Outrage in France as female minister heckled in National Assembly
There was outrage in France this week after a video emerged showing female housing minister Cécile Duflot being subjected to jeers and wolf-whistles from male politicians as she took to the podium at the Asemblée Nationale.
Duflot was not wearing her usual low-key style of clothes (she was criticised for wearing jeans to her first cabinet meeting) but instead had donned a floral dress for the political address on July 17.
As she took centre stage to deliver a speech about a new Parisian metropolitan plan, she could barely be heard over the excitable whoops and leers of her male counterparts – to the extent that speaker Claude Bartolone was obliged to remind everyone to calm down.
To her credit, Duflot didn’t miss a beat. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she began. “Especially the gentlemen, it seems…”
In a misguided attempt to justify the situation, UMP minister and one of the hecklers Patrick Balkany later denied behaving in a sexist manner, telling French newspaper Le Figaro that he was merely ‘admiring’ Duflot’s appearance.
He then went on to insinuate that Duflot’s outfit was a ploy to distract the opposition from what she was saying.
So, sidestepping the implication that a significant portion of the French parliament has the self-control and attention span of an excitable adolescent, what is it that made some of the most powerful men in Europe believe such misogyny was acceptable?
When François Hollande was sworn in as President of the Republic in May of this year, he appointed equal numbers of male and female ministers to his cabinet.
However, the percentage of women politicians in the Asemblée National is only 27%, albeit up from 19%.
Since the explosion of the ‘DSK affair’, women ministers have become steadily more vocal about the level of sexism they have to put up with in national politics.
For her part, Duflot has remained remarkably sanguine about the whole affair, refusing to rise to the bait.
“There are a lot of men who do politics who aren’t like that; there are a lot of men who don’t do politics who aren’t like that,” she said in a radio interview. “I’d rather think about feminist men.”