- Isabella Lenarduzzi

A backlash against sexism

The DSK affair and more precisely the dismissive reactions of his colleagues have caused outrage among women, and men, on both sides of the Atlantic. The media is awash with reports condemning macho behaviour at any level of society but certainly at the top. Few could foresee that these events would open up the whole debate about the existence of sexism in our societies.

Silence it seems is being broken, certainly in France where many women, spurred on by the events of the last three weeks, finally feel at liberty to speak about the sexual harassment or macho behaviour to which they have been subjected. Women’s support groups in France have reported a six-fold increase in calls from women who say that they have been sexually harassed or blackmailed at work.

In her article “Sexisme : la toute puissance des uns tient au silence des autres” (Sexism: the power of some is the silence of others) Sophie Brouhon explores the set of behaviours, individual or collective, that serve to perpetuate and legitimize the rule, often by men over women (though sometimes men are also subjected to inappropriate behaviour from women) . This also leads me to question whether women who play to the clichés, laugh at the sexist jokes, even adding to their insults, realise that by doing so they are actually reinforcing the stereotypes.

What recent events have surely shown is that workers are still not equal. As Brouhon puts it “women still have before them beautiful “conquests” to glean: equal pay, equal representation in politics or in the company but certainly more than anything, respect for women as such.” The only way we can achieve this is by tackling this together with men and not against them.

Doan Bui and Marie Vaton in their article “La France des machos” (France’s machos), point to more influential men who are quaking with fear of being found out for their inappropriate behaviour. Interestingly they go on to question whether this kind of inappropriate sexist conduct is generational before sadly concluding that it is on the rise among teenagers.

Whatever happens once the media spotlight is switched off human relations should be guided by profound feelings of equality. This is the only way we can move forwards together and forge a new type of relationship between men and women that would enable us to break down the stereotypes.