French PM suggests naked breasts represent France better than a headscarf
The French prime minister has drawn criticism for suggesting that naked breasts are more representative of France than a headscarf, in the latest flare-up of the bitter political row over the burkini, reports The Guardian.
Manuel Valls, who clashed with France’s education minister over his support for mayors who have banned full-body swimsuits from beaches, gave a rousing speech on Monday night in which he hailed the bare breasts of Marianne, a national symbol of the French Republic.
“Marianne has a naked breast because she is feeding the people! She is not veiled, because she is free! That is the republic!” he thundered at a government rally.
The inference that bare breasts were a symbol of France while the Muslim headscarf was problematic sparked scorn from politicians and derision from historians and feminists.
Mathilde Larrere, a historian of the French revolution and French citizenship, tweeted: “Marianne has a naked breast because it’s an allegory, you cretin!” She then explained in a long series of tweets that images of Marianne with a naked breast harked back to classical allusions.
Other historians questioned Valls’ grasp of French republican history. The figure of Marianne officially became a symbol of the French Republic in 1848, after the fall of the monarchy. Her image is still featured throughout the French public service and on official documents, as well as on stamps. Statues of Marianne adorn town halls.