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France: Female students urged to dress 'provocatively' to protest sexist dress code

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By Alice Tidey
A classroom in Bischheim, outside Strasbourg, eastern France, Tuesday, Sept.1, 2020.
A classroom in Bischheim, outside Strasbourg, eastern France, Tuesday, Sept.1, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias   -  

Girls in French high schools were on Monday invited to dress "provocatively" to denounce sexism.

The #Lundi14Septembre (#Monday14September) hashtag was launched on social platforms after several female pupils complained they were refused entry to their high schools over the past few days because their clothes were judged to be "indecent", according to French media.

Messages posted online called for female pupils to dare to wear "crop tops, skirts, and makeup" to "protest inappropriate remarks and dress codes in schools that largely concern girls".

The movement was backed by the Mouvement National Lyceen — a union representing high school students — as well as feminist NGOs and charities against violence towards women.

"Our outfits are not the problem. The problem is harassment, assaults and rapes. Support for all those who refuse to make women feel guilty," Nous Toutes, an NGO combatting sexism and sexist behaviours wrote on Twitter.

Another, "Osez le féminisme" (Give feminism a try!), said that principals and school advisers "should focus on sanctioning boys when they harass girls, rather than scantily-clad girls."

"Shame must change sides! Educate boys and let girls choose their outfits," it added.

Marlene Schiappa, the former minister for gender equality, now minister for citizenship, also offered her support.

"Today #Monday14September, young girls spontaneously decided all over France to wear skirts, low-cut or crop tops and makeup to assert their freedom in the face of sexist judgements and acts. As a mother, I support them with sorority and admiration," she posted on Twitter.

According to the latest annual report from the High Council for Equality released in March, 99 per cent of French women affirm having been the victims of a sexist act or comment in 2019.

The report also found that younger generations are less tolerant of sexism and "more combative" with 92 per cent of young people considering sexism to be a societal problem.

Last week, the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, which is visited by an average annual of 3.4 million people, issued a public apology after a woman wrote an open letter to the museum in which she explained she was refused entry by security agents because of her low-cut dress.

"I wonder if the agents who wanted to ban me from entering know how much they sexualised me; obey sexist dynamics, and if in the evening when they come home they feel that they have been within their rights not to respect mine," she wrote.

"I question the consistency with which the representatives of a national museum can prohibit access to knowledge and culture on the basis of an arbitrary judgment which determines whether the appearance of others is decent."