OPINION: It’s not sexist to say this French MP shouldn’t wear revealing clothes on TV

A French female MP has denounced the "sexist" comments she received after wearing a revealing dress during a television appearance. But it's not anti-feminist to say that elected officials should dress professionally, argues The Local's Evie Burrows-Taylor.

OPINION: It's not sexist to say this French MP shouldn't wear revealing clothes on TV
Aurore Bergé (C) on Salut les Terriens. Photo: Neferneferure/Youtube
31-year-old French MP, Aurore Bergé found herself at the centre of a Twitter storm after wearing a short, low-cut dress for her appearance on popular French TV show Salut Les Terriens (Hey Earthlings) on Saturday night. 
Although she appeared on the show in her capacity as MP for Emmanuel Macron's La Republique en Marche! party to talk about serious issues such as education and public service reforms, it was her dress, not her words that caught the attention of most viewers. 
And many of them took to Twitter to call it out as “vulgar” and “inappropriate”. 
One user wrote: “For the attention of everyone defending the outfit worn by Aurore Bergé, an elected official of the Republic, under the pretense of equality…tomorrow, I invite you to let your daughters wear a similar thing to the speaking exam for the baccalaureat.”
One Twitter use wrote: “Low-cut neckline or short skirt, it's one or the other” referring to the “rule” that women should choose one or the other to avoid looking too exposed.
Naturally Bergé responded to her critics, commenting ironically on her own Twitter feed: “I thank all of those who have an opinion on the audiovisual reforms, public service, and education. No, I’m only joking; the real debate in 2018 on Twitter is the length of my dress #ordinarysexism”.
And many members of the public as well as some of her colleagues jumped to her defense. 
“Your shocking comments on Aurore Bergé's outfit are nauseating! To say that she is asking to be harassed!! She should dress how she wants! if you have misplaced ideas, is it her fault? You will never learn!” wrote one user. 
France's Equalities Minister Marlene Schiappa also jumped into the social media furore. 
“This mania of treating female politicians as a 'slut' when they have the audacity to have breasts, legs, or a sex life …Nothing justifies that!”
There is no doubt that some of the comments directed at Bergé in response to her choice of outfit were sexist, disgusting and troubling.  Of course, the horrible trolls that sent her vile messages are not to be sympathised with but that doesn't mean everyone criticising her has a sexist agenda.
However to say that anyone calling the outfit inappropriate is sexist is ridiculous. 
Both men and women are expected to adapt the way they dress for different situations and in the same way as women usually don't choose to wear tiny skirts and plunging necklines in the office, men don't strut around in string vests. 
One of the reasons for this is that most people want to be taken seriously at work, particularly those with serious work to do. 
And it goes without saying that in her private life she should dress however she wants but it is naive to pretend that the way we dress (and that goes for both women and men) doesn't have the capacity to alter how we are perceived, especially in a work environment and especially if you are in politics and on TV.
And despite her claims to the contrary, it's hard to believe that Bergé could have chosen to wear that dress and not questioned her choice. 
Defending herself on a different French TV show on Monday, she said: “I rather naively thought that [this kind of sexism] was behind us. I didn't think that in 2018 a woman would continue to be judged according to her clothes, rather than the opinions that she holds.”
“I would not like to be in the heads of those who spend their time commenting on the lives of others,” she added in an appearance that was overflowing with false naivete. 
The most irritating part of all this is that it reduces the real feminist issues that should be the focus of those with the power to change the status quo, for example domestic violence, access to jobs and equal pay. 
The real goal of feminism is not about a woman's right to wear revealing outfits, in their professional roles, on live TV.


Strike calls in France on International Women’s Day

Men and women are being called on to finish work at 3.40pm on Monday to highlight the gender pay gap, one of many actions and demonstrations taking place around France to mark International Women's Day.

Strike calls in France on International Women's Day
Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Several organisations and unions are calling for a strike to denounce pay inequality.

“On March the 8th, we will be on strike along with women all over the world to refuse to pay the price of the crisis with our jobs, our salaries, our bodies,” several unions including the CGT, FSU and Solidaires said in a press conference.

The objective is to denounce the gender pay gap that continues to impair women’s rights, but also to denounce the unfair burden that the past year’s health crisis has put on women.

“The lockdowns have been very heavy burdens on women for the past year, whether it’s in the health, work or home environments, increase in domestic violence. Not to mention the large amount of predominantly female jobs that have continued to maintained a level of normality during the lockdown,” the co-secretary general of FSU, Murielle Guilbert, told Les Echos.

The below map shows the actions planned around the country on Monday.

In Paris, a demonstration will start in Port-Royal at 1pm and move towards the Place de la République.

Organisations including Osez le féminisme, Les Effrontées and Unef have called women as well as men to go on strike on Monday from 3:40pm, in order to denounce the gender pay gap.

For a full list of actions around the country, click here.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been criticised by a junior minister for having only one woman among his closest advisers.

“I told him ‘Mr President, you are not giving a good example,” Elisabeth Moreno, a junior minister in charge of gender equality, told French media on Sunday.

She declined to say how the 43-year-old reacted, but she praised him for making gender equality a public priority and for ensuring balanced governments throughout his time in office.

Every cabinet since Macron came to power in 2017 has featured equal numbers of men and women, although both prime ministers have been male and the majority of the top cabinet jobs are currently held by men.

Macron has also been criticised for appointing Gérald Darmanin as his interior minister – the man nominally in charge of the country’s police force – while he is under investigation for rape.