Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games mascots likened to ‘clitoris in trainers’

Pair of red triangular Phryges meant to represent floppy conical hats linked to French Revolution

France’s mascots for the 2024 Olympic Games have been likened to a giant “clitoris in trainers”, with the French newspaper Libération hailing it as a revolutionary departure from the traditional phallic symbol of the Eiffel Tower.

When the two triangular red mascots, the Phryges, were unveiled for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, they were presented as the shape of Phrygian caps, the floppy, conical hats associated with the French Revolution.

The Paris organising committee said it was an opportunity to “embody the French spirit by offering something new” in a break from the traditional animal figure often chosen for the Olympics.

But the little red figures have swiftly been likened to clitorises with smiley faces. They bear a notable resemblance to the giant inflatable, red clitoris put up opposite the Eiffel Tower on last year’s International Women’s Day by a feminist group campaigning for more education and scientific research on the organ whose sole function is the female orgasm.

Members of Gang du Clito carrying the 5-metre-high inflatable clitoris to mark International Women’s Day at Human Rights Plaza on 8 March 2021.
Members of Gang du Clito carrying the 5-metre-high inflatable clitoris to mark International Women’s Day at Human Rights Plaza on 8 March 2021. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/AFP/Getty Images

In an opinion piece in Libération, the journalist Quentin Girard celebrated the fact that the floppy tip of the mascots’ hat was actually being seen as a clitoris glans.

He said “from an anatomical point of view”, having a clitoris as the French Olympic mascot was “very good news” and meant that after years of taboo and lack of education, the country had collectively “at last understood what one looks like”.

And, he added, “from a political point of view, it’s not a bad thing that Paris lets go of its eternal phallic Eiffel Tower” in favour of a clitoris, a new representation of the French capital that is “revolutionary and feminist”.

But in the inevitable social media debate around the clitoris-shaped mascots, one secondary school teacher said their simplistic triangular design could reinforce society’s vague notion of the under-discussed part of the female anatomy, suggesting biology teachers be brought in to redesign them.

Julia Pietri, a feminist writer and publisher who led a street-art campaign for more eduction on the clitoris, said of the Paris mascot comparisons: “I find it amusing because I campaigned for a long time to raise awareness of the anatomy of the clitoris, and four years ago when we launched, few people could recognise a clitoris. So today I’m happy and rejoicing that, thanks to all that’s happened in feminism, people can at least recognise the clitoris. It shows it’s now in popular culture and that’s a win.”


Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

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