Controverse autour d’un féminisme à la française, dossier réalisé par Pascale Barthélémy, MCF d’histoire contemporaine, ENS de Lyon, dans le cadre du séminaire interdisciplinaire sur le genre, ISH, Lyon.
► Le 20 mai 2011, dans le New York Times, Joan Scott reproche aux femmes françaises d’être plus tolérantes que les Américaines face aux « inconduites » (misconducts) sexuelles: «Feminism, a foreign Import?»
French political culture has long tolerated behavior like Strauss-Kahn’s, explaining it as a trait of national character — part of what the historian Mona Ozouf referred to as « the art of seduction. »
At least since the bicentennial of the French Revolution in 1989, many books and articles have been published arguing that the alternative to equality between the sexes (and indeed, to equality in society more generally) was an acceptance of the eroticized play of difference. Women, the subordinate sex, were said to acquire power as objects of masculine desire. Their role in the « passionate economy » was to civilize male brutality. The proponents of this view were often women — among them Ozouf and Claude Habib — who denounced feminism as a foreign import.
Furthermore, these proponents justified their arguments about the inability of Muslims to assimilate to the French culture by claiming thatMuslims did not understand that open erotic play was integral to Frenchness. How ironic, then, that the victim of Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault was a Muslim.
Of course, there are feminists who have long disagreed with this view of the national character, but they are in the minority. In light of the Strauss-Kahn scandal, they are being listened to.
The French media are finding it hard to dismiss this as a case of American puritanism. Strauss-Kahn’s alleged action, though more violent than the usual game of seduction, nonetheless reveals seduction not to be an « art, » but an entitlement that some powerful men assume comes with their status and their sex.