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Miss France pageant is being sued over ‘discriminatory’ selection criteria

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Oct 21, 2021 9:04 pm

Miss France requires its candidates to be at least 5’5”, no visible tattoos, never been married or have children, among other requirements, that are now being used as grounds for a lawsuit.

Major international pageants like Miss Universe and Miss World are mostly treated like the Olympics, with countries sending their best candidates to raise their flag in the global stage of beauty pageants. 

With this, aspiring beauty queens go through rigorous mental and physical training to fit a mold that some pageant organizations impose on candidates. These standards, most of the time, do not sit well with critics and mere observers.

Recently, feminist group Osez le Feminisme (Dare to be Feminist) said it is suing the promoters of Miss France pageant and its production company, Endemol, alleging they used discriminatory criteria to select the candidates.

The winner of Miss France usually represents the country to either Miss Universe or Miss World pageant.

According to the Miss France 2021 application form, pageant hopefuls must be:

• Born between Jan. 1 1997 and Nov. 1, 2003

• No shorter than 1.70 meters (5’5”)

• Have no visible tattoos

• Have never been married or had children

Also stated in the pageant’s code of ethics is that candidates must not “behave contrary to good morals, public order and/or the spirit of competition based in particular on values such as elegance.” It is noted that candidates must not smoke or drink alcohol in public, pose for racy photos, among others.

The feminist group said it is suing on behalf of three pageant hopefuls who did not make the cut because of their height, age, having tattoos and smoking in public.

“Basically, they are women who wanted to show something else. Women of every day. They wanted to show that women are not just supermodels that are super tall and super thin and perfect, and that women are a lot of things, and a lot of different things. That’s the beauty of it,” said Osez le Feminisme spokesperson Ursula Le Menn in an interview with CBC’s As it Happens show.

She added, “When they discovered it’s not possible to show anything other than the perfect representation of a woman object that Miss France wants to display, they went to us.”

Miss France and Endemol Production, with their “discriminatory selection criteria,” have broken the French labor code that forbids companies from discriminating on the basis of “morals, age, family status or physical appearance,” Osez le feminisme lawyer Violaine De Filippis-Abate told AFP. 

The case was filed at a labor court in Bobigny, a Paris suburb, and will hinge on whether the magistrates will recognize Miss France candidates as de facto employees of the organizers and the TV company.

Philippine beauty pageants slowly embrace inclusivity

Beauty pageants have been a subject of conversation and debate for years—do they empower women to have a voice for their advocacies and foster confidence, or do they send the wrong message of conforming to unrealistic beauty standards?

Nowadays, beauty pageants in the Philippines slowly embrace inclusivity seen in the recently concluded Miss Universe Philippines (MUPH) 2021.

For this year’s staging of MUPH, it removed its minimum height requirement, which was lauded by many, including Miss Universe 2020 Top 10 finalist Maria Thattil of Australia, who herself is 5’3,” considered short in pageant standards.

Miss Universe Philippines 2021’s qualifications include:

• Must be at least 18 years old and under 28 years old at the time of the pageant

• Must be a Filipino citizen and Philippine passport holder

• Female, never been married or borne children

• No minimum height requirement.

Some pageant camps like Aces & Queens require their representatives to pass the minimum height requirement, which most of the time is 5’4”. 

On its website, the Miss Universe pageant does not specify any physical requirements, except for age (at least 18 years old and under 28 on the date of the national competition), so it is usually the local pageants that set the minimum height requirement for their contestants.

TikTok content creator and entrepreneur Ayn Bernos, who made it to Top 16, broke barriers in the beauty pageant world recently. Though she received criticisms for her height (5’3”), the color of her skin, among others, she trumpeted her message of self-love and standing up to society’s beauty standards. She said what society sees as her “flaws” are not problems, they are her features.

Miss Universe Philippines 2021 Beatrice Luigi Gomez also shattered beauty pageant stereotypes for being the first openly gay candidate and having a visible tattoo on her arm.