Why people are talking about Miss France and her ‘woke’ pixie cut

Miss France 2024, Eve Gilles

Newly-crowned Miss France has been defended by viewers, politicians and activists after claims that her short hairstyle is “woke”. 

Eve Gilles, reportedly the first contestant with short hair to claim the crown in Miss France’s over 100-year history, was described as “woke” and “androgynous” by social media users, before quickly being defended online. 

Representing Nord-Pas-de-Calais, 20-year-old student Gilles won the Miss France competition on Saturday (16 December), explaining the need to diversify beauty standards.

“We’re used to seeing beautiful Misses with long hair, but I chose an androgynous look with short hair,” she said after her win. 

She also explained during the competition: “I would like to show that the competition is evolving and society too, that the representation of women is diverse, in my opinion beauty is not limited to a haircut or shapes that we have… or not.”

“No one should dictate who you are… every woman is different, we’re all unique,” she added. 

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Her win then sparked several ridiculous takes, with one user writing on Twitter/X: “Miss France is no longer a beauty contest but a woke contest which is based on inclusiveness.”

Another criticised both her hair and her body shape, saying: “We don’t care about her haircut but the androgynous body is obviously there to serve as woke.”

Newly elected Miss France 2024 Eve Gilles (Arnaud Finistre/ AFP via Getty Images)

Several fans and politicians then jumped to Gilles’ defence, with Green MP Sandrine Rousseau – who also has a pixie cut, or “coupe à la garçonne”, saying: “So, in France, in 2023, we measure the progress of respect for women by the length of their hair?”

Fabien Roussel, national secretary of the communist party, said: “Support for Eve Gilles, elected Miss France, who is already suffering the violence of a society which does not accept that women define themselves in all their diversity.”

While a contestant having short hair may not seem groundbreaking, several pageants across the world are attempting to open up traditionally exclusive competitions, with a British pageant electing its first ever lesbian winner, Miss Portugal crowning its first trans winner, and Miss Universe opening up its rules to allow married people and people with children to compete.

And LGBTQ+ people are hitting back at bigoted pageant rules, with more than 100 trans men entering Miss Italy after organisers insisted that contestants should be “women from birth”. As of December, it appears as if Miss Italy still has a blanket ban on trans women entering.

The conversation around so-called “woke” hairstyles was reported with shock in right-wing newspapers including The Daily Mail and The Telegraph, with the former calling the argument “bizarre” and including quotes supporting Gilles.

This comes after years of right-wing news outlets drumming up hatred surrounding the term “woke”, rendering it almost meaningless, with everything from M&S to Froot Loops cereal being branded with the word, and anti-trans rhetoric using the word “woke” to attack the LGBTQ+ community.

A study by USA Today found that 39 per cent of Americans say the word “woke” now reflects the negative right-wing definition, “to be overly politically correct and police others’ words”. 

One Twitter/X user expressed exasperation that woke used to be “a term used specifically in Black activism circles to mean ‘alert to instances of racial injustice and white supremacy’”, and now simply means “short hair”.