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Strauss-Kahn case highlights sexism in French politics


USA

Strauss-Kahn case highlights sexism in French politics

The sex case involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn has sent shockwaves through the French political elite.

Concerns have been raised of the alleged omerta that exists in high ranking circles about sexist attitudes to women.

Ironically Strauss Kahn’s resignation means French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is in pole position for the IMF’S top job.

euronews spoke with Nicole Bacharan, a political scientist specialising in Franco-American relations, co-author of a new book that has been called ‘a history of the feminine condition, from the cave-men till today’.

Adrian Lancashire, euronews:

Ms Bacharan, recently you said: “Finally, women are talking,” about unacceptable sexual conduct in French circles. Other Western women rebelled years ago against being patronised as the so-called ‘weaker sex’. Is French society really taking longer?

Nicole Bacharan:

“Yes, absolutely, it has been taking longer. Of course you know that French women have been fighting for their rights, and there is a long history of feminist movements, and still, I think there have always been impaired by an illusion that, in France, relations between men and women are more elegant, more civilised, more sophisticated, and under that cover I think men took advantage of a lot of situations where there is a power abuse possibility, and women also enabled that sort of behaviour for much too long, and it is about time that it all comes out.”

Adrian Lancashire, euronews:

From a social context to a political-financial context: Dominique Strauss-Kahn out of the IMF… does that suit US policy?

Nicole Bacharan:

“Well, it certainly is a blow to French influence for a while, European influence maybe. But it seems that Dominique Strauss-Kahn worked pretty well with his American counterparts. It seems to me that there is more inside the IMF a convergence of aims between the American administration, the current one, and European goals. I don’t think there is so much of a hiatus between them and the difficulties towards the rest of the world. Obviously, the Obama administration gave its nod to another European as the head of the IMF.”

Adrian Lancashire, euronews:

I imagine you are referring to France’s Christine Lagarde; why does she appeal to the Americans?

Nicole Bacharan:

“Well, first of all, she seems to be the European candidate, and the Americans, obviously, have made peace with the idea that they would have another European. Secondly, she is a woman, and under the circumstances I don’t think any other French gender could become a head of the IMF. She is obviously well-respected throughout Europe for her financial policies, as well as in the United States. She was a lawyer in the US for many years, she is fluent in English, she is easy to work with.”

Adrian Lancashire, euronews:

How does either side of the Atlantic feel about non-European candidates?

Nicole Bacharan:

“I think they have a sense that it is going to happen, sooner or later, and that maybe it would be a good thing, but not right now, not at a time when Europe is the area of the main investment for the IMF. I mean, Europe is the area that costs the most, that is in dire straits. That is not the case of other emerging countries. I don’t see anyone, in Europe or in the US wishing for a Chinese candidate, knowing that the Chinese currency rate is fixed by the state, so it is totally out of the regular market functioning. So there is not much of a choice right now.”

Adrian Lancashire, euronews:

What does the succession mean to the euro zone?

Nicole Bacharan:

“To the euro zone? Well, it might just mean continuity. I mean, the euro zone is fighting for survival, right now. I don’t think Christine Lagarde, if she ends up being the head of the IMF, is going to make many changes, in comparison with what Dominique Strauss-Kahn was trying to do. But she will certainly keep pushing for rescuing the euro zone and we are really in a situation of rescuing it.”

Adrian Lancashire, euronews:

Back to the social angle: would Lagarde leading the IMF help change gender attitudes in France, or will this ever change?

Nicole Bacharan:

“I think we are in some sort of an “Anita Hill” moment in France. I don’t know if you remember this moment in the United States when the woman Anita Hill came forward to testify against…sexual harassment, and it all came out in the open, but there wasn’t any violence; it didn’t end up in court. She just exposed the fact that there was patronising, pornographic talk in companies, toward women who don’t wish for it: that the power situation between more powerful men and a less powerful woman, all of this was, sometimes, harassment. And I think both things are coming out in France, right now, and things are going to change, at least socially. I don’t think we need any new laws, they are all out there, but they need to be used.”

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