Vive la France! The French government recently repealed an archaic French law, dating back to 1799. The law in question prohibited women from wearing a certain item of male clothing. Waistcoats? No. Berets? Wrong. Ties? Not even those. The offending garments were…
…trousers. I wrote about it here a while ago.
At the time, I thought the legislation applied throughout France but it appears that it was only our Parisian sisters’ pantalons that were thus proscribed. The Paris chief of police promulgated the law to prevent women from being mistaken for male revolutionaries.
Several amendments were introduced during the law’s history: notably in 1892, for women holding the reins of a horse (why?) and in 1909 for women riding bicycles (more understandable). Apart from that, this daft regulation has remained unchanged on the statute books for two centuries. This means that famous trouser-wearing women, such as writer George Sand and fashion designer Coco Chanel, were in flagrant violation of the law.
France’s minister for women’s rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, officially repealed the law after the latest representations from the right-wing UMP party. Previous attempts, notably by the Green Party in 2010, were unsuccessful. She stated that maintaining the law in force was “contrary to the principles of equality between men and women.”
I have been unable to find out if the law was ever invoked against defiant trouser-wearing Parisiennes. It plainly hasn’t been for a long time, so Vallaud-Belkacem’s action is purely symbolic. It will have little practical effect on a country that is still deficient in some regards when it comes to women’s rights – despite attempts by successive governments to promote equality through legislation. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2012, which ranked France in 57th place out of 132 countries in terms of the economic gap between genders.
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