Last Tuesday, Green Party MP Veronique Massonneau took the floor during a debate on pension reform in the French National Assembly. A few seconds into her speech, she was forced to interrupt her address because of clucking noises coming out of the mouth of the chauvinistic man-child that is MP Philippe Le Ray. Her conservative rival, a member of Union for a Popular Movement, did not stop there. After Massonneau inadervently became the first female politician to ever have to utter the words "That's enough... I am not a chicken," she continued to be aggressively heckled. In Le Ray's defense, he was allegedly drunk, so blame the Ricard, not the lawmaker who got sloshed before he went into work!
In the video below, you can see the president of the chamber, being visibly shocked because the term poule (chicken) is used as a derogatory term for women France.
"There are things I will never accept in this chamber. One of them is deputies pretending to be chickens when a member of parliament is speaking. It is not acceptable."
The next day, Massonneau told i-Télé that the conservative MP's behavior was totally unacceptable and "profoundly sexist." She explained that it demonstrated he was "not ready for any law that enshrined equality between women and men." Her courageous media appearance eventually got her an apology from the Le Ray that morninig.
In an official statement, the socialist party expressed its outrage after chickengate. "When will the UMP understand that women have as much right to hold power as men? When will the UMP understand that its macho behaviour must stop?"
In an effort to show solidarity with Massonneau, all of the females elected from the leftist party boycotted the government's question period the next day. This is what it looked like.
Although it would be nice to think that this encounter with sexism was an isolated event, it comes only a year after Cécile Duflot, the minister of Territorial Equality and Housing, was interrupted with whistles during a speech because she was sporting a flower print dress. Yes, you read that right. An elected official had to stop a formal address so that her sophomoric colleagues could voice their opinion about her clothing. Imagine that happening to a man and you get the absurdity, pretty much instantly.
In the clip below, you can see the disbelief in her eyes when she says "Ladies and gentlemen, but visibly it's mostly you gentlemen ...." After the event, Patrick Balkany, a member the conservative party said, "We were just admiring her. If she didn't want us to take an interest in her, then she shouldn't have changed her look." Yeah you just can't blame these guys! Pants have only been legal since 1980 for women within the French Assembly, so it's not like they had time to adjust to women wearing dresses!
Still, chickengate definitely had a happy ending.
In the end, the backlash didn't only affect MP Philippe Le Ray's reputation, it affected his pay. At least we can all take solace in the fact that he was not only publicly shamed by almost all of the women in his chamber, but also fined 1,300 euros ($1,800) for his sexist antics. Despite France's visible problems with chauvinism, it's encouraging to see that sexism won't sell ... it might actually cost you.