Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture

By Alex Hughes; Keith Reader | Go to book overview

See also: demographic developments; women and social policy


Further reading

h
Hantrais, L. (1990) Managing Professional and Family Life: A Comparative Study of British and French Women, Aldershot and Vermont: Dartmouth (a comparison of women's employment patterns in relation to family life).

i
INSEE (1995) Les Femmes, Paris: INSEE, 'Collection Contours et Caractères' (a useful analysis of characteristics of women's employment).

women and politics

Since French women won the right to vote and to stand for election (in October 1944), their participation in politics has evolved considerably. If a principal indicator of political participation is voting, then in the 1990s French women participate at the same rate as men. However, as far as participation in political decision-making is concerned, little has changed since 1944.

Traditionally, women voters have been associated with abstentionism and conservatism. Until 1969, female abstention rates were 7-12 percentage points higher than male abstention rates. Women's participation was also distinct from that of men in that they voted, in greater numbers, for the Right. For instance, this gender gap was at its greatest in the first round of the presidential elections of 1965, when the Left's candidate, François Mitterrand, obtained 39 per cent of the women's vote compared with 51 per cent of the men's vote. The explanations for these early differences between male and female voting are that women were political beginners and were apprehensive about exercising their newly won rights and that they were more easily influenced in their choice of conservative candidates by the Catholic church.

This traditional model of the female voter began to fragment in the 1970s as, progressively, more women left the private sphere of home and family to enter the workforce or higher education, and the gap between male and female participation decreased. By the legislative elections of 1993 the difference in abstention rates was negligible, with 24 per cent of women abstaining compared with 23 per cent of men. The early 1970s also marked the radicalization of the female electorate. By the 1986 legislative elections, women and men voted equally for the Left, while by the second round of the 1988 presidential elections, women had overtaken men, for the first time, in voting for the Left.

While women accounted for 53 per cent of the electorate and nearly 45 per cent of the workforce in 1994, they only represented 6 per cent of députés and 5.5 per cent of sénateurs in parliament, placing France near the bottom of the league of European Union countries. Women's exclusion from political power has been put down to historical precedents such as property-based suffrage which (from 1789) prevented women from voting and representing others, to Catholicism's view of women's role and responsibilities, to the refusal of political parties to promote women and to the rules of the electoral system itself.

Since 1994, the fiftieth anniversary of women's political rights, a feminist campaign for political 'parity' (the equal representation of women and men in all elected assemblies) has gathered momentum. The argument that parity is the only way to renew French democracy has gained favour in a large section of the political class.

KHURSHEED WADIA

See also: Catholicism and Protestantism; feminism (movements/groups); parties and movements; women and employment


Further reading

a
Allwood, G. (1995) 'The Campaign for Parity

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Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface x
  • Introduction xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Classified Contents List xiv
  • A 1
  • Further Reading 3
  • Further Reading 13
  • Further Reading 18
  • Further Reading 26
  • Further Reading 27
  • Further Reading 30
  • B 44
  • Further Reading 66
  • Further Reading 70
  • Major Works 79
  • C 85
  • Further Reading 91
  • Further Reading 99
  • Further Reading 111
  • Further Reading 113
  • D 135
  • Further Reading 144
  • Further Reading 150
  • Major Works 152
  • E 168
  • Further Reading 194
  • F 197
  • Further Reading 200
  • Further Reading 207
  • Major Works 214
  • Further Reading 245
  • G 252
  • Further Reading 279
  • Further Reading 280
  • H 283
  • I 290
  • Further Reading 297
  • J 302
  • Further Reading 303
  • Major Works 307
  • K 310
  • Further Reading 317
  • L 318
  • Major Works 324
  • Major Works 325
  • M 350
  • Further Reading 352
  • Further Reading 354
  • Major Works 364
  • Further Reading 379
  • Further Reading 380
  • N 388
  • Further Reading 397
  • O 401
  • P 404
  • Further Reading 419
  • Major Works 424
  • Q 449
  • R 450
  • Further Reading 462
  • Further Reading 469
  • Major Works 470
  • Major Works 472
  • Further Reading 474
  • S 478
  • Further Reading 484
  • Further Reading 508
  • T 515
  • U 540
  • V 544
  • Further Reading 549
  • Further Reading 554
  • W 555
  • Further Reading 560
  • X 568
  • Y 569
  • Index 572
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