Nantes High School Students Demonstrate Against Sexism

The fight for gender equality took a surprising and touching turn on Friday, May 16 when hundreds of male students from 27 high schools in Nantes, France donned skirts in a show of solidarity for their female counterparts.

The movement, entitled “Ce que souleve la jupe” — “What lifts the skirt” — had the support of the city’s educational council and local authorities. Girls were encouraged to wear skirts as well.

Nantes student and event coordinator Arthur Moinet stated that the idea was inspired by the ongoing issue of sexism in his town. “We noticed [. . .] in our region, there are lots of cases of sexism and discrimination, so we thought we should do something to change that,” Moinet told Euronews.

Many female high school students responded positively to the demonstration. One girl noted, “Sexism is not just about women who need to be defended. Sexism is also a daily struggle for men.”

“What lifts the skirt” has garnered international attention, and has been well-received within young adult media circles. News and entertainment aggregate site BuzzFeed even displayed a compilation of photos and quotes, breaking the story to the movement’s primary audience of teens and twenty-somethings.

Yet, the demonstration was met with criticism and outbursts from proponents of conventional gender expression. French activist and anti-gay spokesman Frigide Barjot tweeted in response to the demonstration, “Et les filles, elles portent une barbe?” (“And girls, do they sport beards?”)

The events in Nantes contribute to a larger debate over the issue of gender in French education. Recently, this issue has made headlines in France due to the new equality curriculum, the “ABCD of Equality,” introduced earlier this year. The proposal infuriated conservatives, who believe that it promotes further acceptance of gay relationships and marriages.

However, opponents of the new curriculum seem to be a rather vocal minority – especially given the support the Nantes demonstration has received from local authorities and fellow students.

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