Whoever said Dominique Strauss-Kahn was good for nothing? Turns out, he was good for something – for women, French women in particular.
You’ll recall Strauss-Kahn is the once highly esteemed former head of the International Monetary Fund. You’ll similarly recall that he was caught in New York in a scandal, resulting from allegations that he had sexually assaulted a maid in a Manhattan hotel. Whatever the truth of these charges, as a result it came to light that his sexual behavior more generally had long been, shall we say, radically other than those of a straight arrow. (No, no pun intended.)
Strauss-Kahn did huge, almost certainly irreparable damage to himself, and he injured the pride of the French, many of whom had planned to vote for him in the next presidential election. But he also ended up a galvanizing force for French women, who had long tolerated male behaviors that, in the U. S., are by now as politically impossible as they are politically incorrect. Hard on the heels of the Strauss-Kahn affair, French women led by French feminists organized and protested, demanding that men shape up or get out, and that a law be enacted to ensure women be protected against sexual harassment.
And so it came to pass that late last month the French passed rather a stringent new sexual harassment law, which received a unanimous oui from the National Assembly. It provides that sexual harassment be considered a criminal offense, punishable by two years in jail and a fine of some $37,000.
French women have not exactly been at the cutting edge of the feminist movement. Au contraire! They’ve lagged behind. But, inadvertently obviously, Strauss-Kahn threw down the gauntlet, challenging them finally to create change. To their credit, they did. It’s highly unlikely this particular law would have been unanimously (!) passed at this particular time without Strauss-Kahn’s egregious wrongdoing, and without the national outrage that was the result.
Vive la France.