France likes to think of itself as a country that champions liberty. Yet
for political and cultural reasons, in comparison with other countries it
has been slow to grant political rights to women (women's suffrage, 1944).
In spite of affirmative action measures (eg, 'la paritÃ©', the electoral
law on gender parity passed in 2000), few women have thus far attained
high political office.
This lecture will discuss some 'theories' of the supposed inferiority of
women they were aimed at proving their unsuitability to assume political
responsibilities and at confining them instead to a maternal role. It will
also consider how male politicians used these theories in the first half
of the 20th century to justify preventing women from gaining the right to
It will then show how affirmative action measures that have promoted the
increased participation of women in politics are still inadequate.
Finally, the paper will draw upon some examples, including from
contemporary French politics, to demonstrate how even those women who have
risen to power remain subject to abiding sexist stereotyping.
Professor Le Bras-Chopard (University of Versailles) has written a number
of works on women and politics and more generally on attitudes to women in
history. She has also been engaged in public policy, particularly on the
situation of women in education. For a decade (1999-2009) she was in
charge of a unit within the French Ministry of Education on Gender
Equality in Higher Education.
At the University of Versailles she has been a Deputy Vice-Chancellor for
International Education. For a number of years she has also been a local
government councillor and Deputy-Mayor responsible for culture in the
community of Guyancourt, near Versailles. In this capacity she has
organised a yearly event on gender equality, entitled 'Le temps des
femmes' (The time of women).