French Prime Minister Manuel Valls heated up the country’s burkini debate Monday when he suggested bare breasts, and not the burqa, represent the republic.
Several French cities imposed bans on the the female burkini swimsuit, before the country’s highest administrative court overturned it Friday. Valls is a strong supporter of a ban and has even clashed with his own cabinet over the Muslim swimsuits.
Valls used the bare breasts of Marianne, a national symbol of the French Republic, to make a point about what he finds wrong with the burkini’s presence in France.
“Marianne has a naked breast because she is feeding the people! She is not veiled, because she is free! That is the republic!” Valls said at a government rally Monday.
The figure of Marianne was introduced as a national symbol in 1848, after the fall of the monarchy. The image of Marianne is featured on official documents and statues are common in town halls.
Valls’ remarks erupted a social media storm and were labeled as sexist by many.
Respected historian Mathilde Larrere said Marianne “has a naked breast because she’s an allegory, you cretin!”
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