Lucy Wadham wrote a great book about France entitled “The Secret Life of France”. Of all the books I’ve read about French culture, it’s the best for helping one to suss out what is really going on in France. She’s got a blog also called “The Secret Life of France” and the following two items are excerpted from there. Inquiring minds will want to read her book and check out the full articles.
May 18, 2011 by Lucy Wadham
When I first heard the news of Dominique Strauss Kahn’s arrest in New York I clapped my hand over my mouth in horror. The news was shocking in itself – attempted rape…unlawful imprisonment – but my alarm went deeper than the accusation itself. It felt like a kind of reckoning, a death knell to a certain idea of France. Suddenly, DSK, the Grand Seducteur, the infamous lover of women was revealed as nothing more than a dirty old man unable to control himself. In the process, the very French mythology surrounding sex – particularly of the extra-marital kind – as a private, elegant and decorous game, was exposed as a big lie serving, primarily, as a rampart for the patriarchy. How fitting it was that the nemesis (both of the man and the myth) should be played out in America, the home of the witch-hunt and the cradle of political correctness. And how predictable that so much of the reaction to this story has centred, on both sides of the Atlantic, upon a visceral clash between two world-views.
On the morning after DSK’s arrest, words like “Incredible”, “unbelievable” “Inconceivable” peppered the French headlines. America was universally outraged by the details of the case while in France Twitter was awash with conspiracy theories exonerating the politician.
DSK’s socialist colleagues all leapt to his defence. Former prime minister, Laurent Fabius (“in shock”) spared a thought, not for the supposed victim, but for Strauss Kahn’s wife and family. Even his political opponents alluded to a possible set-up by Sarkozy’s entourage to undermine his candidacy for the presidential elections. Former minister for housing, Christine Boutin, in the manner of a true courtesan and guardian of the patriarchy said, “To me the whole business seems highly implausible! We know that he’s rather vigorous, if you know what I mean, but that he should get himself caught like that, seems unbelievable so I hope he’s just fallen into a trap.” The general state of shock in France, then, is not so much that the alleged crime should have taken place but that DSK allowed himself to get caught. CONTINUE
May 19, 2011 by Lucy Wadham
Listening to the French equivalent of BBC Radio 4 this morning (France Inter) brought it home to me: France is one of the last great patriarchies. I could hardly believe my ears. There, in the recording studio, a female journalist called Pascale Clark sat tittering at male comedian, Sami Ameziane, who was impersonating DSK in his hotel room in New York trying to talk some sense into his penis: “Listen I don’t like the look of this chick, she’s going to get you into trouble, put away the merguez, buddy…” But it’s the other voice that wins: “Come on Dom. Have you forgotten who you are, Dominique-nique-nique-nique*. Whip out the tools, mate…” The three minute sketch was a festival of macho inanity the subtext of which was, either the maid was asking for it and changed her mind half way through, or it was a set-up. In both scenarios DSK is the ‘vigorous’ male (as Christine Boutin described him), a Samson figure, being brought low by a woman. CONTINUE
The DSK case and the Sisterhood
September 3, 2011 by Lucy Wadham
Although I have always called myself a feminist, I was, in the days following Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, unable to join the sisterhood in condemning a man — albeit of dubious moral record — for the crime of attempted rape before he had actually been found guilty.
Having written a piece (that was never published) attempting to explain the French outrage at the “perp walk” and public shaming of someone theoretically innocent until proven guilty, I ducked the flak and watched the case unfold in silent bafflement that my own views could be so at variance with those of my fellow female journalists in Britain and America.
Have I gone native, I wondered? Have I been corrupted by French libertinism?
I would not describe myself as a libertine.* I believe in the wisdom of monogamy for optimal happiness and I think that transparency in a relationship is a desirable goal. I do not, however, underestimate the difficulty of marriage and I refuse to judge others for a failure to live up to the above standards.
I also accept the notion that it is possible to be happy in what used to be called “an open marriage,” and although that would not be my choice, I refuse to judge others if it is theirs.
Knowing, as I did, Strauss-Kahn’s reputation as a sexual predator and philanderer, I was not drawn to the man, even before he went to America and I doubt that I would have voted for him, but I still felt queasy at the sight of those shaming placards outside the courtroom on the day of his release, or of the abusive cry of: “DSK, you’re a sick bastard and your wife is even sicker.” CONTINUE
Lucy is right about the deplorable puritanism of the UK and US, and she is also right about the misogyny of France. But then, puritanism is just another face of misogyny – pathological cultures on both sides of the Atlantic.