Arrest of DSK opens floodgates for women on sexism
Published 03/06/2011 | 05:00
THE SO-CALLED "affaire DSK" has generated a backlash against the casual sexism which has long been accepted as a way of life in France, with female politicians beginning to speak openly about the daily barrage of sexist remarks that they face from male colleagues in the National Assembly.
French women's support groups have also registered an increase of up to 600pc in complaints about sexual harassment since the former French presidential front-runner, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was arrested for attempted rape in New York last month.
A French-based group which fights sexual aggression in the workplace -- the Association Europeenne Contre les Violence Faites aux Femmes au Travail (AVFT) -- reports a six-fold increase in calls from women in the last fortnight.
The women's support and pressure group, Paroles de Femmes, says it has received 200 complaints on its hotline in the last two weeks -- four times as many as usual.
"The telephone never stops ringing," said Olivia Cattan, president of the organisation. "It's as if an invisible barrier has broken."
The former French women's rights minister, Yvette Roudy, said that it was significant that the backlash had not started immediately after Mr Strauss-Kahn's arrest. "What persuaded many women to speak out at last was the macho reactions of some of our male politicians," Ms Roudy said.
After Mr Strauss-Kahn's arrest, one of his political friends spoke of "American puritanical" attitudes to "pleasures of the flesh". The former culture minister Jack Lang said Mr Strauss-Kahn should have received immediate bail because "no one is dead".
French women are also publicly complaining that many men in positions of authority in France assume that women are 'fair game'.
Sandrine (28), a writer, told Paroles de Femmes that she had recently been summoned to a meeting in a bar with a publisher. When she arrived, she found that the man expected her to sleep with him. "He said that if I refused he would make sure my book was not accepted by any publisher in France," Sandrine told 'Le Parisien'.
The sports minister, Chantal Jouanno, said if she wore a skirt in the National Assembly, male parliamentarians subjected her to a barrage of "salacious" comments. (© Independent News Service, London)