François Hollande in Reims. Image from francoishollande.fr.
“It is the 8th of March and it’s International Women’s Day. But this can’t be the fight of just one day, it should be a fight fought daily, every day, and it will be something we undertake together.” – François Hollande
“Nous sommes le 8 mars, c’est la Journée internationale des femmes. Mais ce ne peut pas être le combat d’un jour ; ce doit être le combat de chaque jour, de tous les jours, et ce sera le sens de ce que nous allons engager ensemble.” – François Hollande
A quick look at the latest polls will tell you that Francois Hollande is most likely to be voted in as France’s next President. But what does this mean for France’s female population, and will it satisfy French feminists?
In a speech made in Riems (on International Women’s Day -8th March), Hollande said, “I want to tell (all the women) of the France of tomorrow, of the France after the 6th of May, that it will be a France where women will have the same opportunities, the same rights and the same capacity as men to succeed in their lives.” (Je veux (à toutes les femmes) dire que la France de demain, la France de l’après 6 mai, ce sera la France où les femmes auront les mêmes chances, les mêmes droits, les mêmes capacités que les hommes pour réussir leur vie.) He obviously has a good speech writer, but what does he propose to actually do to achieve these aims?
As has already been discussed on this blog, February saw debates arise about the accessibility of contraception for minors in France. Almost a month after the publication of a report recommending contraception be made more freely available for teenagers in France, François Hollande announced on his website and during his speech in Reims that he would support universal and free contraception to be made accessible for young girls across the country: “We have young teenage girls who can’t access contraception, for reasons related to where they live and their family situation… I will therefore introduce a plan for contraception for minors. The day after the election, there will be a reform to implement this plan which will offer these young women, throughout the country, access to free and anonymous contraception with consultation from a doctor.” (Nous avons des jeunes filles mineures qui ne peuvent pas accéder à la contraception, pour des raisons qui tiennent à la géographie, à la situation de famille…J’instaurerai donc un forfait mineur contraception. Il y aura au lendemain de l’élection présidentielle une réforme mettant en œuvre ce forfait qui offrira à ces jeunes filles, partout sur le territoire, l’accès à la contraception gratuite, accompagnée par un médecin et anonyme.) This is good news, surely, for feminists in France who have been fighting for greater free and anonymous access to birth-control, although there will surely be some struggle with the right wing to make this possible.
“The feminist battle is a social battle. It’s a battle for the recognition of dignity, for solidarity. It’s a fight that recognises the unique circumstances of women, but above that, one that wants to overcome the inevitable gender differences in nature, in each journey, in our origins in order to bring us together as one republic, the French Republic, based on these values.” – François Hollande
“Le combat féministe est un combat social. C’est un combat pour la reconnaissance de la dignité, pour l’égalité, pour la solidarité. C’est un combat qui reconnaît la situation particulière des femmes, mais au-delà, qui veut dépasser ce qui est forcément des différences liées au sexe, à la nature, au parcours, aux origines, pour nous mettre ensemble dans la même République, la République française, fondée sur des valeurs.” – François Hollande
Hollande proposes to address male and female inequalities in politics and law by creating a Minister for the Rights of Women (un ministère du Droit des femmes). He hastens to note that this new minister will not be there to create further bureaucracy and more laws but make sure there are laws which are, “better enforced, effective and able to be realistically applied” (c’est des lois mieux appliquées, effectives et capables de mettre le droit dans la réalité).
In his speech, Hollande directly addresses the male-female pay gap in France (with a woman’s average salary almost 25% lower than a man’s). He insists companies will be made to enforce equal pay law effectively, and if they don’t comply they will lose tax benefits related to women’s jobs. This is a great idea in theory, but it remains to be tested in practise.
Hollande then addresses what he views to be the three biggest issues of inequality facing French women in today’s society – childcare, abortion rights and violence against women.
Firstly he talks about the need for more accessible childcare, especially when 80% of all part-time jobs are taken by women. He hopes that this would allow more women to find stable and full-time work without the worries of finding affordable childcare. There are no details as to how this would be financed.
The second proposal he announces on the subject of reproduction rights, however, is much bolder. He proposes to make abortions free through social security for every women, not just minors, and available in every medical facility in France. This is a big move for a country which did not legalize abortion until 1975 and will undoubtedly face opposition.
The third and final proposal seeks to help end violence against women. If elected, Hollande wants to make it legally possible for women to force violent partners out of the home in order to stabilize family life and housing for children and women in violent relationships.
Hollande may be able to talk the feminist talk, but it remains to be seen whether any of his great proposals will find support or funding. It is one thing to support women in pre-election speeches, but the real test will be to see what happens when he gets the keys to the office.