The French Are Famous for Sexual Innuendo, Romance, Love and Passion
Having grown-up in Montreal, I have a great deal of experience with what was old school French romance and how it has devolved into a cat-calling, blame game for gender politesse.
Most recently, the world was re-introduced to the paternalistic French view of relationships with the Dominique Strauss-Kahn accusations in New York, which casts a less then sophisticated eye on romance, despite Paris still being seen as the city for love. Unfortunately, a recent row about the attire of a newly elected French parliamentarian, who happened to be a woman, has thrown France into that most unflattering of gender controversies. As throwbacks to a long-gone era of gender bias, bombastic morality and belly laughs from ancient men who as elected officials would carry the culture and sophistication of what was France on their wrinkled, conservative, poorly fitting suit jackets.
Does a Woman's Dress Make a Difference vs. A Man's Suit?
That assessment may have been a little harsh, but as we know, when those in power are confronted with change, they always (yes, I'm using an absolute) push back, especially when instances of women gaining power are direct threats to their own views (we won't even consider the Muslim political world which is still in the dark ages of human evolution when it comes to women's rights, cooperation with the genders and any other aspect of recognition of women as equal partners in politics as well as family members. But I digress!).
Returning the the French, who like to say how open and inclusive they are, the reality is that it applies perhaps to the bedroom, but not the boardroom. The case to which I am referring is with Madame Cecile Duflot, who angered the cobweb laden ancients in the French parliament by wearing jeans on her first official picture, which may have been a little dressed down for the occasion. What ensued next could only be a scandal of French proportions with such disdain coming from the "gentil Monsieur" of the French Parliament, that Ms. Duflot was heckled and cat-called when she entered the chamber to take her position, in a conservative, almost matronly flowered dress, to throw the unwritten rules of presenting yourself to the Parliament in their face.
Cecile Duflot is a quintessential French Woman at only 37 Years Old
Clearly, there was no issue with the decorum of Ms. Duflot's dress choice, if somewhat conservative and the women of the chamber (there are others) were similarly conservatively dressed, but to make such a fuss out of dress is indeed comical, considering the real issues that face France as a country and Europe as a whole.
This "scandale" brings to mind the Italian brouhaha that erupted when an Italian porn star Cicciolina won a seat in that countries parliament and although quite properly dressed, was roundly booed and cat-called (this in 1987, so they are, in a way, paving the way for changes in attitudes and dress in European parliaments). Yet, this happened in a country that has as it's head, a Prime Minister that is so farcical, he has hosted strippers at parties, cavorted while married with underage prostitutes, dressed as a nun at parties and so many other indiscretions that nobody can take anyone seriously in Italy anymore, especially in government. Let's hope the Italian porn star that won a mayoral contest in Taranto in Italy this year can clean-up that town.
Greek, English and Other European Parliament's Struggle with Gender Issues
The French Parliamentary issue seems to pale in comparison to male Greek elected officials slapping female parliamentarians, whether as a promotional stunt or simply as a side-effect of bad manners and anger management issues as often happens in the South Korean Parliament. In this case, man to man. The French have quickly pointed the discussion in the direction of proper attire and subsequent talk shows have enlisted fashion mavens from all over the world to lively discourse about how people in power express themselves by their choice of dress. As a form of communication, it was clear that Ms. Duflot wanted to suggest her own disdain for the French government's recent performance by wearing jeans the first time. Certainly, I know I would wear a bathing suit, sunglasses and ripped t-shirt to the US Congress to show those buffoons how successful they have been in the last decade with their inaction, sanctimonious speeches and partisan bickering while people starve in what was the land of plenty.
Professional therapists have even dipped their toes into the discussion to reveal how men's fewer options for dress, leaves them expressionless as opposed to women, who have a far greater variety and options for attire in Western cultures. Often, they claim, the case is that men are significantly more insecure about changing anything about their conforming attire and the French issue with Ms. Duflot, may have indeed been just that. A reaction to someone else being able to express their displeasure with the Parliament's performance, while all they could do was sit in their grey, double vented wool suits, the most aggressively styled of which may have double breasts.
France should get back to being home of the City of Love
Undoubtedly, the French will see this as an embarrassment simply for it being an issue in the first place and they would do well to refocus their attention on the sensuality of the culture, romance of their main city and freedom of women to express themselves as a leader in the Western worlds gender relations. I know first hand how sexy and romantic a confident, strong, elegant and well spoken woman can be. Throw in a worldliness with a French accent and most American men will swoon. Obviously, Frenchmen who are their Parliament have lost touch with that part of their culture and would do well to accept it again. For Ms. Duflot, good for her independence. After-all, isn't that what the French revolution was all about in the first place?