Does France have a problem with women from ethnic minorities on television?

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The anti-Semitic comments directed at a Jewish Miss France participant raise broader questions about racism in the country.

When April Benayoum, 21, thought of running for Miss France 2021, she would not have thought of fighting against virulent anti-Semitism.

However, Benayoum, the finalist of Miss France 2021 had to face a deluge of anti-Semitic abuse on social networks after revealing that her father was Israeli.

The French Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin condemned the attacks claiming to be “deeply shocked” by the incident. Darmanin went on to warn that the police had been mobilized against the perpetrators.

Some of the abuses warned viewers against voting “for a Jew”, while other anti-Semitic slurs suggested that “Hitler had forgotten this one.”

The tweets were widely condemned by Jewish groups, with one calling the torrent of abuse ” horrible. »

In an interview following the abuse that overshadowed the competition, Benayoum said she only became aware of the abuse after being informed by relatives.

“It’s sad to see such behavior in 2020,” she said, adding that “I obviously condemn these comments, but it doesn’t affect me at all.”

The France-based organization the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism said comments online following the Miss France pageant had ” turned Twitter into an anti-Semitic cesspool. »

The online abuse campaign directed against Benayoum was not the first time that a woman appearing on French television has been the victim of abuse and racism because of her origins.

When Franco-Muslim Mennel Ibtissem in 2018 captivated audiences on the reality TV show The Voice, her hijab became an immediate hotbed of abuse.

A campaign to get the 22-year-old singer kicked off has seen hundreds of people call the show calling for its removal.

Unlike Benayoum, who has seen government officials come forward for her, Ibtissem, succumbed to the pressure of the prevailing anti-Muslim sentiment in France and quit the show.

An anti-racist activist at the time said: “In France, we are not used to seeing Hijabi women on television during prime time. Their presence always causes shock and anxiety. “

When the leader of the Hijabi student union, Maryam Pougetoux, appeared on television to defend students’ rights, her mere presence “shocked” the French Minister of the Interior at the time.

And then Secretary of State for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa condemned the student union for allowing someone with a headscarf to represent them as a spokesperson.

The abuse that followed saw details of Pougetoux, including his phone number posted online.

More recently, one of the most fervent French anti-racist activists and the Washington Post (and in the recent past to TRT World), Editorial contributor Rokhaya Diallo was also the subject of racism on a national radio station.

Diallo, a black Frenchwoman of African descent, was described also ungrateful after having denounced the systemic racism of France.

“Without France, Madame Diallo would be in Africa with 30 kg more, 15 children,” said one of the commentators adding that she “would wait for her husband to give her his turn between the four other wives”.

The writer and activist called the comments “dirty”. But together, the experiences of strong female voices from ethnic minorities on French television is an experience that French society and politicians have struggled to accept.

The negative reactions women of color, visibly religious women or women belonging to an ethnic minority face to appearing on national television sends a stern warning to other women who want to make their voices heard.

Source: TRT World



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