Bodinier with AFP
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After strong criticism from the prime minister, France's government appears to be softening its position on the Playboy interview.

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The latest Playboy magazine hasn't even gone on sale yet -- but it already sparked controversy.

France's Secretary of State for Social Economy and Associations Marlène Schiappa has caused a stir with a 12-page interview on women's rights in the latest edition of the storied publication. 

Although the magazine has a reputation for nudity in its pictorials, Schiappa is “dressed up in a long white dress” in all photos, according to her office.

But this did not please her boss, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who promptly called Schiappa to tell her the interview was “inappropriate”.

French television BFMTV reported a call between PM Borne and Secretary Schiappa on Saturday.

A cover creating dissent

In the interview, Marlène Schiappa, a long-term feminist, talks about women's and LGBT rights -- at a time when France is being rocked by civil unrest over controversial government pension reforms

And this did not sit well with Prime Minister Borne, who has reportedly called Schiappa to say that it was “not at all appropriate, especially in the current period".

The PM's office confirmed her comments, first reported by French television channel BFMTV. 

The opposition quickly got involved in the discussion, denouncing the Playboy interview and photoshoot as showing a lack of respect for French people, with left-wing leader stating in a tweet that France was going off rails.

But for Madame Schiappa, "women are free in France", and she wrote on Twitter that "defending the right of women to have control of their bodies, that's everywhere and all the time."

French Secretary of State Schiappa defends herself following Playboy cover outrage.

A change in rhetoric for the government

On Tuesday, several ministers and members of the French government stated their support for Marlène Schiappa's fight for women and LGBT rights -- a softening of the previous statements from the prime minister.

The French government's spokesperson Olivier Véran told journalists on Tuesday that although Schiappa's communication techniques were sometimes disruptive, they were always “efficient and sincere":

French government spokesperson Olivier Véran during a press conference at the Elysée Palace
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