Women in Contemporary France

Women in Contemporary France

Women in Contemporary France

Women in Contemporary France

Synopsis

This book examines the contemporary situation of women in France and makes an essential contribution to the growing interdisciplinary interest in la condition f¿minine. It addresses both mainstream issues - such as women's paid and unpaid work, women in politics with particular reference to the current parity debates, leisure and contemporary women's writing - as well as under-represented areas, namely women in rural France, immigrant and exiled women and the situation of lesbians.Authors examine the problems facing women at home and at work and critically assess the policy initiatives to combat unemployment, occupation segregation and pay inequality. Despite their high levels of activity in employment, French women still shoulder the burden of domestic work, child rearing and care for relatives and there are many areas of political representation where they are notable for their absence. Leading experts survey leisure practices and language - fascinating indicators for social roles, power relations and gender differences - and provide us with new insights into the position of women, whether in rural France, the media or immigrant and exile communities.This interdisciplinary book is suitable for both specialists seeking information within a specific area of gender studies and non-specialists seeking a general overview of women's situation in contemporary metropolitan France and will therefore appeal to a wide range of readers across humanities and social sciences.

Excerpt

In Le Deuxieme Sexe, published in 1949, Simone de Beauvoir examined how patriarchal society constructs woman as a relative ‘other’ to the universal male subject and offered a groundbreaking analysis of diverse aspects of women's oppressive situation in patriarchal society. The immediate pre- and post-war situation of French women certainly justified her analyses: when Beauvoir began writing Le Deuxieme Sexe in the late 1940s, French women had only just gained the right to vote (1944). Twenty years later, in 1965, women were legally allowed to work without their husband's permission. In 1967 contraception was authorized in the loi Neuwirth, and in 1975, the loi Veil permitting abortion – albeit on a trial basis of five years – came into force.

During the post-war period French women have made some progress towards equal status in many areas, and the legislative and institutional framework has followed in the wake of wider societal change and sought to improve women's status. Women's situation has evolved in the postwar period in many areas including paid work, parity of representation in French political life, the increasing recognition of their independent sexuality, their autonomous contribution to cultural production, their participation in, and representation by, the media. In parallel, the French language is evolving slowly to represent these different and often conflicting roles played by women in French society. An ever-burgeoning French and Anglo-Saxon literature, too abundant to detail here, has traced such developments over the post-war period in all of these fields.

This is not to say, however, that women in France have achieved equal status in all fields. Indeed, in the late 1990s, it is tempting to share Pierre Bourdieu's surprise concerning ‘le paradoxe de la doxa’ which entails that the established order of the world, with all its interdictions, prejudices and oppressions, should be for the most part unceasingly accepted and replicated (Bourdieu 1998: 7). For Bourdieu and feminist scholars before him, the pre-eminent example of such submission to the established order is the acceptance of male domination in and of society, which ensures that the oppression of women in French society is still much in evidence.

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