Ok so I’ve been back for almost a week, and it’s all very anticlimactic. I guess I was expecting to have this big moment where I was BACK IN NEW YORK and OMG I CAN EAT MAC & CHEESE AGAIN (actually that moment did happen), but of course like all things with a buildup of any kind, it was pretty normal. I landed and got a little emotional from lack of sleep and then had dim sum and went home. I’ve fallen into a pattern of going to sleep at 11 and not being able to sleep past 8 - good for work, not so good for any potential social life (as if). VERY excited to go up to Vassar for graduation later today!!
I’ve been kind of obsessed with the Dominique Strauss-Kahn thing, partly because it’s a little weird to be here while it’s going on when I’ve just come back from 4 months in France, but mostly because everything going on around it is basically what I’ve thought/learned about traditional French gender relations in the last few months, personified. As much as I’ve typically been wary of/annoyed with the ideas of commercialized, whatever-wave feminism, the ones that make it seem like women somehow need to punish men or feel smugly superior to them, this semester has made me think a lot more about the basic ideas that women need equal treatment and respect, and how that doesn’t always come through in places we think of as “advanced.” I’ve always believed in equal treatment, yes, duh, but I guess I was never really confronted with its reality before, particularly in terms of sexuality. Maybe it’s because I’d never lived in a big city before and found myself walking around late at night among such a mixture of people, and maybe this is something that I’ve just never been made aware of in the US, but something about French culture makes me think that the open and unwanted sexualization of any woman you see walking by is a little more acceptable there.
As a young American woman suddenly finding herself in the middle of Paris for the first time, I’d never experienced that kind of constant harassment in the street, on the metro, in bars that my friends and I were finding were apparently a normal part of life there. I never witnessed any French women confronting this when it happened to them, and we only did rarely as we were usually caught off guard, as much as we felt we were used to it. In New York, I’ve heard women tell off weird guys all the time, but what is it that’s different? France was supposed to be this great bastion of feminism last century, but something about it hasn’t stuck in everyday life. The fact that people - some important figures - are coming to the defense of DSK just reinforces this image of a powerful French man as someone whose power extends to seduction, to harassment and assault and rape if it goes so far, and that people are doing even less about it there than they are here.
Anyway. There are a couple good Times articles about this, and all I can say is that this attitude was one of the few things I was glad to leave behind.