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The Miss France pageant, sued before a labor court for sexist discrimination

Beauty pageants have long been the object of criticism of feminism for its imposition of physical canons – and social stereotypes – on women and for the objectification they entail. But, what if they were illegal because they were discriminatory? That is the unusual angle that Osez le Féminisme has taken when filing a lawsuit in a Paris labor court against the producer Endemol Production, which for years has been behind the Miss France contest and which the French feminist association accuses of not recognizing a relationship. labor with the misses .

Supporting three applicants who wish to remain anonymous, Osez le Féminisme affirms that the company, a subsidiary of the French audiovisual giant Banijay and owner until this year of the Miss France brand and of all regional subsidiaries, “exploits women, who repeat and interpret a sexist, discriminatory and lucrative show every year, generating millions of euros in profits, and all this in violation of the labor law “that prohibits discrimination against a candidate for a position due to their physical appearance, age or origin, among others.

” Our objective is for the production company to face its responsibilities and correct a regulation I deeply know xist and retrograde. And that it respects labor law “because today” the candidates are exploited, society makes huge profits, but it does not recognize the employment relationship and also discriminates, “explains Osez le Féminisme spokeswoman Alyssa Ahrabare by phone.

The lawsuit, filed last Friday before a Parisian labor court but which was announced this week, occurs just when the Miss France contest, which will celebrate its grand finale on 11 December, has changed hands and management.

The president of the new Miss France company, Alexia Laroche-Joubert, former producer of several very popular French reality television programs, on Tuesday she expressed her “fed up” by the attacks on what she considers to be one more “social elevator” for women.

“I can’t anymore with the blaming of young women who, by their own choice, participate in the program, “he declared on the France Info station.” I think it is totally arc I do not consider that women can decide what to do with their lives, especially when we see what the misses of France become: they are company directors, actresses, influencer s, they are women independents who earn a living, women who assume themselves ”, she claimed about a contest that she considers“ feminist ”although she acknowledged that it has some“ outdated ”norms, such as the clause that requires that participants not have children and are single.

Archaic rules

This is one of the points that has also been harshly criticized by the High Council for Equality. In its report last year, the independent institution that advises the government called the Miss France contest an “archaic caricature” about “the place of women in society.” It is a program that “normalizes the female object” and that, with considerations such as that having children is not compatible with a career that requires multiple trips, demonstrates a “sexism that confines women to the role of mother at home.”

If Osez le Féminisme attacks a contest like Miss France because “it is a symbol that represents all the impositions on the public appearance of women”, agrees Ahrabare. And because, despite the fact that this type of program is in decline in some countries, its social impact is still strong, especially in France. Last year’s final broadcast was followed by 8.6 million viewers, a screen share of 41, 5%, its best result since 2006. Although the pandemic and the limitation of leisure options that it entailed – in December the curfew reigned in France and cinemas, theaters, bars and restaurants remained closed – probably drove the program, this is still “a very followed contest”, recalls Ahrabare . The edition to choose Miss 2020 was followed by 6, 87 million viewers and that of 2019 for 7.3 million.

The process – if the court accepts the claim – is going on for a long time, at least a year, estimates Osez le Féminisme. One of the keys is whether the judges accept the premise of the feminist organization that Miss France is not a contest, but a show, and that therefore the participants “perform a job performance” and are guaranteed not to be discriminated by their “origin, sex, family situation or physical appearance”, among others, according to the law. Issues that feminists consider violates the contest, which, among others, requires requirements to measure at least 1, 70 meters “without heels”, not have tattoos or piercings, “no being married ”or having a common-law partner, nor children, in addition to not having participated in photographic sessions or other acts“ contrary to good customs (…) based especially on ethical values ​​such as elegance. ”

For the president of Miss France, Laroche-Joubert, it is however a “contest” and therefore “is not governed by labor law”. “We are talking about a contest (…) the job is something else, you have an employer, schedules, etc. These are regional contests and you have the option to enter or not. They are not employment contracts, it is called a contest, we have held beauty contests for a hundred years, they even predate their television broadcasts “, he insisted.

Osez le Féminisme affirms otherwise and says to be based on the description of the production company itself, which speaks of “show” and “entertainers of a magazine” (cabareteras) to describe its program. Feminists also recall a decision of the Supreme Court in 2013 regarding the Mister France contest, the male version of the most popular Miss France, in which it established that “the participant contract” signed by the plaintiff and the television company that produced the contest “it is a paid employment contract.”

“There is no valid argument that opposes that the Miss France show is not also submitted to the same rules ”, argue the feminists, who demand in their demand that Endemol Production“ delete from its regulations all sexist clauses, pay women and stop practicing discrimination ”. And that, incidentally, television “ceases to be the reflection of a sexist society that promotes the culture of rape and the object of women.”

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