French parents protest gender education program

French parents are pulling their children out of school one day each month to protest what they say is a government attempt to teach young children that they’re not boys or girls, but “neutral.”

The protest opposes the French government’s “ABCD of Equality” program, which was launched in September. It’s been tested in more than 200 schools, and was slated to be implemented in most French primary schools last month, the Deutsche Welle reports. The program’s stated aim is to eliminate sexual stereotyping at an early age and disparities between boys and girls as they advance in age.

In acting out fairy tales, for instance, boys are encouraged to play the part of Little Red Riding Hood, with girls taking the part of the wolf, Deutsche Welle reports. The program also believes that heroines in many fairy tales – from Snow White to Cinderella – are passive characters, waiting for a Prince Charming rather than pursuing a career of their own.

The program also seeks to debate gender issues in subjects such as physical education, art and history – going so far as to point out that Louis XIV wore high heels and ribbons.

Some 100 schools in Strasbourg and the Paris region have lost up to a third of their pupils, and the boycott, which has largely been organized by text message, has assigned different towns different days through Feb. 10.

French Education Minister Vincent Peillon slammed the protest this week, blaming right-wing extremists who are “spreading an idea that frightens parents and wounds teachers” by claiming that schools wanted “to teach little boys to become little girls.”

“Do not listen to those who want to sow division and hatred in schools,” Peillon said, according to Deutsche Welle. “What we are doing is not gender theory.”

The protest’s organizer, Farida Belghoul, described by Deutsche Welle as a Strasbourg woman of Turkish origin who’s aligned with far-right essayist Alain Soral, known for his anti-feminist and anti-gay marriage rules, says the program places a higher priority on fighting homophobia and stereotyping than teaching basic arithmetic.

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