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The Math-Loving Miss France 2023 Battles Backlash Over Her Short Hair And Slender Physique

If we were to pinpoint the peculiar contemporary milieu that France has borne witness to over the past century, then an occurrence that transpired recently within French society might indeed warrant such scrutiny. Namely, the case of Eve Giles, who, having been crowned Miss France 2023 merely this month, found herself besieged by misgivings, censures, and even virulent online vitriol due to her cropped tresses.

On the 16th of December, 2023, Eve Giles hailing from Dunkirk in northern France ascended to the title of Miss France 2023 in the 94th Miss France beauty pageant. Simultaneously, the 20-year-old also represents the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region as Miss of the Year.

Established in 1920, Miss France is a beauty pageant open to French women aged over 18 and standing at least 170cm tall. The ultimate victor each year receives a trove of coveted prizes:

Primarily, she is granted a year’s residence in a Parisian apartment courtesy of the organizing committee, alongside a Toyota Yaris sedan, a round-trip ticket for two to Cayenne provided by Caribbean Airlines, and the opportunity for an official trip to Guyana, inclusive of a week-long tour for two.

Moreover, Miss France is adorned with an elegant crown and platinum jewelry from the esteemed French brand Mauboussin, as well as eight haute horlogerie timepieces from the renowned Swiss label Faustina. Additionally, a MacBook Pro and a television are bestowed upon her as gifts by the French TV website tele loisirs.

Despite the munificence of these rewards, none could have foreseen that Giles, freshly anointed as Miss France, would swiftly become an aberration in the French cyber realm due to her abbreviated coiffure. It is somewhat incredulous that such an event would unfold in France, a nation renowned for its ethos of openness.

Is France truly so conservative?

According to certain denizens of the French internet, there exists a prescribed archetype for French women. They are expected to possess flowing tresses, azure eyes, ample curvature, and exude both sexuality and allure. They must embody what many perceive as the quintessential ‘white’ female image. In essence, Gilles’s cropped locks and slight frame diverge markedly from the ‘traditional’ aesthetic archetype of a French woman.

Conversely, other French netizens have remarked upon her diminutive stature, her somewhat androgynous countenance, and her apparent lack of feminine allure; some opine that, with her abbreviated locks, flat chest, and unassuming figure, she represents solely the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region and is ill-suited to embody France as a whole, let alone ascend to the title of Miss France. Notably, many of those critiquing Giles are men with discerning eyes.

Thus, through a lens informed by American ‘awakening’ sensibilities concerning gender and racial identity, Giles finds herself inadvertently thrust into the limelight of French society.

Increasingly, the French internet landscape has become inundated with comments steeped in patriarchal judgment and the male gaze.

Unexpectedly, France, long touted as a bastion of ‘avant-garde’ thought, a nation that birthed the left-wing student protests of 1968, now finds itself inundated with retrogressive commentary reminiscent of the 1950s, all because a woman dared to partake in a beauty pageant.

Yet, some posit that Giles’s election, despite her deviation from traditional French aesthetics, signals the burgeoning acceptance of a unisex style that blurs gender boundaries within French society. With Giles, sporting her eye-catching cropped locks, being crowned Miss France, it appears as though France is making a deliberate gesture of acquiescence to the burgeoning ‘awakening’ movement sweeping the globe.

The concept of ‘wokeism’ first emerged in the United States, with the term ‘woke’ originating from African American Vernacular English, signifying an awareness of racial prejudice and discrimination. Since 2010, it has been increasingly utilized to identify and challenge various forms of societal inequality, including racial and gender disparities.

For an extended period, the French held steadfast in their belief of being ahead of English-speaking nations in matters of gender and racial equality. Yet, on the 21st of October, 2021, amidst the throes of ‘woke culture’ in America, French President Macron issued a cautionary address, warning of the encroachment of American ‘woke culture’ upon French society, fearing its divisive impact and likening it to ‘tearing apart French society’ and fostering ‘radicalization’. Macron and a cohort of French intellectuals maintained that the republican principles of France emphasize ‘equality’ irrespective of race or gender, a stance fundamentally distinct from the racial classification policies prevalent in the United States. They asserted that French society, having transcended such divisions, had no need for an ‘awakening’. However, the social reverberations sparked by Giles’s hairstyle this year, coupled with the resurgence of antiquated ‘daddy’ comments akin to those of the 1950s, have prompted many to reevaluate their perceptions of French society. As debates surrounding gender representation and racial identity ensue across the French internet, the application of American ‘woke’ ideology to introspect upon one’s own gender and racial identity has quietly permeated French discourse.

What, then, constitutes the quintessence of French femininity?

Confronted with skepticism, French author Agnès Poirier elected to shed light on this question by divulging what she terms her ‘family scandal’ to English readership via the British publication ‘The Guardian’. Poirier contends that the 103-year-old institution of the ‘Miss France Beauty Pageant’ has perpetually championed a spirit of aesthetic diversity, wherein the beauty of women transcends mere physical appearance to encompass inner wisdom. The deluge of vitriol directed towards Giles within contemporary France, she argues, not only contravenes the founding ethos of the beauty pageant but also represents a darker facet of French society.

In the face of skepticism, ridicule, abuse, and even online aggression from certain quarters of the French populace, how does Giles herself respond?

Following her coronation as Miss France 2023, Giles made appearances on no fewer than ten French media outlets. Chief among the inquiries she fielded was her experience of cyberbullying owing to her abbreviated hairstyle. In an exclusive interview with ‘Le Parisien’ at the close of December, she candidly addressed the criticism and skepticism regarding her hair and physique online, characterizing the ensuing onslaught as ‘an inundation of attacks’.

“Numerous individuals assert that I possess abbreviated locks, that I am excessively slender, and that I lack a discernible silhouette. They merely prattle on. They opine that I lack the requisite attributes to bear the title of Miss France. Here is my perspective: Concerning my coiffure, I retain the autonomy to elect; this cropped coif was predetermined aforehand. However, my physique, my corporeal form, is an innate endowment, akin to my respiration. It is commensurate with my metabolic constitution.”

While many denizens of France express apprehension regarding Gilles’ abbreviated locks, French congresswoman Sandrine Rousseau recently espoused her support for Gilles via Twitter. This female legislator, adorned with silver abbreviated locks, articulated: “So, in the year 2023, are we still adjudging a woman’s worth in France based on the length of her tresses? I apprehend.”

The myriad of vitriolic diatribes against Gilles in France egregiously contradicts the fundamental ethos of beauty pageantry.

French statesman Fabian Roussel also overtly championed Gilles’ cause. He lamented that Gilles has lately endured societal opprobrium. It is disheartening to witness that French society remains disinclined to embrace women’s employment of diversity in self-definition.

Three days post-election, Gilles graced the French BFM TV station as a guest. Her oration elicited a rueful exhalation from the host, extolling, “Ladies, your fortitude knows no bounds, and your pugnacious spirit is truly commendable.”

Gilles’ original discourse at the time ran thus: “Those who persist in castigating Miss France as an antiquated contest, have they not been spectators of the pageant year after year? What inference may be drawn? It signifies that this competition has evolved with the times, epitomizing the vanguard of French culture. Those who assail me online, decrying my abbreviated locks as unsightly and my physique as lacking, are, in actuality, unconcerned with my visage, my form, and my coiffure. What truly occupies their thoughts is their entitlement to scrutinize and pass judgment on women’s physiques and appearances annually. They derive satisfaction from this prerogative, thus Miss France becomes perennially subject to interrogation.”

What’s even more remarkable is that BFM TV station dispatched a camera crew to Dunkirk and succeeded in locating Alice, the coiffeur who cropped Gilles’ locks. According to Alice’s reminiscences, three years prior, Gilles sought her counsel, expressing a desire to shear her locks and soliciting guidance. After due deliberation, I discerned that abbreviated locks harmonized with Gilles’ facial contours, thus I proceeded accordingly. Initially hesitant to execute a swift shearing, I contented myself with modest trimming. However, Gilles, impatient, implored the coiffeur Alice, “Simply sever it swiftly, and let us have no further ado.”

Thus, Gilles’ currently contentious abbreviated locks made their debut.

The Mathematician with Abbreviated Locks

If abbreviated locks were the foremost subject of inquiry directed at Gilles during her sojourn as a guest of prominence in major French media, the subsequent topic broached was: mathematics.

In 2003, Gilles entered the world in Dunkirk, a municipality nestled in the north of France proximate to the Belgian border. Her progenitor hails from Reunion Island, endowing Gilles with Reunionese lineage.

Following her coronation as this year’s Miss France, Gilles’ scholastic dossier came under the scrutiny of the French press. Antecedent to her participation in Miss France, Gilles pursued a year of medical studies at the University of Lille. Subsequently, she transitioned to the realm of mathematics, her current pursuit being a MIASHS degree, a discipline wherein mathematics intersects with the domains of humanity and social sciences. In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Paris Match several days past, Gilles avowed that her aspirational vocation is that of a statistician.

It comes as no surprise, then, that she is incessantly interrogated by Le Parisien and France TV regarding her comprehension of mathematics and the methodologies she employs in her autodidactic pursuit of mathematical erudition.

Gilles remarked, “The prevalent astonishment over a woman’s engagement with mathematics notwithstanding, I opine that mathematics is but a mundane subject. Proficiency therein bears no correlation with gender. Should individuals persist in the belief that women are incapable of mastering mathematics and continue to exhort them, ‘This is too arduous, you must persevere,’ then it becomes arduous for them to cultivate an interest in subjects such as mathematics in short order. Conversely, if their progenitors or peers affirm, ‘You possess great aptitude, you have acquitted yourself admirably,’ they are immediately galvanized to persist in their scholarly pursuits.”

Your intellect is formidable, yet your abbreviated locks are a sore sight. For the majority of women, the styling of their locks, whether long or short, is merely a matter of personal predilection, contingent upon their whim. However, for certain men, the length of a woman’s locks transforms into a question of demeanor, a question of principle, a question of morality, a question that delineates one as either virtuous or depraved.

While the masses engage in polemical discourse online, Gilles made an official declaration during her appearance on the TPMP program on the French C8 TV station: “It is conceivable that I may undergo a metamorphosis in my coiffure in the future. I may enlist the aid of a coiffeur to shear my locks. After all, locks, much like verdant kiwi fruit, possess a certain allure!”

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