Miss France: Are we really still doing this?

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
Miss France: Are we really still doing this?
Contestants for the 2017 Miss France take a picture together. Photo: AFP

It's the Miss France final on Saturday night, and many millions are expected to tune in. But perhaps they shouldn't, writes Oliver Gee.


Around eight million people watched 22-year-old Iris Mittenaere become Miss France last December. 
Eight million! This was even though several high profile figures slammed the show beforehand for being corny and sexist.
And with the 2017 final set to screen on Saturday night, it's a safe bet that another eight million will tune in again. 
But there are some who would prefer you didn't, including the outspoken French feminist organization Osez le Féminisme.
"This outdated contest treats women as decorative objects," the group said in a statement ahead of the show.
"Miss France is based on women competing to satisfy the strict criteria of what constitutes beauty. There is no room for physical diversity in this contest," the group explained. 
Indeed, who are we to judge these women based on their beauty, all from the comfort of our armchairs at home?
Isn't is all a bit, well, old fashioned?
Marie Allibert, a spokeswoman at the feminist group, said the standard of the competition hasn't evolved since it began in the 1920s. 
"The models have to follow a strict criteria: They have to be very skinny, with no tattoos or piercings, for example," she told The Local. 
Photo: AFP
"This all increases the pressure on all women who are watching - not to mention the young girls - to conform to standards that are simply unattainable for many," she explained. 
Allibert added that the competition's idea of beauty was very traditional. 
"Participants have to to be single, can never have been married, and can never have been photographed naked or half naked.
"And every year there is some scandal about a woman whose nude pictures are leaked. This includes revenge porn, which is putting shame on the woman who is a victim of something illegal. You're not meant to be allowed to share private pictures of someone, but it happens all the time," she said. 
"What this contest does is presents a symbolic, untouched virgin as the idea of beauty, and we find it degrading," she added.

So why is it that so many French people are drawn to a beauty contest that objectifies women, in a country where "égalité" is supposed to be a fundamental principle?

There's the fact that it's essentially reality TV, a format that always seems to guarantee a certain amount of success these days, but another argument is that many in France can simply relate to the young women taking part.

"The contestants are often from modest rural backgrounds, they represent a certain simplicity and authenticity," Paris university professor François Jost, a media specialist, has previously told L'Express magazine.

Photo: AFP

But for Allibert at Osez le Féminisme, there are plenty of other options for viewers.
"We would rather have a talent competition, where people were judged by the competence, their singing, their science skills... anything but their beauty. 
"It shows just how misogynistic our society still is: we live in a patriarchy, women are seen as pretty, as entertainment for a night."
Allibert was quick to add that the group isn't aiming to have the show cancelled. 
"And we don't want to criticize women in the show, there's too many people going around saying that the women are all stupid. That's not true anyway - the last winner was a dentist. 
"It's not about the competitors, or the viewers, it's about telling people that if they have something more interesting to do on Saturday night than watch the show, then do that thing instead."



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