Feminists' anger at chauvinism of Strauss-Kahn affair

French feminist groups demonstrated yesterday against what they said is a "flood" of male chauvinist comments generated in France by the Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) affair.

Three women's pressure groups held a protest vigil in Paris and published a 6,000 signature petition condemning the "unabashed sexism" of some politicians and commentators – especially on the Left – who sprang to the defence of the former IMF chief and Socialist presidential contender.

"We do not know what happened in New York on Saturday May 14, but we know what has been happening in France in the past week," the petition said. "We have been disgusted by a daily outpouring of misogynist comments by public figures."

The petition said that friends and allies of DSK had portrayed him as the victim of a judicial lynching or possible conspiracy, ignoring the alleged suffering of the 32-year-old chamber maid whom he is accused of attempting to rape in his Manhattan hotel suite. Their comments, the feminist groups said, reflected the "impunity" with which "uninhibited sexism" was often expressed in French public life.

The petition was drawn up by the groups "Osez le feminisme!" (dare to be feminist!), "La Barbe" (the beard) and Paroles de Femmes (women's words). It was signed by female celebrities including the TV presenters Christine Ockrent and Audrey Pulvar, the actress and comedian, Florence Foresti and the writer, Florence Montreynaud.

The pro-DSK comments which have infuriated women's groups have mostly been made by left-wing politicians and commentators who would normally position themselves as supporters of women's rights. Socialist former culture and education minister, Jack Lang, said that DSK should have been given immediate bail since "no one was dead".

The commentator and leftist-nationalist activist, Jean-François Kahn – a close friend of DSK – said the allegations amounted to no more than a "troussage de domestique" (literally, stripping or having casual, forced sex with a servant). Both men have since apologised for their remarks.

Another friend of DSK, the Socialist Euro MP Gilles Savary, suggested that the ex-IMF chief might have been the victim of a "cultural" gulf between France and the US. Mr Strauss-Kahn, he said, was a "libertine" who enjoyed the "pleasures of the flesh" but this was not tolerated in a "puritan America, impregnated with rigorous Protestantism".

Mr Savary has not yet apologised for calling an alleged attempted rape "pleasures of the flesh".

"This kind of language generates an intolerable confusion between sexual freedom and violence towards women," the feminist petition said. "They tend to minimise the gravity of rape and to create a kind of grey area where it becomes more or less acceptable, just some sort of error of judgement.

"A simple message is being sent to victims: 'Don't complain'."

Politicians in President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party have been delighted by the attack on left-wing politicians by feminist groups. They suggest that the Parti Socialiste will now find it hard to pose as a pro-women's rights party in the presidential election next year.

Environment minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, broke ranks yesterday and suggested that sexism was a problem not just in the Socialist party but a social problem in France as a whole. "A woman (alleging a sexual attack) always has to fight to be believed," she said. "Unthinking macho attitudes exist in all levels of society. Men are often not aware of it themselves."

Meanwhile, interior minister, Claude Guéant, said that France would be pressing the US to let DSK serve any jail time in France, if convicted.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £38,000

£22000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role is a mixture of office...

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

£17100 - £20900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Health & Safety Support Tutor

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Assistant

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests