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French minister defends Playboy shoot as criticism mounts

A feminist French minister who posed for Playboy told the magazine she backed the right of women to pose nude if they wanted to amid fresh criticism from her cabinet colleagues about her stunt on Wednesday.

Marlene Schiappa, currently minister for the social economy and associations, appears in the French edition of Playboy this month which is set to hit shelves on Thursday, although the photos have already leaked to French media.

In the shots to accompany the 12-page interview, Schiappa strikes a series of poses — all fully clothed — featuring extravagant dresses and outfits in the red, white and blue of the French tricolour. 

“If some (women) want to pose in a men’s magazine and enjoy it, I think that we shouldn’t blame them,” Schiappa told the magazine.

She cited Pamela Anderson as an inspiration after the US glamour model spoke of how posing for Playboy had been “an act of emancipation”.

“Like the Miss France. If they enjoy winning a beauty contest, I find that great too and we should support them,” Schiappa continued.

The lengthy interview features several innuendo-laden questions, including “is politics an aphrodisiac?”, and delves into the 40-year-old’s past as an erotic novelist and author on issues such as the female orgasm.

But for the most part it focuses on her work as a women’s rights defender within President Emmanuel Macron’s government, tackling topics including domestic violence, street harassment and sexual abuse.

Some colleagues have been left aghast by the timing of the interview in the middle of a major political crisis for the government which is battling violent protests and strikes over a rise in the retirement age.

– ‘Sexist stereotypes’ –

After Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne let it be known she had called media-savvy Schiappa to tell her that the unauthorised shoot was “not at all appropriate”, Equalities Minister Isabelle Rome broke cover to condemn the initiative.

“I wonder to myself: why would you choose Playboy to try to advance the cause of women when this magazine is a concentration of sexist stereotypes? It’s all about the culture of women as objects,” she told the Figaro newspaper.

Rome, a former magistrate, said that “when you are a minister, you have responsibilities” while recalling that Playboy’s founder Hugh Hefner was accused of sexual assault.

The late mogul has been accused by a string of women of rape and predatory behaviour at his Playboy mansion in California, including in last year’s docu-series “Secrets of Playboy”.

Rome’s comments raise further doubts about whether Schiappa can remain in government at a time when Macron is said to be considering reshuffling his cabinet.

Schiappa was unrepentant about attracting the limelight during her six-year political career which has made her one of the most recognisable ministers in Macron’s governments.

“It’s an advantage, on the contrary,” she told the magazine, when asked whether her frankness was a danger in…

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