You wouldn’t know it from the surpassingly silent American press, but more than 15,000 have signed the petition published by French feminists protesting the overt sexism and misogyny in commentary and journalism coverage of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest. Excellent! (In typical fashion, the U.S. press seems absorbed with the accused man, and as far as I can tell pays little or no attention to surging activity in social justice movements on behalf of a female victim, because y’know, feminism is so complicated compared to covering a colourful, masculine individual.)
I am stirred to read the statement from the feminist groups’ petition:
“We do not know what happened in New York, Saturday May 14, but we know what has been happening in France in the past week. We are witnessing a sudden rise of sexist and reactionary reflexes, so quick to surface among part of the French elite,” the groups said on Le Monde’s website.
The comments against which they react are sickening. Rape survivors, brace yourselves, as the following are a bit hard to read:
“Why all the fuss? It’s merely a bit of hanky-panky with the help,” said Jean-François Kahn, the crusading editor of the Left-wing Marianne weekly. Jack Lang, a law don famous for having been François Mitterrand’s high-profile, graffiti-loving, diversity-fostering Culture Minister, dismissed it all rather infelicitously as an “overblown” affair: “Really, nobody died in that hotel room.”
(From the excellent column in The Telegraph, highly recommended.)
Lang has since apologized for the remark, as did commentator and leftist-nationalist activist, Jean-François Kahn (described as a close friend of the accused,) “who said the allegations amounted to no more than a “troussage de domestique” (literally, stripping or having casual, forced sex with a servant),” according to The Independent:
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 U.S. 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”.
…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.
I am thrilled that the French feminist groups who formed the petition call out the overt sexism in the French press coverage. Frankly, though, I find it disappointingly un-feminist of North American journalism to observe such silence in response to feminist political movement.