Surprises About French Women - Amazing Benefits Support Gender Inequality

BlogHer Original Post

The New York Times reviewed the gender-equality condition of French women. While they have some benefits that could make an American woman greedy with envy, the overall condition in French life is not consistently equal for French women. Here are some of the benefits that may seem eye-popping to us.

After giving birth,the government pays for:

"...an 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."

Perineal therapy is as ubiquitous in France as free all day nursery schools, generous family allowances, tax deductions for each child, discounts for large families on high-speed trains, and the expectation that after a paid, four-month maternity leave mothers are back in shape -- and back at work.

Courtesy of the state, French women seem to have it all: multiple children, a job and, often, a figure to die for."

While that would seem to imply that French women "have it all", including the secrets leading to the book, French Women Don't Get Fat, numerous facts about the workplace indicate that the glass ceiling is still soundly in place.

The PEW Research Center asked a number of questions about global sexual equality lately. One was, by country, "Who has the better life, men or women?" France said :
75% Men !4% Women 9% The same 2% Don't Know
The closest winner for men was Poland with only 55% saying "Men". France was overwhelmingly the "winner" for males.

In a further question : Men get more opportunities that pay well.
France - agree 80% Disagree 20%
USA - agree 68% Disagree 28% DK 4 %
(Germany, Spain, India and Japan all scored in the 80's, with a spread closer to France than to the USA.)

The Pew Survey also adds:

"in many countries where the view that men get more job opportunities than women predominates, female respondents are more likely than male respondents to say that is the case; in particular, women in those countries are often more inclined than men to completely agree that there is gender inequality in employment opportunities. For example, about six-in-ten women in France (61%) and Germany (60%) completely agree that men get more opportunities than women for jobs that pay well; in contrast, 37% of men in France and 39% in Germany are in complete agreement. "

The Times article also points out:

French women appear to worry about being feminine, not feminist, and French men often display a form of gallantry predating the 1789 revolution. Indeed, the liberation of French women can seem almost accidental -- a byproduct of a paternalist state that takes children under its republican wings from toddler age and an obsession with natality rooted in three devastating wars."At the origin, family policy wasn't about women, it was about Germany," said Geneviève Fraisse, author of several books on gender history. "French mothers have conditions women elsewhere can only dream of. But stereotypes remain very much intact."

In 1998, there was a bill passed in France that political parties had to have equal amounts of men and women on their ballots or pay a fine. The parties have largely chosen to pay the fine. After all, it was not until 1945 that women got the vote. It was not until 1965 that a woman was allowed to work, open a bank account and sell her own property without the consent of her husband.

In the World Economic Forum’s 2010 Global Gender Gap Report covering 114 countries, France was only 46th, well behind behind the U.S. at 19th. They were even beaten out by Kazakhstan at 41st and Jamaica at 44th. The study further found that French women earn just 74 cents to every dollar earned by men (the US is only 83), and hold only 18% of seats in the National Assembly (the US is 20%.) So while others are ahead in those measures, we are standing close.

The blogosphere had a lot to say about the article:

Blogger, Emilie Johnson says:

This is the heart of the issue - not whether women should work or shouldn't work, not whether babies should go to daycare, but that feminism (to me) is about changing the geography of responsibility in the home and the possibility of expression for individual people, regardless of whether they are male or female.

Jeanna Goudreau a blogger for Forbes, says

Meanwhile, in France, women are toughing it out with free all-day childcare, per-child tax benefits and allowances, four-month paid maternity leaves and a state-paid personal trainer to get back in shape after childbirth...So the bubble’s burst. French women have Superwoman complexes just like us style-challenged Americans, and are just as far from gender equality. They also have a government that values family and offers hundreds of billions to help them deal. Here in the land of the free, we’re too busy begging our companies for more control over our own schedules to get to the gym. And unlike France, my personal trainer accepts only cash.

Ceridwen at Being Pregnant says:
The institutionalized efforts to make sure that not just French women, but French vaginas, can “do it all,” (supply both children and pleasure) does seem to reflect a kind of anxious perfectionism very much centered around, well, everyone other than the owner of the vagina.

gecannonphd in RedBlueAmerica adds:

For decades, France has provided universal "ecoles maternelles",or free all-day nursery schools. They are popular,and have helped to liberate the working French woman.
Ecoles maternelles are vitally needed in the US. We are the number 1 country, economically,but are very low in family-friendly services.

The Pursuit of Harpyness says:

Even though French women have more college degrees than French men and benefits that make this American woman faint with envy—a monthly per-child government allowance, free nursery school and health care, generous maternity leave—their glass ceiling is proving surprisingly shatterproof. Bennhold, and the women she spoke with, attribute this to persistent cultural and political apathy towards sexism.

I, honestly, was more surprised by the benefits that French women have rather than by the ones they do not. What strikes you?

~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool

Recent Posts by Mata H

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