Student ordered to cover her breasts at museum full of paintings of naked women

A student says she was told to cover up her breasts as she visited a Paris art museum full of paintings and sculptures of naked women.

Jeanne, who declined to give her last name, was wearing a dress with a plunging neckline when she says a security guard made the humiliating request at Musée d’Orsay.

The 22-year-old claims male staff appeared to stare at her breasts when they surrounded her as she stood in the queue on a hot day in the French capital.

Describing it as “sexist discrimination” based on her body and clothes, she said she was told to “calm down” and wasn’t allowed to enter the museum until she put a jacket over her dress and covered her chest.

She posted a photo of her outfit on Twitter and described Wednesday’s incident in an open letter posted on Facebook, which resulted in an apology from the museum.

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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.”

Jeanne had just had lunch at Le Meurice, a five-star hotel, where she was pictured wearing the dress, which she said she purchased at a thrift store.

It was “not a problem there”, she said, adding: “I wore it all summer. I feel good in it and it’s pretty.”

Jeanne and a friend arrived at the Orsay, which houses art treasures including the largest collection of Impressionist masterpieces in the world, at around 4pm.

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.”

The official allegedly said “It can’t be, it won’t work”, as Jeanne 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.”

Jeanne was particularly angry because her friend was wearing a crop top which showed off her navel, and nobody troubled her.

Jeanne said the security guard 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.”

She said she did not believe any such rules existed, but put her jacket on anyway to avoid a fuss.

The Orsay, which is set in an old railways station on the Left Bank of the River Seine, opposite the Louvre, said it “deeply regrets this incident”.

It apologised to Jeanne and said a receptionist had been spoken to about his behaviour.

On its website, the Orsay lists guidelines for visitors. The rules state that “wearing an outfit susceptible to disturbing the peace” can result in a visitor being barred entry.

But the guidelines do not give examples of outfits that could “disturb the peace”.

Many Twitter users came to Jeanne’s defence as her tweet went viral, with one writing: “This country just loves to tell women what to wear.”

Jeanne replied: “Yes they do.”

Famous paintings of nude women at the Orsay include Gustave Courbet’s ‘L’Origine du Monde’ (1866), which is a close-up of a woman’s vagina, abdomen and breasts, as well as Édouard Manet’s ‘Olympia’ (1863) and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’s ‘The Source’ (1856).

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