[5 minute read]
It truly amazes me just how subtle manifestations of sexism in allegedly progressive societies can be. We may not even notice them unless someone points it out to us. Although as women we experience subtle and not-so-subtle sexism on a daily basis, we often take societal norms for granted without pausing to think about their frequently problematic origins.
Take France for example. 96th percentile in women’s financial inclusion. 223 female lawmakers out of the 577 new deputies elected into the French Parliament in 2017, pushing the country from 64th to 17th place in female parliamentary representation globally.
Then, there’s the ever-present stereotype of the French woman, embracing her sensuality and demanding respect. French women themselves certainly find their brand of feminism to be as (if not more) successful than the American version, less aggressive yet effective.
In 1947, describing her visit to the United States, Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “Relations between men and women in America are one of permanent war.” That perception holds true today as the French, even in casual conversations, approach American feminist initiatives such as #MeToo cautiously, wary of potential excesses.
I first arrived to France with the image of French society as somehow freer, but also better-mannered and more refined. I assumed men here would respect me, as a woman, and I found the idea charming. And for the most part, they have. Alas, the devil is in the details.