Emmanuel Macron's 'top feminist' shocks Cabinet colleagues by doing Playboy interview even as France rocked by riots

3 April 2023, 15:12 | Updated: 3 April 2023, 15:29

Marlene Schiappa is appearing in Playboy
Marlene Schiappa is appearing in Playboy. Picture: Playboy/Getty

By Kit Heren

A top Cabinet minister in Emmanuel Macron's government has shocked colleagues by giving an interview to Playboy magazine even as riots rock the country.

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Marlène Schiappa, the minister for the social economy is due to appear on the front cover of the next edition of French Playboy.

Ms Schiappa, seen as Mr Macron's top feminist, posed in a white dress for the men's magazine, with the interview due to be published on Thursday. She reportedly does not appear naked in the edition.

Some defended Ms Schiappa's actions, arguing that by speaking to Playboy readers, a group of people not usually associated with feminism, she was reaching out to a new constituency.

But France's Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said the interview was "Not at all appropriate" especially amid the protests.

Marlene Schiappa
Marlene Schiappa. Picture: Playboy
Marlene Schiappa
Marlene Schiappa. Picture: Getty

Ms Borne, who is under fire herself for her role in the unpopular pension reforms, also said she had told Ms Schiappa off for giving the interview.

Some French ministers accused Schiappa of ignoring Mr Macron's call for the government to show “seriousness” during the ongoing unrest.

One said: "Several of us couldn’t believe it. I thought it was an April Fool in advance," the Times reported. Another said: "Being a minister requires a bit of dignity."

Ms Schiappa said: "Defending the right of women to do what they wish with their bodies applies everywhere and all the time.

French people have been protesting over pension reforms
French people have been protesting over pension reforms. Picture: Getty
Protesters are demonstrating against pension reforms
Protesters are demonstrating against pension reforms. Picture: Getty

"In France, women are free. With all due respect to the hypocrites and retrogrades."

And Prisca Thévenot, a well-known MP in Mr Macron's coalitiion, said she supported Ms Schiappa.

"Is Playboy magazine known for promoting women’s rights? I don’t think so. Therefore it is important that we can also address these issues in this magazine. It is not a question of posing naked but of broaching important issues."

Marine Le Pen, 54, Mr Macron's rival with the populist National Rally said: “When the president gives an interview to Pif in the middle of a great social and political crisis, ministers feel free to do whatever they like.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 71, who ran for president for the radical left Unbowed France party last year, said Ms Schiappa’s interview was an attempt to divert public attention away from the crisis.

French people are demonstrating over pension reforms
French people are demonstrating over pension reforms. Picture: Getty
French people are demonstrating over pension reforms
French people are demonstrating over pension reforms. Picture: Getty

"[Macron’s camp] is in a dead end, in the biggest social conflict in the history of the country for 50 years and they are launching all sorts of little distractions," he said.

Jean-Christophe Florentin, who edits the French version of Playboy, said people should not look down on his publication.

He said: “Playboy is not a soft-porn magazine but a 300-page quarterly mook [a mix of a book and a magazine] that is intellectual and trendy." He admitted that there are “still a few undressed women but they’re not [on] a majority of the pages”.

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He said that Ms Schiappa had “understood that it’s not a magazine for old machos but could be an instrument for the feminist cause”.

Mr Macron appointed feminist author and campaigner Ms Schiappa to his Cabinet in 2017 despite her being largely unknown to voters.

She has since pushed through laws on a range of issues, including making it an offence to harass people in the street.\

Macron sparked the fury of workers and his political opponents after using an emergency presidential decree to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Thousands of people have since taken to the streets of Paris, lighting fires, vandalising buildings and clashing with police. Police have fired tear gas to keep the furious mob away from the Elysee Palace.