23 July 2012 by

Wolf-Whistled For Wearing A Dress - Will Women In Top Jobs Ever Be Treated Equally?

Everyone meet Cécile Duflot. Cécile Duflot is France’s Minister of Territories Equality and Housing. It’s an important role given that the latest news suggests French banks may have to be nationalised owing to France’s crashing mortgage sector. But that’s not why we know Cecile.

Cecile, 37, is famous because she wore a dress to address the National Assembly last week. Formerly, Cecile was famous for wearing jeans to her inaugural cabinet meeting in May, as seen above. That she holds an MA, was named a ‘top global thinker’ by Foreign Policy Magazine, is rather popular (driven famously by principles rather than politics) and is an effective cog in Hollande’s left-wing Socialist machine? Well that’s all secondary.

If you missed the story, here’s what happened: Cecile stood up to address the assembly. Said assembly (mostly male, we should add) responded by wolf-whistling and shouting ‘Phwoarr’, or ‘Phouerrrr!’ as it sounds in France. No stunned silence, rather Duflot responded to the reaction by saying: ‘Ladies and gentlemen. Obviously more gentlemen than ladies’ – before continuing with her speech.

It’s all rather depressing really given the current state of women in high powered jobs. While debate rages on as to whether Britain should implement a ‘golden skirt policy’ – token top roles for women handed out on the basis of equality not merit, it begs the question as to why we’re bothering to fight for the top jobs at all. And why appointing women like Marissa Mayer as the new Yahoo CEO, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s newish COO, Facebook and having a half-female ministerial cabinet is good news if they’re only going to be attacked, publicly, for wearing a dress. Or, in the case of Marissa, because she’s only taking two weeks maternity leave. Or, like Hilary Clinton, for not wearing make-up. Or, for women such as Arlene Philips, for being old. The next stage surely is whistling purely because they own breasts. Two of them. Anyway, it wasn’t like Cecile was wearing Herve Leger. She was dressed in something far more prim, akin to Kirstie Allsop’s 1950s day dresses. It hardly warranted a catcall from a builder let alone France’s ministers.

One minister suggested she’d worn it to detract from the ‘quality’ of her speech. Another member of the National Assembly, Jacques Myard, defended his reaction, claiming that the whistles were a reaction to how nice she looked. Like that’s OK. Sadly, it only adds patronising to the list of where-men-went-wrong in this situation.

Cecile later conceded: ‘I have worked in the building trade and I have never seen anything like that. This tells you something about some MPs. I think of their wives.’ And, sadly, the current state of women in top jobs.

 

 


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Emily Creek (Mon Jul 23 16:09:30 BST 2012): one for you Holly Alexandra Peacock.