Can we watch Miss France and be a feminist?



This December 11, as every year, an anthology of young women will parade, spangled swimsuits and high heels, on the stage of the Zenith in Caen (Normandy) and in front of the television screens in the hope of wearing the tiara of Miss France 2022.

And like every year, the old quarrel resurfaces between the defenders and detractors of the most famous beauty pageant, each rehashing their arguments through the media. to such an extent that we sometimes have the feeling of having heard everything and its opposite on the theme.

In journalism jargon, we call it a “chestnut tree”, one of those subjects that keep coming back like the seasons. At the risk of getting bored? “The repetition can also be good when it allows to debate, to ask questions to overcome the simplistic oppositions that make people feel guilty”, encourages semiologist Virginie Spies, lecturer at the University of Avignon.

So let’s start by trying to understand why some 9 million French people – a record, with 40% of the market share – were in front of their posts during the previous edition of this show, created in 1920 and televised since 1987. All hideous anti-feminists ?

“The strength of this popular and family-friendly program is first and foremost to entertain. We are looking to disconnect from everyday worries “, plays down the media specialist. And almost everyone is there: “From the traditional France of regions and terroirs, honored by girls as beautiful as they are intelligent, to France, which is more connected with social networks, which has given the show a new lease of life”, she continues.

Like Rachel, 23, who admits willingly giving in to the pleasure, kindly guilty, of Cinderella syndrome while indulging in that, less charitable, of making fun between girlfriends of the alleged shortcomings of the candidates.

But, after all, is it that bad? “The concern is that this kind of reality TV show is based on mechanisms of selection and elimination with, at the center, the bodies of women, which says a lot about the underlying motives of our society”, emphasizes Virginie Spies.

This is what mobilizes feminist activists who tirelessly denounce, since the 1970s, a spectacle not only “Cheesy”, as some mock, but purely sexist in principle. “Because what is it if not to promote a stereotypical code of beauty to which all women are supposed to submit? “, accuses Daniela Levy, one of the spokespersons of the association Dare feminism!

That is. But hasn’t the Miss France contest also become a springboard for some candidates, the opportunity to show that they have a head in addition to their charm, or even to pass messages as was the case in 2017 with the broadcast, during the show, of a clip on violence against women?

“If it was really a question of highlighting talented or committed women, the competition would be open to all and not only to those who meet the restrictive and normative criteria set both physically – height, weight – and moral. – be single, without children, without a political position, sweeps Daniela Levy. In this sense, the Miss France contest is indeed the product of the patriarchal system of domination and violence which continues to be exerted on women. “

To free yourself from it, Dare feminism! has also decided this year to raise its voice by bringing the debate to justice. On October 19, the association brought an action before the industrial tribunal against the organizing company that owns the “Miss France” brand, Endemol Productions, a subsidiary of the Banijay group, a French audiovisual production giant.

The association accuses him “To use women to build an extremely lucrative program while flouting labor rights” and therefore asks that participation in the show be recognized as a service giving rise to a contract and that all discriminatory clauses relating to physical appearance or morals be removed from the regulations in order to select the candidates.

If the judges were to accede to these requests, it is clear that the very existence of the Miss France show would be compromised, which would definitely settle the question posed.

Without calling into question the existence of a competition that she considers to be doing “Part of our traditions, of our culture”, Élisabeth Moreno, Minister Delegate in charge of equality between women and men, believes that her rules are “Has been” and that it is high time for them to change. “Why is a candidate for Miss France who poses topless to fight against breast cancer is excluded? Why couldn’t a Miss France be a mom? “, she pleads.

In the meantime, it will be up to each and every one of them again this year to decide: vote for “the most beautiful” for an evening or skip a show that conveys a caricatured image of women. In any case, in his soul and conscience.

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