A feminist activist group in France is suing Miss France for alleged discriminatory entry requirements. Osez le féminisme (Dare to be feminist), a Lyon-based feminist activist group, is suing the pageant’s parent company, Endemol Production.
Three unsuccessful applicants are also joining the legal battle against the country’s 101-year-old beauty pageant.
On Tuesday, a news statement issued by Osez le féminisme said Miss France contestants “perform a work service and therefore should be protected from prejudice under French employment law.”
In France, discrimination against employees on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, family situation or genetic traits is unlawful.
An application form for this year’s pageant unveiled that candidates would not be eligible if they were not at least 5-foot-5, or if they had ever been married or had children.
Wearing hair extensions or weaves (an artificial or natural hair extension that’s fixed into human hair) or having tattoos and smoking would also make a contestant ineligible to compete.
The application form also requires contestants to disclose their clothing size, and prohibits contestants from undergoing any major physical changes after they are accepted into the competition.
According to the pageant’s terms and conditions, failing to comply with these rules can see contestants faced with a 5,000-euro (AUD$7,747) fine.
In its official statement, Osez le féminisme explained that, “Beyond exploiting women for economic gain, this contest, through the violations of the law of which it is guilty, has a negative and retrograde impact on the whole of society.”
“It is high time Endemol Production finally removes all sexist clauses from its regulations.”
Alyssa Ahrabare, the head of Osez le féminisme, wrote on Twitter that Miss France currently “feeds stereotypes that stand in the way of equality.”
“The competition rules are discriminatory: marital status, age, attitudes, choices of women, everything is subject to injunctions from another time! Candidates must be single and respect the rules of “elegance”, stop these sexist rules!” Ahrabare, who is a legal scholar, added.
She spoke to CNN about the three applicants involved in the lawsuit, who were rejected from the competition for their “age, height, drinking and smoking in public and having tattoos,” according to Ahrabare.
In recent years, beauty pageants around the world have been criticised for its damagingly sexist and archaic codes of conduct placed on women.
In 2018, model Veronika Didusenko had her Miss Ukraine title revoked after organisers discovered she had been married at one point and had a five-year old son. She was then banned from competing in the Miss World pageant.
In 2019, Miss India was criticised for supporting colorism by exclusively choosing contestants who had fair-skin. Earlier this year, Miss United States of America banned transgender women from competing.
Despite these problematic trends, beauty contests are still attracting a wide audience in France.