Thursday, October 14, 2010

82 The Self-Empowered Woman: French Women

Dear Followers,

Who would argue with the idea that French women are undeniably amazing? Those of us who've spent time in Paris know how amazing French females seem -- slim, well-dressed and oozing sophistication from every pore. I've always wondered how they learn to work magic with a simple scarf...

Naturally, when I read Katrin Bennhold's article in The New York Times titled, "For Women In France, Dim Outlook on Equality," I was amazed. Here I'd spent a lifetime thinking that their lives were effortless and enviable, when in fact they have struggles of their own.

To wit, Valerie Toranian (who is editor-in-chief of French Elle) observed that "French women are exhausted. We have the right to do what men do -- as long as we also take care of the children, cook a delicious dinner, and look immaculate. We have to be Superwoman."
On average (according to INSEE, The National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies), French women spend five hours and one minute each day on child care and domestic tasks; men spend two hours and seven minutes. And a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that three out of every four French people believed that men have a better life than women. People in 22 different countries were surveyed and this was the "highest share" of any respondents.

According to the European Union's statistical agency, French women have more babies (1.89 per woman) than any other country in Europe (for example, Italy is 1.38 and German is 1.32), but they also are Europe's biggest consumers of antidepressants.

The majority of French medical school graduates are female, but most hospital department heads are male. Overall, French women earn 26% less than men, and in 2009, even childless French women who were in their 40s still earned 17% less than men. Eighty-two percent of French women aged 25-49 are employed, but 82% of National Assembly members are male.

The French Government spends 5.1% of its gross national product (twice the European Union average) on family, childcare and maternity benefits. Women are encouraged -- via tax benefits and childcare assistance -- to have children. According to Genevieve Fraisse (an expert on gender history), "French mothers have conditions women everywhere can only dream of. But stereotypes remain very much intact."

France ranks 46th in the World Economic Forum's 2010 Gender Equality Report, which means its lower than the U.S., most of Europe, as well as Jamaica and Kazakhstan. In theory, the French Republic made equality a founding principle, but women were not able to vote until 1944!

Years ago, the French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy observed that "France is an old Gallic macho country."

Looking forward to your comments...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for telling all of your subscribers about Ms. Schiff. I had seen reviews about her new book on Cleopatra and now look forward to reading it. I found Ms Schiff's comment about Cleopatra's being misunderstood quite interesting, especially in light of the general misguided assumption that Cleopatra had slept her way to the top. As Ms Schiff explains it's always assumed that men plan and women scheme. Seems we still have a lot to learn about Cleopatra and women's talents in general.
    Thanks for a most enlightening post.