“Don’t be surprised if you get raped when you dress like that”. This is what an unknown male MP from Sarkozy’s party UMP allegedly declared late May 2011.
Since the Dominique Strauss-Khan scandalous sex assault affair broke out (last month) – followed by other similar accusations of sexual harassment made against other male politicians – , there is has been a lot of agitation in the French National Assembly (Parliament), especially when some female MPs started to openly speak about the chauvinism and misogyny of their male counterparts, and on the job more generally.
On Tuesday the 7th, two female MPs also organised a “Journée de la jupe” (Day of the skirt) at the National Assembly to protest against the unashamed sexism going on in the work place. Male MPs keep minimising such accusations, declaring them untrue or exaggerated. And, as the comment of this unknown MP shows, some even shockingly joked about it – if such filth can be called a joke.
But seriously, what is this? How can an MP dare make such comment?
What I keep being surprised about is how the French society and culture can so easily let such events take place and such declarations be made? Aren’t the politicians supposed to set a good example? Aren’t they supposed to defend the rights of their citizens whatever their sex and gender?
For the past years, and for the past months especially, politicians have been on the backs of veiled French Muslim women, passing laws preventing them from freely wearing garments that many of them consider a protection from the male gaze. Yet, these same politicians are now acting with the same male chauvinism they condemned when supposedly coming from French Muslim men. Explain the hypocrisy here: aren’t sexist comments and behaviours a violation of a woman’s rights to feel safe, secured and dignified at workplace? If so, I believe that is be oppression.
These male MPs do not like when women get dressed in the feminine fashion of the French cultural norm, yet, when women, like some French Muslims, choose to cover up, they also criticise them, calling them subservient to male and oppressed. Do you see the resemblance? Do you notice the contradictions between political idealistic discourses and social realities?
President Sarkozy told the French National Assembly:
“We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity. That is not the idea that the French republic has of women’s dignity. The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue. It is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity.” He continues declaring that, “the burqa is not a religious sign. It is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission, of women.”
So, women freedom and women dignity… Please Mister President, tell me, do your male MPs respect the freedom and dignity of their female colleagues? Tell me also why, if the burqa isn’t a religious sign as you declared, do you refuse it in the French public and secular space?
Why can’t the French politics and laws respect the dignity and freedom of all women, regardless the way they dress? Why, us, the once so revolutionary, liberal, cannot set an example for the rest of the world in terms of respect towards women, respect of their basic rights, freedom and dignity?
Gosh! We are so far from what a society should be; where one’s freedom stops where the other’s one begins, where all, regardless the citizenship, the colour of the skin, the sex or gender, the belief, share the same rights to dignity, to equality and respect.
Qur’an [3:14] « Adorned for the people are the worldly pleasures, such as the women, having children, piles upon piles of gold and silver, trained horses, livestock, and crops. These are the materials of this world. A far better abode is reserved at God. »