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CULTURE

New Miss France insists she’s a feminist

Beauty pageants around the world have come under fire as sexist vestiges of a bygone age. But Diane Leyre, who was named Miss France over the weekend, has defended the institution.

Diane Leyre is crowned Miss France 2022. She is a self-described feminist. Beauty pageants around the world have come under fire as sexist.(
Diane Leyre is crowned Miss France 2022. She is a self-described feminist. Beauty pageants around the world have come under fire as sexist.(Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

The newly crowned Miss France 2022 insisted that she was a feminist after winning this year’s competition which has drawn criticism from the government’s gender equality minister.

“As a woman I wanted to show that you can be Miss France and a feminist,” Diane Leyre, a 24-year-old real estate professional from the Paris region, told a press conference on Saturday night.

“For me, being a feminist is deciding what I want.”

READ MORE Miss France contestants to get employment contracts for the first time

The Miss France competition and other beauty pageants around the world have long been criticised by women’s rights groups as objectifying women and promoting unhealthy body images.

Opposition was led this year by France’s Gender Equality Minister, Elisabeth Moreno, who denounced the competition’s “outdated rules… which can be discriminatory”.

Contestants have to be single, more than 1 metre 70 centimetres (five foot six inches) tall and be less than 25 years old, although organisers announced Saturday that the requirement to be unmarried will change “to bring us into step with the era”.

Possibly including transgender participants “is part of our discussions,” the head of the Miss France company, Alexia Laroche Joubert, told Europe 1 radio on Saturday.

More than seven million people — around one in seven French adults — tuned in to watch this year’s competition on the TF1 channel on Saturday night which was filmed in a stadium in the northeast of the capital.

“We all need a bit of lightheartedness,” Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot told the BFM channel on Friday, defending the contestants whom she described as “far from being empty trophies.”

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CULTURE

‘Save the Kévins’ – French film aims to rehabilitate the much-mocked name

Did you know that people named Kevin are regarded as a bit of a laughing stock in France? One French Kevin is fed up with negative clichés surrounding his name, and is making a documentary to try and change people's minds.

'Save the Kévins' - French film aims to rehabilitate the much-mocked name

In 1991, France saw one name top the charts for baby boys: Kevin (or sometimes Kévin). That year, at least 14,087 Kévins were born. In the 1990s, the cultural zeitgeist was filled with Kevins, from the lead character in Home Alone to movie stars like Kevin Costner or Kevin Bacon.

The American sounding first name has unfortunately not been met with widespread love and appreciation in France, as elites looked down upon the name and it rapidly fell out of favour. Since then, many of France’s Kévins have had to endure mockery and judgement for having what many view as a ‘trashy‘ name. 

The clichés about the name ‘Kévin’ even inspired a not-so-kind phrase, “Faire son Kévin,” used to describe someone who is immature or childish. 

READ MORE: French phrase of the day: Faire son Kévin

Now most of these French Kévins are in their thirties, and the name has fallen out of popularity in large part due to the negative clichés surrounding it. But one Kévin is seeking to take on the stereotypes. 

His name is Kevin Fafournoux, and his project is a documentary titled “Sauvons les Kevin” (Save the Kevins). He wants to ‘rehabilitate’ the popular 90s name by shooting a documentary “about Kevin, for Kevin, by Kevin.” By trade a graphic designer, Fafournoux has been financing the film via crowdfunding. You can watch the trailer HERE

According to The Guardian, the film will also look into the origins of the name Kevin, “from its roots in Ireland to its connotations in Germany, where the term “Kevinism” is sometimes used as shorthand for giving your child an exotic name that might mark out their social class or hamper their future.”

Regarding the socio-economic status of the name in France, Baptiste Coulmont, professor of sociology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay, told Radio France: “Kevin is a name that was born in the working classes, and died there as well. It was rarely given to [children of] executives or Parisian elites”.

It is also those groups who have been most likely to mock the name, according to the professor, who explained that negative stereotypes about ‘les Kévin’ often come from “the intellectual bourgeoisie who found that this name embodied bad taste.”

Fafournoux told Radio France he has received over 200 testimonies from other Kévins about their experiences with the name, many being lumped in with reality TV and other markers related to class.

“Employers don’t take them seriously during interviews or when dating girls, there is sometimes a prejudice when you have this name,” he said.

READ MORE: We need to talk about Kévin: Why France fell in (and out of) love with a name

With his documentary, he hopes to change people’s mentalities. “The idea is to show that you can hold positions of responsibility, succeed in your professional life, and do well in your studies while still being called Kevin,” said the filmmaker.

Filming is set to begin in a few months.

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