France: Home to 75,000 rapes annually, intolerable pro-Strauss-Kahn bias stirs mass feminist protest Print E-mail

 Saturday May 21 2011

French women attack misogyny in Strauss-Kahn case

PARIS - Angry French feminists say local media have been awash with male chauvinist comments since the arrest of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges he attempted to rape a New York hotel maid.

Feminist organizations published a petition saying they were "stunned by the daily flood of misogynist comments by public figures" since the French former finance minister was detained. He denies the charges and is currently on bail.

In their statement, the feminists said friends and allies of Strauss-Kahn had downplayed the plight of the alleged victim in their rush to defend the Socialist, who until his fall was well placed to beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 elections.

The lawyer for the maid said his client was a 32-year-old widow from the West African nation of Guinea, who has a daughter aged 15.

"We do not know what happened in New York Saturday May 14, but we know what has been happening in France in the past week. We are witnessing a sudden rise of sexist and reactionary reflexes, so quick to surface among part of the French elite," the groups said in a statement on the website of Le Monde.

Organised by groups including "Osez le feminisme" and "La Barbe," the petition was signed by more than a 1,000 women, including TV journalist Audrey Pulvar, whose partner Arnaud Montebourg is bidding to be the Socialist candidate next year.

"There is a certain impunity in France when it comes to this kind of uninhibited sexism," the groups said.

The groups said that 75,000 women were raped in France every year and that sexist language in public tended to minimise the gravity of crime, turning it into a vague and more or less acceptable act.

The groups referred to specific statements, including one by former culture minister and Strauss-Kahn ally Jack Lang, who said Strauss-Kahn should have been released on bail earlier, considering that "nobody has died."

Journalist Jean-Franois Kahn, no relation, denied rape had taken place and dismissed the affair as "troussage de domestique," a phrase that evokes a master having non-consensual sex with a servant.

A friend of Strauss-Kahn and his journalist wife Anne Sinclair, Kahn later apologised for the remark.

"This kind of language generates an intolerable confusion between sexual freedom and violence toward women. Violent acts, rape, attempted rape and harassment are all the mark of men's desire to dominate women's bodies," the feminist groups said.

 Paris ~ Monday May 23 2011


French women hit out at ‘sexism’

French celebrities and feminist groups gathered 3000 people for a protest in Paris on Sunday against the ‘outpouring of chauvinist remarks’ in the country since the start of the Strauss-Kahn affair.

The protest was part of an appeal launched by associations Osez le féminisme, La Barbe and Parole de femmes in reaction to how the case is being spoken about in France. More than 15,000 people, including politicians, sociologists and writers, have signed the appeal since its launch two days ago.

‘We do not know what happened in New York last Saturday but we do know what has been happening in France this past week. We are seeing a lightning-fast coming to the surface of sexist and reactionary reflexes,’ the groups wrote in the appeal, adding that that the remarks minimised the seriousness of rape, making it a situation that had ‘blurred boundaries’ and was ‘more or less acceptable’. The associations fear that the remarks ‘send a simple message out to current and future victims: don’t press charges.’

The groups are calling for sexism to ‘go away for good’, viewing France’s reaction to the DSK case as an ‘intolerable confusion between sexual freedom and violence done to women.’

Women’s rights group Mix-Cité adds that ‘the director of the IMF was not arrested because of his weakness for women’ but accused of sexual assault and attempted rape.

At the protest near the Pompidou centre on Sunday, women and men waved flags and chanted as members of the associations took to the stage. Caroline de Haas, founder of Osez le féminisme, urged people to sign the appeal and thanked them for showing their support. ‘The number of people here today shows that feminism is still needed,’ de Haas told the crowd.

Many there shouted ‘It is not maids that you should pull up but chauvinists and sexism’ in response to a comment by Jean-François Kahn, one of the co-founders of left-wing weekly magazine Marianne, who had said it was just a ‘troussage de domestique’ [lifting up the skirt of a maid]. He has since gone back on what he said, calling it ‘unacceptable’. Others at the protest shouted ‘we’ve had enough of this society’ and ‘we are all maids’. According to the associations, 75,000 women are raped in France each year.

Politicians Benoît Hamon and Arnaud Montebourg from the Socialist Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Pierre Laurent from the Front de Gauche, and Cécile Duflot and Éva Joly of the Green Party have shown their support for the associations. Minister for Ecology Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has also spoken of her ‘surprise, like a lot of women, that in the first 48 hours, so little was said’ about the presumed victim.

Anthropologist Françoise Héritier, sociologists Dominique Méda and Eric Fassin, former Socialist Party minister Yvette Roudy, comedian Florence Foresti and writers Florence Montreynaud et Isabelle Alonso have also signed the appeal. ~~~~~~~~~~~~

 London ~ Monday May 23 2011

Feminists' anger at chauvinism of Strauss-Kahn affair

By John Lichfield in Paris
EPA Police in front of the New York building where Dominique Strauss-Kahn is staying

French feminist groups demonstrated yesterday against what they said is a "flood" of male chauvinist comments generated in France by the Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) affair.

Three women's pressure groups held a protest vigil in Paris and published a 6,000 signature petition condemning the "unabashed sexism" of some politicians and commentators – especially on the Left – who sprang to the defence of the former IMF chief and Socialist presidential contender.

"We do not know what happened in New York on Saturday May 14, but we know what has been happening in France in the past week," the petition said. "We have been disgusted by a daily outpouring of misogynist comments by public figures."

The petition said that friends and allies of DSK had portrayed him as the victim of a judicial lynching or possible conspiracy, ignoring the alleged suffering of the 32-year-old chamber maid whom he is accused of attempting to rape in his Manhattan hotel suite. Their comments, the feminist groups said, reflected the "impunity" with which "uninhibited sexism" was often expressed in French public life.

The petition was drawn up by the groups "Osez le feminisme!" (dare to be feminist!), "La Barbe" (the beard) and Paroles de Femmes (women's words). It was signed by female celebrities including the TV presenters Christine Ockrent and Audrey Pulvar, the actress and comedian, Florence Foresti and the writer, Florence Montreynaud.

The pro-DSK comments which have infuriated women's groups have mostly been made by left-wing politicians and commentators who would normally position themselves as supporters of women's rights. Socialist former culture and education minister, Jack Lang, said that DSK should have been given immediate bail since "no one was dead".

The commentator and leftist-nationalist activist, Jean-François Kahn – a close friend of DSK – said the allegations amounted to no more than a "troussage de domestique" (literally, stripping or having casual, forced sex with a servant). Both men have since apologised for their remarks.

Another friend of DSK, the Socialist Euro MP Gilles Savary, suggested that the ex-IMF chief might have been the victim of a "cultural" gulf between France and the US. Mr Strauss-Kahn, he said, was a "libertine" who enjoyed the "pleasures of the flesh" but this was not tolerated in a "puritan America, impregnated with rigorous Protestantism".

Mr Savary has not yet apologised for calling an alleged attempted rape "pleasures of the flesh".

"This kind of language generates an intolerable confusion between sexual freedom and violence towards women," the feminist petition said. "They tend to minimise the gravity of rape and to create a kind of grey area where it becomes more or less acceptable, just some sort of error of judgement.

"A simple message is being sent to victims: 'Don't complain'."

Politicians in President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party have been delighted by the attack on left-wing politicians by feminist groups. They suggest that the Parti Socialiste will now find it hard to pose as a pro-women's rights party in the presidential election next year.

Environment minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, broke ranks yesterday and suggested that sexism was a problem not just in the Socialist party but a social problem in France as a whole. "A woman (alleging a sexual attack) always has to fight to be believed," she said. "Unthinking macho attitudes exist in all levels of society. Men are often not aware of it themselves."

Meanwhile, interior minister, Claude Guéant, said that France would be pressing the US to let DSK serve any jail time in France, if convicted.