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article imageFurore as male pupils invited to wear skirts to school in France

By Robert Myles     May 16, 2014 in World
Nantes - Education authorities in the city of Nantes, western France are under fire after critics suggested a school's campaign against sexism meant 27 high schools in the Nantes area were inviting male pupils to wear skirts to classes Friday, May 16.
In a novel twist on “dress down Friday,” the campaign called “Ce que soulève la jupe”— translated as “Lift the skirt” — was chosen by elected pupil representatives on schools councils, adopting as a slogan the title of a book on sexism written by Christine Bard.
What set social networks in France ablaze was the campaign suggestion that invited boys and girls, students and adults, to wear a skirt for the day, or at least display a sticker reading, “I struggle against sexism, and you?"
Some opposed to the campaign falsely claimed it also involved boys not only wearing skirts but donning lipstick for the day, reports 20 Minutes.
Local group Les Nantais pour la Famille — Nantes Residents for the Family — called for a peaceful protest against the day of action on their Facebook page. Headlining the call, the group posted photos of Conchita Wurst, the bearded transvestite who recently won the Eurovision Song Contest for Austria.
But one wag on the comment thread asked what all the fuss was about pointing out that Scots had worn kilts for more than 1000 years. He suggested critics of what was being called “Skirt Day” needed to get out a bit more.
The “Lift the Skirt” event comes just months after another row engulfed France over the teaching of gender theory. Then, many parents kept their children at home rather than sending them to schools and nurseries after false rumors spread that teachers were going to give lessons in masturbation to pupils.
It also comes less than a year after France introduced laws permitting gay marriage, a move opposed by groups such as Printemps français (French spring). Printemps français’ leader, Beatrice Bourges, said of "Skirt Day" on RTL Today, “It’s going to end badly.”
But France’s Minister of Education Benoît Hamon, in response to questions in France’s National Assembly, defended the campaign against sexism in Nantes’ schools. Hamon told members of parliament: “There is no request to students” to come to school wearing a skirt.
Hamon criticized what he said were "lies peddled by radical organizations" and invited elected members to check their facts before making unsupported allegations.
Support was also forthcoming from some parents’ groups. Elisabeth Costagliola, head of the Fédération des parents d'élèves de l'enseignement public pointed out there had been no negative reaction when a similar event, organized last year, passed off without controversy.
“On the contrary, it was really positive with students saying that even some male teachers were prepared to come to school in a skirt,” Costagliola told The Local.
A representative for the local directorate of education in Nantes told AFP that the day was principally one of fighting sexism taking place in 27 schools in the Nantes area out of a total of 220. The representative said the day would be “primarily an opportunity to discuss gender discrimination and possible ways of countering it in high-school life.”
“By no means is it a day for dressing up...especially considering it’s exam time. At last year’s inaugural event, held on April 12, 2013, it was principally girls who came to school wearing skirts. Some even wore them symbolically, on top of trousers. But amongst the boys, there were perhaps two or three who wore kilts,” added the representative.
The representative concluded, “Getting into a skirt is not the aim of this action.”
More about Sexism, Gender equality, lgbt rights, France, French schools
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