A student claims she was ordered to cover up her breasts in a museum full of paintings of naked women. She was told that the only way she would be able to enter the gallery was if she was willing to put on a jacket.
Jeanne, who has refused to give her surname, was visiting the Musée d’Orsay whilst wearing a dress with a plunging neckline when she encountered a security guard who made a humiliating request.
The student was told that if she wanted to enter the museum and see the paintings she would need to cover up her breasts, despite the gallery holding several paintings and sculptures of completely naked women.
The 22-year-old claims that she was made to feel uncomfortable when she noticed a male member of staff was evidently staring at her breasts and then she was surrounded whilst in the queue on a boiling hot day in the French capital.
Jeanne said the incident was an example of “sexual discrimination”, as they had based this rule on her body and clothes. She said that the staff told her she had to “calm down” and that she wouldn’t be allowed into the museum until she had covered up her breasts by putting on a jacket.
Outraged by the incident, Jeanne took to Twitter to express her anger. Alongside a photo of the outfit she had been wearing she included an open letter onto Facebook, which resulted in her receiving an apology from the museum.
She said: “I was the victim, in front of a witness, of sexist discrimination based on my physique and my clothes at the entrance of the Orsay National Museum.
“Inside: paintings of naked women, sculptures of naked women.
“I am not just my breasts, I am not just a body, your double standards should not be an obstacle to my right of access to culture and knowledge.”
Lettre ouverte @MuseeOrsay
Ci-joint la robe de la discorde (photo prise quatre heures plus tôt) pic.twitter.com/FTIXQKsdRZ
— Tô’ (@jeavnne) September 9, 2020
Jeanne had taken a picture of herself wearing the outfit whilst having lunch at the Le Meurice, a five-star hotel. She said that she purchased the dress from a thrift store.
She said that the outfit had not been an issue at the hotel and that she had been wearing the dress quite often throughout the summer and it made her feel “pretty”.
Yet when she arrived at the Orsay alongside a friend around 4 pm, she was made to feel objectified and uncomfortable.
She wrote: “Arriving at the entrance of the museum, I do not have time to take out my ticket, as the sight of my breasts and my ragged pageantry shocks an agent in charge of controlling reservations.”
According to Jeanne, the official said that “it can’t be, it won’t work” and it was then she realised “it was my cleavage that was the problem”.
She added: “They are staring at my breasts conspicuously. I was facing a circle of people who were putting me on trial over my appearance.”
What irritated Jeanne the most was that her friend had been wearing a crop which exposed her stomach, yet no one made her feel that she was dressed inappropriately.
Jeanne said that the security told her: “Put on your jacket, so I’ll let you in. Inside the museum, you do what you want, take it off if you want. I understand you, but it is the rules.”
The student was not aware that such rules at the Orsay – a museum which houses art treasures – even existed. Feeling that it was becoming an ordeal, Jeanne decided she would just put on her jacket to avoid making more of a scene.
A representative of the Orsay, which is opposite the Lourve, has said that it “deeply regrets the incident” and has since made an official apology to Jeanne regarding the staff’s behaviour.
The Orsay has a website in which states that there are particular guidelines a visitor must follow when visiting. One of the rules states “wearing an outfit susceptible to disturbing the peace” could mean that a visitor is barred from entering. However, these guidelines do not specifically outline was is deemed as “disturbing the peace”.