Three failed Miss France hopefuls SUE the pageant for discrimination

Three failed Miss France hopefuls SUE the pageant for discrimination

Three failed Miss France hopefuls SUE the pageant for selecting beauty queen contestants based on their appearance

  • The three former contestants have been joined by the ‘Osez le feminisme’ group
  • Plaintiffs allege that Miss France discriminates based on appearances
  • The feminist group said it has filed a complaint with the state labour tribunal
  • French labour code forbids companies from discriminating on the basis of ‘morals, age, family status or physical appearance’ 

Three Miss France beauty pageant contestants have joined a leading feminist group in suing the contest for alleged discrimination based on their appearance.

The ‘Osez le feminisme’ (Dare to be a Feminist) group, along with three failed contestants, said they were targeting the Miss France company as well as Endemol Production, which makes the annual TV programme screened on the TF1 channel.

Osez le feminisme said that it had filed a complaint with the state labour tribunal on behalf of the three former contestants, who didn’t make the cut, saying they had given up trying to get their arguments across by other methods.

Three Miss France beauty pageant contestants have joined a leading feminist group in suing the contest for alleged discrimination based on their appearance. Pictured: Contestants compete during the Miss France 2021 beauty contest at the Puy-du-Fou, in Les Epesses, western France, on December 20, 2020

Pictured: Miss France 2021 winner Amandine Petit poses on a red carpet in Monte Carlo, June 2021

Pictured: Miss France 2021 winner Amandine Petit poses on a red carpet in Monte Carlo, June 2021

The plaintiffs argue that the companies are breaking French labour law with discriminatory selection criteria by obliging aspiring beauty queens to be more than 1.70 metres tall, single, and ‘representative of beauty’.

Contestants are under obligation not to gain weight or change their hairstyle, and are not allowed to have tattoos or piercings anywhere other than in their ears.

They must also never had been married or have had children.

Several candidates in past competitions have been eliminated for doing anything ‘contrary to good morals, to public order or the spirit of the contest, which is based on the values of elegance’.

The French labour code forbids companies from discriminating on the basis of ‘morals, age, family status or physical appearance,’ Violaine De Filippis-Abate, a lawyer for Osez le feminisme, told AFP.

The case, filed at a labour court in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, will hinge on whether magistrates recognise Miss France contestants as de facto employees of the organisers and TV company.

The 'Osez le feminisme' (Dare to be a Feminist) group (pictured during a protest, file photo), along with three failed contestants, said they were targeting the Miss France company as well as Endemol Production, which makes the annual TV programme screened on the TF1 channel

The ‘Osez le feminisme’ (Dare to be a Feminist) group (pictured during a protest, file photo), along with three failed contestants, said they were targeting the Miss France company as well as Endemol Production, which makes the annual TV programme screened on the TF1 channel

Contestants do not sign an employment contract, but the plaintiffs point to a supportive judgement in 2013 when a former contestant on Mister France also sued for similar reasons.

The three contestants involved in the case have not been named.

Miss France – which turned 100 this year – has faced decades of complaints, with critics saying it is a sexist leftover from a different era.

Despite this, it remains a popular show on French television, and draws millions of viewers for the final national vote on top TV channel TF1 in December.

‘For all our protests every year against this vehicle for sexist values, nothing changes,’ said Alyssa Ahrabare, head of the Dare to be Feminist group. ‘We have decided to use the law to advance the cause of women.’

Pictured: Sylvie Tellier, second from right, the 2002 Miss France winner who now runs the organisation, seen during filming in 2020

Pictured: Sylvie Tellier, second from right, the 2002 Miss France winner who now runs the organisation, seen during filming in 2020

Organisers insist that the show has moved forward with the times, but contestants continue to be expected to parade in swimsuits and ballgowns.

The Miss France company declined to comment when contacted by AFP news agency, but the 2002 Miss France winner Sylvie Tellier – who runs the organisation –  insisted to the Daily Telegraph that the contest promotes women’s rights.

‘You can parade in a swimsuit and be a feminist. We are no longer in the days of “look beautiful and shut up”,’ she said.

The next contest is set to take place in Caen in northern France on December 11.

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Chris Jewers

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