Meet Marlne Schiappa, the 34 -year old blogger and novelist at the very heart of Emmanuel Macrons revolution
The walk from the Gare du Nord across the Seine to Frances centre of power, a string of buildings off the Quai dOrsay, takes a pleasant, circuitous hour: the itinerary is a sightseers dream. But for Marlne Schiappa, Frances freshly appointed gender equality pastor, the streets of Paris are the frontline in a campaign between the sexes. Where I recognize boutiques and fresh fruits and vegetable stallings, coffeehouse and splendid architecture, Schiappas eye is drawn instead to the idling boys ogling young women; to the handsome displays in every pharmacy window advertise weight-loss solutions Minceur Th Vert( Slimming Green Tea ), Ventre Plat( Flat Stomach and illustrated by photographs of delighted young women use a tape measure as a hop-skip rope. France is paradoxical, Schiappa tells me. We are the country of Simone de Beauvoir, of feminist hypothesi and ideology. But we are also a Latin country with entrenched stereotypes.
She greets me warmly in what must have once been a grand dining room; the parliamentary district in the 7th arrondissement has not changed much because it vast mansions were to construct nobility in the 18 th century. It is the day before Theresa May will satisfy Emmanuel Macron, Frances youngest ever president, who assumed office on 14 May. At 39, with no campaigning experience, Macron has surrounded himself with young cabinet members who are new to politics, as a style of making a clean break with his socialist predecessor Francois Hollande. This week he made businesswoman Florence Parly minister for the armed forces( defence for four of the EUs five largest economies is now overseen by wives ); he has appointed Tv presenter Nicolas Hulot as environmental and social transition rector( the equivalent of Theresa May dedicating David Attenborough a cabinet post ).
But Macrons most controversial appointment is Schiappa, at 34 the youngest is part of his cabinet, whom he has put in charge of equality between men and women, with a brief to tackle the gender pay gap and be enhanced womens rights in the workplace. A former advertising executive-turned-author, shes best known as a campaigner and blogger, and has outraged Frances right wing with her unapologetic feminism.
She depicts me into her airy, high-ceilinged office which is something we sit on new modern chairs, her substitution for the stuffy furniture that used to be here. This is the room where Schiappa has begun hauling in public figures to call them out on sexist behaviour( and then tweet of determining whether the meet purposed satisfactorily ). She wears gold hoop earrings, her long, thick whisker pulled back in a loose knot, and is friendly and straightforward in a way thats still rare in top-level politics.
Schiappa says that Macron did particularly well with female voters in the presidential elections. Why does she think that is? He was the first to tell, Im a feminist. Second, because he believes in parity in parliament. Exactly half cabinet ministers is female. Plus, she mentions, unlike other politicians, he went out and listened to people. Really listened.
Schiappas first objective is to tackle sexual harassment on the street. Its a huge phenomenon in France. Its that minute when a man is strolling behind a woman, talking to her, and the woman can do nothing, because shes alone. She doesnt scream for help, because she reckons, Its not that bad, Ill stroll, Ill escape. Men feel its acceptable: theyre being the French admirer. Women are molested on modes of public transport so frequently, Schiappa tells, that many will dress in ways to avoid it before they use the Mtro or bus. Its enough of a number of problems that the previous government launched an anti-harassment campaign called Stop: Thats Enough to encourage people to report any incidents. In France, if a woman is sexually assaulted, her first think is, Now Im dirty and no one will ever want to marry me the social responsibility of the victim.
Her solution is on-the-spot penalties. Macron has pledged to expand the police force by 10,000 in the course of the coming five years: why not give them powers to police sexism in the same way they do smokers who drop their cigarettes? Twenty euros would be a bit humiliating, 5,000 would be more of a discouraging. At the moment, many boys are mentioning, Its not a big deal, is no more than having fun. And we say, No. She mentions shell be nailing down a precise strategy with the justice secretary soon.
Schiappa intends to take a similarly revolutionary approach to closing the pay gap. In France, women earn between 12% and 27% less than humankinds, is dependent on sector. Her proposal is that major companies will be invited to consult privately with the government on solutions. Those who refuse is likely to be named and shamed.
She is also keen to discuss what she describes as Frances culture of rape. Minimising rape or finding condones, she elucidates, before offering an example. The former vice president of the National Assembly, Denis Baupin, has been accused by eight women of sexual assault and he wasnt burnt. Baupin denies the allegations, some of which date back 15 times, and has cease his role after pressure from political leaders and the press. No accusations were brought because the statute of limitations had expired( in France, it is just three years for sexual harassment cases ).
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