French Feminism Essay

2157 words - 9 pages

Feminism -- it is a term that inspires a spectrum of emotions that range from undying passion to unabashed disgust. The first time that I gave serious thought to where my heart stood on this spectrum was in a Women's Studies course during my freshman year of college. In my mind was the American stereotype of a feminist: a bra-burning, man-hating, and somewhat-hairy old maid. As a self-proclaimed, loudmouth liberal that despises patriarchy and other forms of gender discrimination, I wanted to call myself a feminist, but I could not align myself with that unfeminine stereotype.

Being a collector of high heels, lover of men, and an abuser of feminine guile, I felt as though claiming to be a feminist would be in turn proving to be a hypocrite. Then I came to the revelation that perhaps it is not feminism that I could not come to terms with, but rather le féminisme à l'américaine. It turns out that despite the United States label on my passport, my personal feminist philosophy is unpatriotically un-American, and instead fantastically French. I want equal pay, but I still want him to pay for the check.

As a political science major by choice, and a female by nature, I am very interested in how this "have your cake and eat it too" attitude of French feminism will apply to my future approach to gaining power in the male-dominated sphere of law and politics. Both the United States and France are historic, as well as modern, oppressors of women, and despite liberation movements on both sides of the Atlantic, women are still extremely disproportionately represented in positions of power. Subsequently, this paper will tie together the fields of Women's Studies, Political Science, and French Culture by discussing and analyzing the not so petite différence in the representation of the sexes in French politics, particularly in the legislative branch.

The unleashing of the female sex into the active politics of modern France occurred in 1945 under the Liberation Government led by Charles de Gaulle (Ardagh 599). Before this year, which is relatively recent in relation to France's age, women were not only absent from office, but simply did not even have the right to vote (Ardagh 599). Only since then have women been legally considered full citizens with equality to men (Sineau 113). The initial progress was hopeful with 30 women elected to the National Assembly in the first year of suffrage (Ardagh 599). Unfortunately for feminists, the progress took a reverse with this number dropping to 10 by 1977, coupled by a severe lack of women in the ministries (Ardagh 599).

This lack of political representation of women was in spite of the feminist movement in France that marked the 1970s. Although few women were sitting in offices of power, many were marching in the streets in protest. Through the political pressuring of the feminist movement, remarkable gains such as the legalization of abortion and progressive rape...

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