Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, former spokeswoman for Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign, just won the primary election to become the UMP candidate for the 2014 Mayoral seat in Paris.
Her rival, Anne Hidalgo, snagged the Socialist Party candidacy, meaning 2014 will see Paris’ first female mayor.
The disparity between male and female representation in any western government is striking, but French women in politics have a particularly interesting history:
There are fewer women represented in the French parliament today than were represented just after World War II.
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In 2010, France ranked only 46th in the World Economic Forum report for gender equality, trailing most of Europe, the USA (not exactly the benchmark of social equality), and even Kazakhstan.
This would be incredibly surprising in a country where 82% of French women aged 25 – 49 are working, many of them in full-time positions, except that French women still earn 26% less than men while men occupy 82% of parliamentary seats.
All of this in the birth country of Simone de Beauvoir?
With so many social benefits, it seems that French women live an incredibly high quality of life, but this doesn’t always mean it’s a gender-equal lifestyle.
As a 2010 New York Times article pointed out, some of these social programs that many of us frequently envy sometimes do more to put women in traditional roles than they do to create equality in the workforce:
Weeks after giving birth, French women are offered a state-paid, extended course of vaginal gymnastics, complete with personal trainer, electric stimulation devices and computer games that reward particularly nimble squeezing. The aim, said Agnes de Marsac, a physiotherapist who runs such sessions: “Making love again soon and making more babies.”
Doesn’t that sound so appealing? And yet so disturbing?
It seems as though the men sitting in the 82% of those parliamentary seats may have had something to do with these programs that encourage a women’s reproductive lifestyle more than her wage equality… at least the constituents don’t seem terribly happy about it.
“[French women] have the most babies in Europe, but are also the biggest consumers of anti-depressants.” –NY Times
So it becomes ever more important that 2 powerful women are running for a very public office in a very male-dominated political system. Maybe the most exciting part of all of this is the role models it will establish for young women aspiring for seats in political office.
And maybe some of that female power will rub off on us Americans… history knows we need it!
What do you think about Paris getting its first female mayor? How do you feel about female representation in politics? Let me know in the comments!