French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has landed in the spotlight after suggesting that naked breasts represent France more than a headscarf.
In a speech on Monday night, he used Marianne, a national symbol of the French Republic, as reference and said, “Marianne has a naked breast because she is feeding the people! She is not veiled, because she is free! That is the republic!”
Mathilde Larrere, a historian of the French revolution and French citizenship, took to social media to disagree with Valls. “Marianne has a naked breast because it’s an allegory, you cretin!” she tweeted. Marianne is an icon of freedom, democracy and opposition to monarchy.
She also explained the way Marianne was depicted in pictures and paintings was purely a way of art and didn’t point to femininity. Interestingly, she was portrayed in different ways, sometimes with her head covered, other times with her breasts exposed or covered too. None of it represented French values in any way.
Former Green party minister Cécile Duflot said Valls’ mention of Marianne’s bare breasts was an example of how some male French politicians view women.
All this comes after more than 20 French towns imposed a burkini ban, disallowing women from wearing full body swimwear. However, just recently French courts have decided to suspend the ban, and the United Nations is in favor of the same, claiming that it “fuels religious intolerance and the stigmatization of Muslims in France, especially women.”
Despite the court ruling, French mayors are refusing to lift the ban. Valls is strongly in favor of the ban and claims the “burkini debate is not over” despite court rulings.