Sunday, March 27, 2011
France not so feminist
It would seem that the despised Anglo-Saxons are less bothered about appearances than are the "sophisticated" French
The twin stereotypes about gender in France are wholly contradictory: on the one hand, they have titanic feminist theorists, from Simone de Beauvoir via Helene Cixious to Virginie Despentes, a tranche of thinkers so heavyweight that the rest of Europe couldn't match it if we pooled all our feminists. On the other hand, the mainstream culture looks quite sexist. The women seem bedevilled by standards that are either unattainable (to be a perfect size eight) or demeaning in themselves (to be restrained, demure, moderate in all things, poised; a host of qualities that all mean "quiet"). But this dichotomy is impossible. Either the feminist intellectuals had no impact, or the sexism is a myth.
Elsa Dorlin, associate professor at the Sorbonne, currently a visiting professor in California, dispatches the first quantity pretty swiftly. "French feminism is a kind of American construction," she says. "Figures like Helene Cixous are not really recognised in France. In civil society, there is a hugely anti-feminist mentality."
The standard structural markers of inequality are all in place: the figure proffered for a pay gap is a modest 12%, but this is what is known as "pure discrimination", the difference in wages between a man and a woman in exactly the same job, with the same qualifications. When the Global Pay Gap survey came out at Davos, France came a shocking 46th, way behind comparable economies (Britain is 15th, Germany 13th), and behind less comparable ones (Kazakhstan scored higher).
Female representation in politics is appalling, due to very inflexible rules about the pool from which the political class is drawn. All politicians come from the highly competitive set of graduate schools Les Grandes Ecoles (apart from Nicolas Sarkozy) which, until recently, had only a smattering of women, and none at all in Polytechnique (it is sponsored by the Ministry of Defence: women are now allowed in).
When there is a high-profile female face in politics, it is indicative of some force other than equality. At the local elections last week the two big winners were the Socialists, whose leader is Martine Aubry (daughter of Jacques Delors), and the National Front, led by Marine Le Pen (daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen). So what we're seeing there is not so much the smashing of the glass ceiling as a freak shortage of sons in a political culture so stitched-up that it's effectively hereditary.
As for the lived experience of being female, it sounds like hard work, even as described by women who say they love it. Thomasine Jammot, a cross-cultural trainer (who teaches travelling business people how they might overcome cultural misinterpretation, on their own or someone else's part) says that she does not feel discriminated against, nor objectified. "There is a permanent ode to women in France," she explains. "We are loved very well." But then she continues: "There are many things you can't do, as a woman, in France. You can't be coarse or vulgar, or drink too much, or smoke in the street. I would never help myself to wine." "How would you get more wine?" I ask, baffled. "At the end of an evening, I might shake my glass at my husband. But no, I would never touch the bottle."
Sometimes it sounds not so much sexist as so intensely gendered that even men must feel the weight of constraint, of expectation. But at least they won't have to do the laundry as well.
Bérengére Fiévet, 35, is a single mother and student in psychology, as well as a part-time teacher. "Nothing has changed much in the past 20 years. For men, women are just women: sex objects. Your appearance will change everything, even for an interview for a job. In France you employ anyone you like. If the interviewer thinks that you're too fat or ugly: dommage for you!"
This is underlined by a bizarre new initiative, Action Relooking, in which a handful of lucky unemployed French women are given a government makeover, in order to look pretty for a job interview.
"Women feel the pressure to maintain their 'physique' more in France than anywhere else in Europe," says Nicole Fiévet, 63, a senior council official. "The pressure comes from society itself, not only from men but women. I am still a bad example to talk about it. I spend my life to look after my garden more than me. As a result, I never found a husband."
It is against this backdrop – conservatism and rigidity, rather than an all-out war between the sexes – that a bitter struggle has developed which started with a schism between feminists but extends far beyond.
In 2002 it was made illegal to "passively solicit". Mainstream feminists – politicians, unionists, various figures who had grouped together in 1996 under the title CNDF – supported the law; as prostitution constituted violence against women it obviously should be outlawed. Activists countered that this denied prostitutes even the patchy safety of a busy street. They said, furthermore, that this was tacit racism, as these prostitutes tended to be from eastern Europe or Africa, and many were deported following the clampdown (even though there was a caveat offering clemency to any woman who named her trafficker; none ever did).
But underneath the practical injustice, there was a more pressing misogyny. Nellie, a member of the group Les Tumultueuses (she declines to give her surname in case it damages her position as a school teacher), explains: "How do you recognise someone who is 'passively soliciting'? By definition, she isn't doing anything. So you know her because her skirt is too short, or she is wearing fishnets, or she has too much make-up on. When you're not wearing enough clothing, you're a prostitute. When you're wearing too much, you're a Muslim. That's where we end up, if we judge people on how they dress."
Racist Hispanic group attacks black conservative
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained a shocking video produced by a radical Mexican separatist group attacking civil rights activist Ted Hayes with racist smears and death threats. The video was posted to the Internet on YouTube after Mr. Hayes testified, by invitation of Maryland Delegate Pat McDonough, on March 15 before the Judiciary Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates against providing taxpayer dollars for in-state tuition benefits for illegal aliens.
The video begins with the message "[expletive] you 'Mayate,'" which is reportedly a racist and derogatory term used to smear African Americans and "dark skinned" people. The video then streams a series of racist images including: the silhouette of a man hanging from a noose, photos of Mr. Hayes adjacent to photos of monkeys and bananas and doctored photos of Mr. Hayes pictured with a gun next to his head. The video, which runs two minutes and nine seconds, concludes with the message "Your (sic) FREE Now Mayate go back to Africa."
The video was initially posted to the video website YouTube by a group with the moniker "The Timmytop," and was subsequently removed. The Timmytop Youtube "channel" includes a number of extremist propaganda videos with messages such as "This Is Our Land Whiteboy [expletive] you Gringo." The videos seem to express support for the La Raza/Aztlan movement, which seeks to conquer the American Southwest and "return" it to Mexico. Notably, the videos attack black and white Americans.
Mr. Hayes is a long-time opponent of illegal immigration, noting specifically that its devastating impact on the African American community is largely ignored by other black leaders. Death threats and intimidation of a witness because of his testimony before the Maryland legislature would violate federal and Maryland criminal statutes.
"Judicial Watch is outraged at the racist death threats and intimidation directed at the black civil rights activist Ted Hayes in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights. The debate over in-state tuition for illegal aliens in Maryland has been compromised and chilled by these threats," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "The individuals responsible for this evil video must be held accountable to the rule of law. This is an attack on the entire black community, not just Ted Hayes. The Holder Justice Department and the Maryland Attorney General need to take immediate action to investigate these threats."
'Kinetic military action' is still hell
President Obama says there's no reason for him to return the Nobel Peace Prize he won two years ago, shortly after taking office, despite the obvious "irony" of America being involved in three different wars.
Uh, make that two wars and one "kinetic military action." That, at least, seems to be the administration's preferred term for describing the enforcement of the UN-declared no-fly zone in Libya. In fact, military and national-security officials can't seem to stop talking about America's current "kinetic options" and "kinetic capabilities."
Certainly, administration spokesmen have taken great pains to avoid referring to the ongoing operation as a war -- which would, of course, require the president to get congressional approval.
Now, there's nothing particularly new about this bit of Pentagon-speak. It simply means the use of active military force -- dropping bombs, firing weapons, and the like -- as opposed to things like cyberwarfare and the use of nonlethal, high-tech electronic gadgetry. Indeed, the Pentagon has been using the term since the early days of post-9/11 action in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Back then, though, the term was ridiculed. Timothy Noah, for example, called its use by Donald Rumsfeld "unconscionably euphemistic, with antiseptic connotations derived from high-school physics."
Of course, Team Obama is well known for its use of euphemism when it comes to fighting radical Islam -- recall that the Pentagon once suggested replacing the term "global war on terror" with "overseas contingency operation." Not to mention that the very term "Islamic radicalism" was dropped from the National Security Strategy early on.
Still, to paraphrase Shakespeare, a war by any other name is still a war.
Strange British police priorities again
Police called and hours of CCTV footage scanned after ‘union men’ walk off with half a bottle of Scottish socialist's £14 wine. The coppers should have fobbed him off -- as they would have to anyone else
A Labour MP has been accused of wasting police time after he summoned an officer and two security guards to investigate the theft of half a bottle of wine from a Commons bar. Dunfermline MP Thomas Docherty claims two men, believed to be union activists, walked off with the unfinished £14 bottle of chardonnay. Even though the bottle was later returned to him, the men disappeared and Mr Docherty demanded they be apprehended.
In a scene straight from TV’s Crimewatch, a police officer was dispatched after midnight to scan CCTV footage in an effort to catch the pair.
Defiant Mr Docherty last night insisted he was right to make a stand and called for new checks on Commons visitors to stop a repeat of the theft. But one of Mr Docherty’s fellow Labour MPs thought the incident had been blown out of all proportion. He said: ‘To have two guards and a copper searching for a couple of blokes who ran off with a half-drunk bottle of wine left on a bar is daft.
‘Imagine if a member of the public did that in a normal pub. The police would laugh in your face.’
The incident, dubbed ‘chardonnay-gate’, happened at 11pm on Budget Day as MPs and visitors were in the crowded bar overlooking the River Thames. Mr Docherty left the bar to go out on to the terrace to have a cigarette. When he came back, he discovered his bottle was missing. He was then told by a barman that two men had taken the bottle on to the terrace.
The MP, accompanied by the barman, spotted the bottle standing on a parapet over the river and confronted the men. Mr Docherty, 36, grabbed the bottle, returned it to the bar and then went back on to the terrace to deal with the thieves. By the time he returned to the crime scene, the culprits had made their getaway.
But Mr Docherty, who last year led calls for MPs to abide by a Commons dress code after a woman MP allegedly turned up in jeans, was determined not to let the matter rest. He phoned security and a few minutes later a female guard arrived in the bar.
Mr Docherty and the barman gave her a detailed account of what happened, showed her the wine bottle – which by now was empty – and gave descriptions of the unlikely thieving duo; a short, young black man wearing a black jacket and an elderly white man with a walking stick.
The guard made comprehensive notes before leaving the bar. Other MPs said the ‘thieves’ had earlier attended a Trades Union Congress reception elsewhere in Parliament.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.