Revival of French festival honouring ‘virtuous’ young women raises eyebrows

A village in northern France has plans to revive a festival honouring 'virtuous' young women, raising the eyebrows of residents and feminist groups.

Revival of French festival honouring 'virtuous' young women raises eyebrows
Illustration photo: halfpoint/Depositphotos
A resident of Salency in the Oise department of northern France has decided to bring back the village's historic “Fete de la Rosiere” (“Festival of the Maiden”) event, first launched in the year 456. 
The festival honours the “virtuous reputation” of a young woman aged 14-20 and was held in Salency until 1987. 
Now Bertrand Tribout, the president of the Brotherhood of Saint-Médard, the saint who apparently started the festival, is re-launching the event which is set to take place on June 2nd, 2019. 
The program will include mass in the morning and a celebration and coronation in the afternoon. 
The winning “maiden” will be escorted by a procession of 12 young girls and boys through the village. 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tribout had to do his fair share of convincing to get the authorities to agree to reviving the event. 
It is a “somewhat outdated” event, the mayor of Selancy, Hervé Deplanque told Le Parisien, adding to BFM TV that he has received “hundreds of emails” from indignant residents. 
Selancy's population seem to be particularly put out by the selection criteria for the title, with the young women, according to the rules, expected to have irreproachable conduct, virtue, piety and virginity. 
Last year, Bertrand Tribout, who organised his first Fete de la Rosiere in 1971 when he himself was just 17-year-old, promised that there would be “no medical examination” to verify this last selection criterion. 
He has insisted that this is part of the “heritage of the village” adding that the event “values femininity”. 
For him, this holiday is above all “very charming, rural and fun”.
“We want to celebrate the true integrity of the young woman, the fact that she is kind to her family and loved ones, that she is ready to help others,” he said. “This is what makes our village unique – it would be a shame not to keep it.”
And since the complaints, he has tried to put a stop to the controversy by ensuring that the “virtue” of the Rosiere does not “correspond to chastity or virginity”. 
Nevertheless, he may have a long fight ahead if he wants the festival to actually see the light of day, with feminist association Les Effronté-e-s planning to make a complaint that will prevent the event from being held.
“We will make these girls realise that behaving normally is considered impure (according to this festival's values),” spokesperson for the group Fatima Benomar told the French press. “It's traumatic and stigmatising”.
According to Franceinfo, the mayor is worried that the image of his village has been “sullied” by the controversy and is already considering cancelling the festival.
“The municipality has never really agreed to the organization of this festival,” he said. 

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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.