Another day, another male politician shares his deep thoughts about women’s bodies.
On Monday, France’s prime minister brought up an iconic image of Marianne — a historic symbol of the French Republic — suggesting her bare breasts are more reflective of the country’s values than a headscarf.
“Marianne has a naked breast because she is feeding the people,” Manuel Valls said during a speech at a government rally. “She isn’t veiled because she’s free. That is the Republic!”
Liberty Leading the People, 1830. Found in the collection of the Louvre, Paris. (Photo: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Valls referred to “Liberty Leading the People,” a painting by French artist Eugène Delacroix. It famously depicts a young woman — an allegorical interpretation of liberty — carrying the French flag in triumph, with the neck of her dress slipped below her breasts.
History professor Mathilde Larrere, an expert in the French Revolution, called out the prime minister for his cherry-picked example of an icon who is depicted both bare breasted and fully clothed.
“Marianne has a naked breast because it’s an allegory, you cretin!” Larrere tweeted.
Valls’ remark about Marianne’s breasts comes two weeks after he said the burkini — full-body swimwear invented by a Lebanese designer to accommodate her hijab-wearing niece — isn’t “compatible” with French values.
He likened the burkini to a “symbol of women’s enslavement.”
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls gestures as he delivers a speech during a meeting with Socialist Party members in Colomiers on August 29. (Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)
Last week, the country’s highest administrative court ruled that the burkini bans adopted in some coastal towns is illegal.
Despite the court’s rejection, approximately 30 municipalities are refusing to lift their bans.
On Tuesday, the United Nations’ human rights office called the bans a “stupid reaction” to a string of recent extremists attacks that do nothing to improve security.
Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the only thing the bans have done is to “fuel religious intolerance and the stigmatization of Muslims.”
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