French cycling team flies into sexism storm

The French Cycling Federation on Saturday defended its decision to pay for business seats for male cyclists while its women's team flew economy on the long trip to the World Championships in Australia.

French cycling team flies into sexism storm
The French team competes in the Men's Team pursuit event of the Track Cycling European Championships in Munich in August. Photo: John MACDOUGALL/AFP

The French Cycling Federation on Saturday defended its decision to pay for business seats for male cyclists while its women’s team flew economy on the long trip to the World Championships in Australia.

While the men’s team, including two-time defending world champion Julian Alaphilippe, travelled in comfort, the seven women riders as well as the rest of the delegation including male and female competitors entered in the junior events and the support staff, were all in the back of the plane.

The first report in a French newspaper provoked a storm of protest on social media.

Christophe Manin, French cycling’s national technical director, told AFP that flying the team to Australia “costs a lot of money.”

“Some countries, like Ireland, have decided not to participate in the World Championships. We asked ourselves if we should take all the categories, especially the juniors. We did it.

“But we don’t have the means to put everyone in business,” said Manin, who decided not to make the trip himself to save money.

He said the federation had based its decisions on one main criterion: the ability to compete for medals — and the men had better chances.

“For the men, we’ve been world champions for the last two years. We are really going there to win, while we are more of an outsider in the girls’ competition”, he said.

“If we had the mountain bike world championships in Australia with the same economic choice to make, we would put the two girls in business and the boys in economy”, he said, because French women riders Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Loana Lecomte have better results than the men.

Team manager Thomas Voeckler travelled economy for the championships in Wollongong outside Sydney.

“I am concentrating on the sport and I have no energy to lose as long as the riders of the French team are proud to wear the colours of the jersey,” said Voeckler.

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France raises fine for sexual harassment to €3,750

After passing landmark legislation in 2018 to outlaw sexual harassment in public places, France has increased the penalties for certain types of street harassment.

France raises fine for sexual harassment to €3,750

Under a 2018 law called the “Schiappa” law, named after France’s former minister of gender equality, Marlene Schiappa, street harassment – which includes whistling, making obscene gestures, cat-calling and verbal (non-physical) insults – is a legal offences (infraction in French).

The law was celebrated as a groundbreaking step for combatting feminism across the world, and within France it “introduced the notion of sexism into French law”, lawyer and representative for the Bouches-du-Rhône département, Alexandra Louis, told Forbes in 2021.

As of April 1st, the French judicial system took this recognition a step further, creating a stronger penalty for ‘aggravated’ forms of street harassment. To qualify as ‘aggravated’ the offence must either be committed against a vulnerable victim (eg a minor), by a group of people, targeting a victim because of their sexual orientation, or on public transport.

The aggravated version of street harassment is considered a délit, a more serious type of offence, and in these cases, the penalty rises from a maximum fine of €1,500 to one of €3,750.

Generally, the law is set up so that officers can ticket offenders on the spot, and women have reported difficulties in filing a complaint if there are no witnesses.

Studies show that one million women in France experience street harassment each year.

Since the original law was passed in 2018, data has been published regarding the victims and how many arrests have been made for the offence. In 2020, 1,400 people were charged for street harassment, and in 2021, there were 2,300 arrests made.

According to statistics from France’s ministry of interior (SSMSI), 91 percent of victims were women, and two thirds were under thirty years old. For those targeted for their sexual orientation, the rate of male victims increased to 48 percent. 

As for aggressors, the SSMI said that they are “almost exclusively male, most of them adults”.