Up to 200 members of the ‘Manif pour Tous’ (Protest for All) group assembled outside the gates of the Lycée Clémenceau in the city of Nantes in western France on Thursday afternoon, carrying placards with slogans reading “gender theory is not my choice” and “no to gender theory.”
Tensions flared after a group of around 100 students and left-wing campaigners began chanting “no fascists in schools” and “equality,” RT reports. Manif pour Tous protesters were pelted with eggs and several scuffles broke out before the protesters were finally dispersed.
The idea to wear skirts instead of trousers to protest against sexism was invented by the students themselves, and was later approved by the school authorities and the Ministry of Education. Those who opted not to bare their legs could wear a sticker saying “I am fighting against sexism, are you?” as an alternative.
Right-leaning French daily Le Figaro ran a headline on its website claiming that education authorities in Nantes were “demanding” that boys wear skirts to school. Even though the newspaper later corrected its text to say the schools was “inviting” male students to dress up in skirts, many conservative politicians and activists already took interest in the issue.
Manif pour Tous described the initiative as “scandalous” and called for the French Education Minister Benoît Hamon to intervene and cancel the event immediately. “It is not a trivial matter,” the group’s president Ludovine de La Rochère said. “It is a form of cross-dressing and is therefore a denial of the boys’ sexual identity,” she continued. “It is disrespectful to masculinity and femininity.”
Many students were also angered by the fact that adults had attempted to hijack their initiative and use it promote their own agendas. “They have no right to come to our lycee and hijack our idea,” Laurine, a student, told the French language news website 20 Minutes. “You can protest against sexism without having the intention to promote gender theory. That has nothing to do with the original issue and aim of this demonstration,” said another.
French schoolboys enrolled in 27 high schools in Nantes, northwest France, will wear skirts this Friday. Don’t panic! The move is part of a student-driven campaign in a stand against sexism and inequality.
Those less daring have the option of wearing a sticker that reads, “I am fighting against sexism, are you?”
The initiative, which has been named, ‘Lift the Skirt’ (Ce que soulève la jupe) which was the idea of pupils themselves, has been sanctioned by the city’s education chiefs and therefore by the Ministry of Education. The students have the support of parent groups, and there’s even talk some male teachers will skirt-up in the name of solidarity.
But school authorities have caused a stir by inviting male pupils to wear skirts to class.The Local reports that “the event comes just months after France was embroiled in a row over the teaching of gender theory, when extremists organized a boycott of schools after spreading rumours among parents that teachers were going to give masturbation classes to young pupils.”
Not everyone is looking forward to seeing boys in skirts, with conservatives in France saying the move promotes “confusion of genders.”
Frigid Barjot, the former leader of the anti-gay marriage Manif Pour Tous movement asked the country’s education minister via Twitter: “And the girls, will they be wearing beards as well?” in a nod to bearded Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst.
Olivier Vial, president of the conservative UNI party said: “We’ll do any old nonsense in the name of equality.
“This move is inspired by the Day of the Skirt, whose original aim was to allow women to express their femininity in environments where it was often difficult. But this is just denying feminine and masculine identity,” Vial said.
Another anti-gay marriage militant Tugdual Derville tweeted: “It’s not April Fool’s Day. It’s not a wind up. In our schools, with our expensive taxes: confusion of genders.”
A local anti-gender theory group in Nantes has planned to hold a protest on Friday.
However parents groups hit back with Elisabeth Costagliola, head of the organization PEEP saying that there was no negative reaction when school chiefs organized a similar event last year, that 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 said.