Sunday, May 22, 2011


French women do everything modern women do, but, astonishingly, many still defer to men, allowing themselves to be treated like inferiors, children and servants.  Even though most French women work, are financially independent and sexually responsible, they continue to tolerate men’s antiquated, old-fashioned, out-dated, passé paternalism and machismo. 
French women are no shrinking violets.  Very few think they’re inferior to men, they’re mostly strong, ambitious, free-thinking, out-spoken, go-getting women of action.  French women stand up for themselves and are not afraid to speak out––except to the men in their life.
    Many French women will also walk all over their female friends to get and keep a man, obviously not considering female friendship worth a damn and thus illustrating the fact that they don’t think much of their gender. Giving men this much power weakens women and the entire culture.
    Shocking, really, when you think that French feminism had it’s origins in the Revolution of 1789     and one of the most famous works about feminism,    The Second Sex was written by Simone de Beauvoir.  Not that there aren’t feminists in France today, but, as late    as 1974, France actually had a Minister of the Feminine Condition.  Good grief. 
    The reason most French women give for their behavior is that they are deathly afraid of being thought of as “aggressive”, as they consider feminists and American women to be.   As if being groped, attacked and insulted makes you feel soft and feminine.  They prefer to appear submissive in public and to wield their power behind men’s back.   This involves much subterfuge, artifice, manipulation and quite a bit of deceit.  Nasty, underhanded stuff.
   This behind-the-scenes “power” also creates men who believe they can get away with anything, like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose innocence we will presume until he’s proven guilty.  As long as women allow men to behave abusively, men will continue to abuse them.  French women say they believe in equal pay for equal work and they complain bitterly to other women when men treat them like children and servants, but many are just not prepared to stand up for their rights for fear of being thought “aggressive”, “crazy” and “feministe”, a dirty word in France.
    Tolerating male dominance is admitting that you’re inferior, that it’s okay to pay you less, treat you disrespectfully, order you around and expect you to be a servant, no matter how cleverly you dodge around behind his back.  This decades out-of-date behavior is feminine machismo, female sexism and it does France no favours.
    French men will tell you that they don’t dominate women, that French women are strong and free to do what they like and they have plenty of power.  I recently heard a young male French film director defending the wimpiness of his heroine by saying that she really had plenty of power at home.  So much for French gallantry.
    Standing up for your rights as a human being is not aggressive, it’s essential. 


elleonthego said...

Well said, and thanks for your comment.

Nora Lumiere said...

Merci, Ellen. Il est grand temps que les françaises arrêtent de soutenir le machisme et le sexisme.
Read Ellen's thoughts about DSK here:

Dana said...

You said it all. Thanks. I've been living in France a long time and I've seen all this. The worst is that the younger generation is following in this lousy tradition. I was always astonished and disappointed by my French female students. For example, they thought it was fine that they still had to put their photo on a CV. One said to me "The man I interviewed with says he likes seeing who he'll be dealing with." Hmm.

paris parfait said...

In France, there's the economic factor to consider. In practically every (French) marriage I know, the man makes more money than the woman and in the event of a divorce or separation - where children are involved - the courts typically side w/ the husband/landowner. Finance is a powerful impetus for women to stay married, no matter how badly their husbands might behave. I personally know of at least a dozen such instances, where women (who have jobs of their own and make decent salaries) are forced to remain in their marriages, as their husbands make considerably more money and a rupture would make the wife and children live in considerably reduced (and in France, unacceptable) circumstances. In all these cases to which I refer, the man has a mistress - or repeated flings - and the wives are forced to accept this. One man even spends the week w/ his mistress and comes home only at weekends! Another woman who dared leave her husband was left w/o a place to live or any sort of contribution towards her children's expenses. Were it not for the help of her friends, she'd still be in that situation.

I think this macho/chauvinistic attitude is changing with subsequent generations and young women are enjoying more freedoms and young men are considerably more enlightened than their fathers or grandfathers. But in France, equality of the sexes sadly is still a myth. All too often, women are considered/treated as mere playthings for men's amusement, with no regard for the women concerned or the consequences - hence DSK's dilemma.

Nora Lumiere said...

The only reason this situation exists in France is because women tolerate it. The sexism starts well before marriage; at school, in the workplace in society in general and that's where it needs to be stopped.
Instead of talking about feminist political parties and feminist literature, French women need to stop being so afraid of the concept of feminism and actually take action, take to the streets if necessary (not in that way!) and demand laws that protect them and their children. In marriage, in the workplace and in society.
There are plenty of lawyers in France who can update the matrimonial regime to a much tougher prenup contract: if you get a mistress, then I get enough of your money to take care of the children and myself.
I see few signs that younger generations have changed, I see most girls and young women still showing undue deference to men and allowing themselves to be patronized and ordered around well before marriage. And this means they will be paid less and cheated on when they marry.
Men are not going to change, why should they? It's up to women to show their real power.
Tolerating DSK's bad behavior has brought disgrace to France and if he
pleads sexual addiction, does a little rehab, runs for office and, worse yet, wins, that will be truly devastating to the culture.

Nora Lumiere said...

Dana, Yes, it's very disappointing to see French women of all ages so reluctant to take action on this issue. And it's not as if they like things the way they are, either. Apparently many think that the DSK affair will make men afraid. It should make French women less afraid to demand better protection.