• France's news in English

French MP's clucking sparks sexism spat

The Local/AFP · 9 Oct 2013, 16:38

Published: 09 Oct 2013 16:38 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Female Socialist MPs in the French parliament staged a walk-out on Wednesday in a protest against sexism.

Their boycott of the opening of parliament came a day after a 'tipsy' UMP deputy provoked uproar when he made sexist chicken noises at a female MP as she made a speech, causing the parliamentary debate to be suspended.

On Tuesday, as the new pensions bill was being discussed in the lower house, Veronique Massoneau was abused by Philippe Le Ray, a deputy from the centre-right UMP ranks as she presented her amendment.

Le Ray, who was confirmed as the culprit on Wednesday evening, blatantly tried to ruffle Massoneau's feathers when he began making clucking noises, which in turn provoked a furious response from his victim.

“Stop! That’s enough! I am not a chicken,” Massoneau blurted out in anger. The incident was widely denounced as sexist in a country where the word chicken ('poule') is often used as a derogatory term for women.

The leader of the National Assembly Claude Bartolone was furious and denounced the “incredible behaviour”.

But the clucking noises continued throughout Massoneau’s speech, forcing Bartolone to suspend the session.

Le Ray was called to order by the Conference of Assembly Presidents on Wednesday, and fined €1,378 - a quarter of his parliamentary expenses for one month - for his antics.

“There are things I will never accept in this chamber,” said Bartolone. “One of them is deputies pretending to be birds when a Member of Parliament is speaking. It is not acceptable.

“There are certain things which fall within our collective responsibility, so don’t be surprised if the populist parties gain more votes when the public sees their elected representatives behaving like this."

This is not the first time French MPs have failed to cover themselves in glory during a parliamentary debate.

Last year Housing Minister Cécile Duflot was wolf-whistled when she stood up to speak wearing a floral dress.

“We were just admiring her,” UMP deputy Patrick Balkany told French daily Le Figaro at the time. “If she didn’t want us to take an interest in her, then she shouldn’t have changed her look.”

Following the clucking incident, France's government spokeswoman complained on Wednesday of lawmakers partaking in too many "boozy dinners".

"It is regrettable that some people have difficulty maintaining an attitude that is consistent with their functions after obviously boozy dinners," government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said after a cabinet session.

Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti also denounced the incident as "deplorable".

"Unfortunately we've seen this before," she said. "It shows that we have to continue to fight to have women politicians respected."

UMP deputy Philippe Le Ray. Photo: CComsi/Youtube

In a statement, the Socialist Party accused the conservative UMP of living "in the prehistoric era."

Story continues below…

"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?"

The Green Party called Tuesday's incident "a woeful display of sexism".

Speaking to the Nouvel Observateur news site on Wednesday Massoneau hit out a culture of sexism among French MPs.

“This shows the difficulty a man has living with equality,” she said referring to Le Ray, who Massoneau said has since apologized.

“I do not want to generalise, I work very well with a lot of men but it is always women who are on the end of this type of disrespect. For some of them it is spontaneous. It’s serious because they don’t even realise,” Massoneau added.

“He continued even after being told to stop. Being tipsy is not an excuse. It just shows the deep rooted sexist attitudes in them,” she added. 

Don't miss a story about France - Join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available