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Women in politics: equality hampered

In July, it will be twenty years. Two decades, then, that "Equal access of women and men to electoral mandates and elective functions" was engraved in the Constitution. And? It is clear that the miracle did not happen. However, multiple laws have been adopted on the subject, from that of June 2000 to strike at the portfolio political parties ignoring the joint obligations in the legislative, the text of May 2013 which makes, among other things, compulsory tandems woman-man in the departmental elections. While significant progress has been made over the years, women remain largely a minority in the French political landscape, at both national and local levels. Thus, in 2017, women represented 39% of MPs, against 10.9% in 1997 and 29% of senators, against 5.9% in 1998. At the local level, in 2014, only 40.3% of municipal councilors were female councilors, compared with 21.7% in 1995 … and only 16% of mayors are women. Yet, on paper, this objective of real equality seems to be a consensus. But in practice, what is stuck? What are the wheels at work and how to stop them? It is to answer these questions that Release partnered with the insubordinate La France de Seine-Saint-Denis Clémentine Autain to organize a forum on the theme "Does power have a sex?" (2).

All day Friday, a dozen personalities (researcher, historian, elected …) have succeeded in the National Assembly to try to verbalize these evils that hinder or hinder equality. "Politics is in a way the quintessence of power, so the symbolic burden of this issue is strong, and mirrors with many other sectors of society", insists Clémentine Autain. This sexism, as prevalent as impunity in France, as the High Council for Equality (HCE) has recently pointed out in a long report, does not spare the political sphere. Would she be sick? Four-point diagnostic attempt, supporting prescriptions.

The weight of history

Do not forget where we go from here. To know: by far. This is the message delivered by the historian Mathilde Larrère. The specialist in revolutions and citizenship made a leap of more than two centuries back, in 1792. Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette, prosecutor of the Paris Commune and fervent opponent of gender equality, justifies the fact that women excluded from the political field by the fact that it must "To be forbidden to any individual who insults nature". And the speaker to question: "Were we given breasts?" "From the beginning, women's bodies were used as an argument to exclude them", observes Mathilde Larrère, for whom, of course, "Women have entered politics, but men have remained in the heart of the room." This is demonstrated by the allegory of the Salic law (a rule excluding women from succession to the throne) which continues to the ceiling of the Assembly hemicycle.

February 8, 2019 at the National Assembly 101 rue de l'Universite, Paris. Forum 'Does power have sex?'
Clémentine AutainLibération teamed up with MP Clémentine Autain (LFI) to organize the day. Photo CAMILLE MCOUAT.

Potential remedy: "Why not put women back into the school curriculum? And even more, teach this exclusion, these processes of illegitimation, suggests Mathilde Larrère. More than 100 years ago, Virginia Woolf was arguing in this way, believing that "The history of men's opposition to all emancipation of women is even more revealing than the history of this emancipation."

Your ruthless world

"I think we have all incorporated the idea that the political space is not safe, especially not for women, who will be harshly judged, resumed, or victims of sexist abuse", says insubordinate member Danièle Obono. Harassment, aggression and ordinary sexism are de facto no strangers to the very fabric of the Assembly, as was recently recalled by a panel of the Colleagues Collab for whom "Impunity has not moved a millimeter". The issue of gender-based violence in politics is more relevant than ever, as former Green MP Denis Baupin sues journalists and women for acts of harassment and harassment. sexual assault. Under heavy applause, Sandrine Rousseau, former spokeswoman of Europe Ecology-the Greens who is among the women who spoke openly in 2016, when the case broke, said that this lawsuit by Denis Baupin is "Emblematic of the situation of women in politics. Almost all those who testified reported difficulty speaking: they had to prove themselves … " Senator Ecologist Esther Benbassa supports: "Women are systematically referred to their singularity, the otherness of their bodies, their clothes or their physiques." As proof of this fact, it is more often than not rightly understood at the Assembly booth: "Is a woman fuckable or not?" That is the perfect illustration of the work of the researcher Camille Froidevaux-Metterie (1): "The political women I interviewed all told me that they were perceived as bodies, sometimes even as bodies." "The question of the body is central to the feminist struggle as well as to politics. So inevitably, the question of feminine attributes is a matter of every morning, for its part, the MP PCF Elsa Faucillon. Should we try to comply with codes perceived as masculine, or on the contrary assume his femininity? "Whatever we choose, we will blame him", Esther Benbassa slice.

February 8, 2019 at the National Assembly 101 rue de l'Universite, Paris. Forum 'Does power have sex?'
here Mathilde LarrèreThe historian Mathilde Larrère, specialist in revolutions. Photo CAMILLE MCOUAT.

The remedy: elected mayor of Paris in 2014, the socialist Anne Hidalgo calls to "Do not be afraid to denounce sexist attacks". "Why not build alliances to deal with a big storm?" she suggests, citing the example of the network "Women for Climate", community of women committed to climate around the world. For the former Socialist presidential candidate and founder of the Mouvement Génération · s, Benoît Hamon, it is also necessary that "Parties learn from recent events to equip themselves with the necessary tools to prevent, inform and accompany women, especially when they are victims of sexist acts".

The extent of prejudices

"The challenge now is to achieve a vertical but also horizontal redistribution of powers. So that is not only quantitative, but also qualitative ", says CNRS Research Director Réjane Sénac. The chair of the gender committee at the HCE notes that women are confined to the family and early childhood, when these men receive portfolios related to finances. Proof that the legislative provisions can not solve everything. Especially since they can be easily bypassed: "Those who can afford to pay [les amendes, ndlr] can not afford to respect parity, and that's what happens, " says Frédérique Matonti, professor of political science at the University Paris-I-Sorbonne. Geoffroy Didier, Secretary General The Republicans, also figures to 9 million euros the penalties paid by his party in the last five years for sprained parity. "To prefer to pay rather than to trust is madness" he said, favoring alternation between the sexes in high office, as advocated, in particular, by the HCE. If that were the case, when the mayor is a man, then it would be mandatory for his first deputy to be an assistant.

The remedy: faced with the warlike representations, even virilists of power still too often in force, some, like David Cormand, national secretary of EE-LV, recommend "Bring down the watts" and call for "Change the cultural representation of power". "In my opinion, it is necessary to degenerate, rather than devilish. Why not set up anti-sexist formations in political parties? " for its part considers the historian Mathilde Larrère. Why, still, do not feminize the names and functions? This is what Anne Hidalgo advocates, who wants to be called "Madam Mayor". "Otherwise, girls will never be able to project themselves" She argues.

February 8, 2019 at the National Assembly 101 rue de l'Universite, Paris. Forum 'Does power have sex?' Benoit HamonBenoît Hamon, during a debate on the theme "The body in politics". Photo CAMILLE MCOUAT.

Divide the times of life

"The time of political life is incompatible with a family life. Domestic and parental tasks remain largely devolved to women ", pose Clémentine Autain in the preamble. In fact, according to INSEE, women spend no less than three hours twenty-six per day on domestic chores, compared to two hours for men. "Not to mention the mental charge. I have heard politicians ask me what it is all about, " rebels Clementine Autain. "Most meetings in which decisions are made are single-sex and non-racialized. This is one of the citadels to take, abounds Benoît Hamon. Question of schedules of course, but also (especially?) Of culture, as evidenced by an episode that marked PCF MP Elsa Faucillon: "At the time of the examination of the asylum and immigration law in the hemicycle, on the left, we were mostly women to follow the debates very closely. But when it came time to decide on the political consequences to be given, the men went out and decided between them ", she recalls.

The cure : "To bring out a questioning on the status of elected officials could possibly help to find guarantees for the return to work", submit for example Frédérique Matonti. Mathilde Larrère is surprised at the lack of a crèche in the Assembly, when the European Parliament can accommodate 230 offspring. This book, constantly updated on the trade, was validated on the principle last year by the Questeurs du Palais-Bourbon. The daycare could open by the end of the year.

(1) Author in particular of Women's Corps: The Battle of the Intimate (Philosophy magazine, 2018)

(2) Find in video all the debates of the symposium on Libération.fr.

Virginie Ballet



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