Paris car show models rev up feminist outrage
A SULTRY blonde in a black mini-dress with a plunging neckline smiles through scarlet lipstick as she leans fetchingly against a Kia Rio at the Paris Motor Show.
Despite denials, and to the dismay of feminists, many image-makers in the auto industry still prefer leggy lasses to peddle their cars at such events.
"This sexualisation of the car, associated with male power, is intolerable," said Florence Montreynaud of feminist group Les Chiennes de Garde.
Carole Francois, a client relations official for Penelope, an agency that recruited around 300 hostesses for the Paris show, insisted the time-worn tradition of girl-as-eye-candy "no longer exists".
She said "you don't see as much flesh" as before.
A 21-year-old hostess who gave only her first name, Mathilde, is working on her second Paris show, this time at the Volkswagen stand.
"We are equal to the salesmen," she said, "not decoration for the radiator."
Wearing heavy make-up but dressed modestly, the student recalled her first experience with a different carmaker.
She learnt how to take salacious remarks from "older customers" in her stride.
"One of them asked me, 'are you as hot as the motor?'" she recalled.
These days, hostesses get between one and three days of training aimed at helping them to tackle such advances.
And several constructors have opted this year to have their hostesses wear longer dresses or trousers.
At the stand of South Korean carmaker SsangYong, two hostesses in body-hugging mini-dresses teeter on stilettos as they pose for a wefie with three Asian visitors.
Unlike their male counterparts, they are not touting tablet computers to deal with inquiries - and no car is in the background for the picture. That is all right with Irina, who said her job is to "introduce" the new Liv2 model and "be a showcase to attract clientele".
Still, a French Senate panel on women's rights issued a report to coincide with the Paris show calling for an end to the woman-and-car cliche.