Stop-sexism, OPL Montreuil-en-Touraine, Creative Commons

A GOVERNMENT watchdog has found that French society “remains very sexist in all of its spheres”. In its report published yesterday The High Council for Equality between Women and Men called for a national “emergency plan” to combat “the massive, violent and sometimes lethal consequences” of sexism.

One-third of women said they have been badgered by their partners into sexual acts they did not want, a survey commissioned by the council found. About one in seven respondents said men had forced sex on them, and a similar number reported having been hit and shoved by their partners. This figure appears to be borne out by what men aged between 25 and 34 said – almost a quarter of these said they sometimes feel compelled to use force to be respected.

Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette, the council’s president, expressed particular concern about sexism among younger men who had “bathed in social media, digital [technology], pornography”. She added that sexism must be ”fought from the youngest of ages”.

“Young people in particular are brought up digitally on these scenes of mundane violence, of relations between men and women that are completely of domination and dominated and that has impregnated society,” Pierre-Brossolette said, when speaking to the broadcaster France Inter. 

The report saw a paradox in public opinion, which recognised the existence of sexism but did not reject it in practice, something not uncommon in many western societies.

The council found that at least 80% of women believe they are treated worse than men on account of their sex. Even if that number is exaggerated, take 20% off and it’s still 60%, and it should shock us that women still feel this way. And they have cause. When, across all age groups, 40% of men think it is normal for women to stop working to look after children, it is undeniable that women are treated as ‘lesser beings’.

However, while these findings are very disturbing, it must be noted that France has made progress in some areas.

Macron’s Government has increased police resources to deal with domestic violence and has offered free birth control to all women up to age 25. (But do women over 25 not need birth control?) Politicians are also working to guarantee France’s abortion rights with a bill intended to prevent any of the rollbacks in reproductive rights seen elsewhere, most notably in the United States.

This is clearly not enough, and the High Council for Equality described the overall situation for women in France as “alarming.”

“Sexism is not retreating in France,” the report said. “On the contrary, some of its most violent manifestations are getting worse, and the young generations are the most affected.”

This behaviour is not confined to France, and we must never grow complacent in our battle for equality.

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