If you want to understand French women's sympathy for DSK, suggests Lucy Wadham, just watch Madmenby Lucy Wadham / May 20, 2011 / Leave a comment
Why is it that so many French women—and not just powerful women in politics and the media—are seeing Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the victim in his case of alleged sexual assault? Listening yesterday morning to the French equivalent of BBC Radio 4 (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 his colleague, Christine Boutin described him), a Samson figure, being brought low by a woman.
France has form on this. During Segolene Royal’s campaign ran for the French presidency, I was stunned by the misogynistic comments that were hurled at her by both men and women from left and right. When she failed to be elected I wondered if it was what the French call a strategie d’echec: her own unconscious urge to fail triggered by her unwillingness to override her own conditioning. Today, the widespread view of DSK as a victim only confirms my misgivings. Willfully unreconstructed, France is a society in which women collude in a continued phallocracy.
If Brits and Americans want to understand this mindset all they have to do is watch Joan Halloway, the curvacious redhead in the TV series Madmen. Joanie is clever, sexy, witty and submissive. She’s admired, valued, often worshipped and always dominated. She’s the embodiment of the unspoken pact between the sexes that most French women are still willing to accept.