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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Vive le sexisme - Cécile Duflot as France's new political fashion icon

A shamefully sexist headline for sure.

But it makes a point; namely women politicians - and not just in France perhaps - are much more likely to be judged on how they look than what they say, believe in or do.

Sure there are the occasional examples of this country's male politicians making the news for their dress sense - or lack thereof: from the crumpled untidiness of former environment miniser Jean-Louis Borloo to the dashing and suave "best dressed politician" in the shape of ex-prime minister Dominique de Villepin.

By and large though, little comment is forthcoming about the grey suitedness of the largely male-dominated national assembly.

For women in French politics however - it's far from being the case.

Take Cécile Duflot.

Cécile Duflot (national assembly screenshot)

Like her or not - she's a young, ambitious and truly talented politician.

At just 37, she has had a fast track trip to power. She rose relatively quickly through the ranks of the green political party, Europe Écologie – Les Verts, becoming its leader in 2006, a post she held until a few months ago.

She was the "chief negotiator" if you will of the party's pact with Socialists for June's parliamentary elections, securing herself a safe seat in the process and - lo and behold - being offered the job of minister of territorial equality and housing in the current government.

Not bad going by anyone's reckoning.

Aside from her comments on the legalisation of cannabis - a personal view it was later stressed, just to ensure that the government appeared to be singing from the same proverbial hymn sheet (namely that of the interior minister Manuel Valls) when it came to official policy - what has Duflot made the headlines for since she took office?

Yep, you've guessed it: the way she looks - or more specifically dresses.

First there was the apparent fashion faux pas when Duflot wore jeans to the new government's inaugural cabinet meeting, with opposition politicians - and most notably former minister Nadine Morano (who else?) - leading the assault and criticising the housing minister for her lack of respect for her new position.

"Personally speaking, I think that when you're a representative of the French people you have to differentiate between what you wear to a cabinet meeting and the sort of dilettante look more appropriate for the weekend," Morano said during an interview on RTL radio.

"I think it's important to to make that distinction."

The appearance of a jean-clad Duflot at that cabinet meeting and on the official government photo' op' afterwards was reported as "causing a sensation".

Go figure.

And this week Duflot has hit the vestimentary headlines once again while answering questions in parliament.

She was wearing - shock horror - a dress (with a blue flowered pattern for those of you who really care about these sorts of things).

Duflot's choice of outfit clearly wasn't to the liking of some opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) parliamentarians who began jeering even before she had begun to answer questions.

She managed to laugh it off, "Ladies and gentlemen...but above all, clearly, gentlemen", she began.

The speaker of the house, Claude Bartolone, intervened to call the house to order, but the episode of course demonstrates much more about the macho nature of French politics as Béatrice Toulon points out in the columns of le Nouvel Observateur, where suit and ties - and the ideas that seem to go with them - dominate.

It's a world in which women are clearly still outnumbered in France, accounting for just 155 of the 577 members of the national assembly.

So Duflot and the other 18 women in the so-called gender parity government will probably have to face more of the same during their time in office.

That's progress for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well I do like the dress, and I could certainly see myself wearing it when I go to the market in Bergerac, drawing admiring glances from the local farmers and stall keepers. But to tell the truth, I'm more likely to be seen wearing wellies and jeans - on account of all the animals that live on my property!
Talking about jeans - and Duflot - you should perhaps mention that Mrs Bachelot did defend Ms Duflot a few months back, saying that if the jeans were made in France, than Ms Duflot had the right to wear them at the ministerial meeting. I approve!


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