Backlash in France over sexist politicians
Published 31/05/2011 | 05:00
FRANCE'S male politicians are becoming increasingly anxious about their futures after one female minister warned that half of the country's male MPs were potentially "in trouble" due to their treatment of women.
Still reeling from the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief, on sexual assault charges, France's political class was struck by a fresh sex scandal on Sunday with the resignation of Georges Tron, the public works minister accused of molesting two former female staff members.
The massage enthusiast's "foot fetish", which two ex-town hall employees in their thirties claim morphed into full-blown abuse, has sparked a backlash from France's embattled female politicians. They are calling for an end to the "French exception" of "everyday machismo" among male peers often bordering on harassment.
"I think that there are a lot of (male politicians) who must be a touch stressed right now," warned Rachida Dati, the former justice minister and fallen star of President Nicolas Sarkozy's cabinet whose love of designer clothes received as much coverage as her policies. Ms Dati was herself the butt of sexist jokes after using the word "fellatio" instead of "inflation" in a recent interview. She ruffled male reactionaries by refusing to name the father of her child and returning to work just five days after giving birth.
"Many will be looking at their shoes and saying to themselves: 'I hope to goodness we can move on to something else,'" the MEP and mayor of Paris's 7th arrondissement said.
Sexism in France's National Assembly has got so bad that Chantal Jouanno, the sports minister and a former karate champion, said she can no longer turn up to parliament in a skirt without a volley of catcalls.
One female minister said that male politicians were so incorrigible that "if all those who mix power and sex had to account for their actions, half of our (male) politicians would be in trouble".
A Socialist MP said that when she wore tight-fitting clothes to a parliamentary commission, a male MP from Mr Sarkozy's UMP party exclaimed: "Dressed like that, don't be surprised if you get raped."
Sandrine Mazetier, Socialist MP for Paris, said: "A kind of infantilisation of women reigns in parliament that I had never seen before."
The trigger for the backlash was the arrest of Mr Strauss-Kahn, the former French presidential hopeful who faces charges of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a New York chambermaid.
"This scandal will do more for feminism than all the articles of law," predicted Chantal Brunel, who leads France's gender parity watchdog. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)