Jamais ici

The Independent has also noticed the dismissive attitude to sexual harassment in France.

There was a time when France sniggered at the sex scandals that periodically enlivened British or American politics. “Jamais ici”, they would say. “We are relaxed about sex, unlike the prudish and hypocritical Anglo-Saxons.”

Except that the issue never was “sex” as such, it was sexual harassment. News flash, sophisticates: unilateral “sex” isn’t sex, it’s abuse or assault. If French women were ever “relaxed” about being assaulted or harassed, they were making a mistake.

But the male-dominated world of French politics, for so long immune to scandal, is abruptly having to deal with serial accusations of its own forms of hypocrisy and prudishness. Last week Denis Baupin, the vice-president (deputy speaker) of the national assembly, resigned to fight allegations that he had groped or sexually harassed eight female colleagues in the past 15 years. He denies the accusations en bloc.

He would say that, wouldn’t he.

Last Tuesday the finance minister, Michel Sapin, one of the most senior members of the government, was forced, after serial denials, to admit that he had behaved in an “inappropriate” way towards a female journalist at the Davos international forum last year. The woman bent over to recover a fallen pen. It is alleged that Mr Sapin reached out and twanged the elastic of her knickers.

Is that sex? Don’t be schewpid.

Exactly a year ago, a group of French female political reporters blew the whistle on the repeated sexist comments and behaviour of the country’s male politicians. In an article in the centre-left newspaper Libération, they said that they hoped that the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair three years earlier had “started a new era”. “We hoped that the macho habits, which symbolise old fashioned politics and attitudes, were on the way to extinction. Alas no,” they wrote.

The article listed dozens of examples of sexual harassment, and sometimes outright sexual blackmail, practised by older, male politicians and government officials. An unnamed politician and “friend of President François Hollande” was quoted as saying that he only “liked journalists with big breasts”. A member of parliament door-stepped by female TV reporters was reported to have said: “You are street-walking, Are you looking for a client?”

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