Bare breasts represent France, not burkinis, says French PM Manuel Valls.
Even as France has been shocking the world with its ban on burkinis and related arrests, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has taken things to an all new level by insisting that naked breasts are more representative of France than heads covered with veils. The Prime Minister was referring to Marianne, the woman from the famous Lady Liberty painting which depicts a woman with uncovered breasts leading the French army, apparently to liberty.
Valls is reported to have said that Marianne has naked breasts because she nurses people. He also went on to claim that she has no veil because she is free and that is what represents the Republic the best. This comparison of what is and isn’t symbolic of France has triggered a host of opposition and outrage against Valls. Prominent among the people who condemned Valls is Mathilde Larrere, a French historian who bashed the Prime Minister in a series of tweets. In one, she insists that the bare breasts of Marianne are just an allegory that is commonly featured in classical art and had nothing to do with feminism. In another, she uploaded a picture of Marianne seated, completely clothed and hair covered in a Phrygian cap.
The painting, Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix has become the symbol of France's liberty. The painting is displayed in all important public and government buildings of France.
Valls comment comes at a sensitive time when France is reeling under the effects of terrorism as well as severe criticism from all corners over the burkini ban. The country was condemned heavily for the fines that were forced on women wearing clothing that the police thought religious on the beaches of cities where the burkini was banned. The ban has been lifted, however, by a ruling by the highest administrative court of France. Despite this, some mayors are still refusing to lift the ban.
— Haroon Hayat (@Rjharoon) August 31, 2016
France is in the face of severe criticism over the past few incidents with critics insisting that women can dress up however they want -whether it be in bikinis or burkinis. Valls' comments could have come at a worse time than this. The fact that the Prime Minister has claimed that naked breasts are more representative of the nation than a covered head has not gone well with people. While his idea that Marianne is representative of France is true, as it has traditionally been, his words are criticized to have been chosen very poorly and indicate a blatant contempt of the hijab.