According to our esteemed local paper, it is both awesome and terrible to be a French woman:
Perineal therapy is as ubiquitous in France as free nursery schools, generous family allowances, tax deductions for each child, discounts for large families on high-speed trains, and the expectation that after a paid, four-month maternity leave mothers are back in shape — and back at work.
Courtesy of the state, French women seem to have it all: multiple children, a job and, often, a figure to die for.
What they don’t have is equality: France ranks 46th in the World Economic Forum’s 2010 gender equality report, trailing the United States, most of Europe, but also Kazakhstan and Jamaica. Eighty-two percent of French women aged 25-49 work, many of them full-time, but 82 percent of parliamentary seats are occupied by men. French women earn 26 percent less than men but spend twice as much time on domestic tasks.
The article, by Katrin Bennhold, is a sheer delight, full of vaginal gymnastics, tax breaks and the phrase “fertile Prussia.” But it is, on the whole, pretty downbeat. If you’re a French woman, the expectations placed upon you—to be educated, hard-working, and “le sexy”—are virtually impossible to meet. Sure, the state will put its gloved fingers between your thighs and tell you to “think of the wings of a butterfly,” but that’s cold comfort when your department head is a man.
The thing the story misses, however, is how totally awesome it must be to be a French man! Look at it this way: You don’t have to be as well educated, but you’ll still dominate both the workplace and the government. You don’t have to worry about birth control, because the state will give you money to cover the costs of the kids. Your wife will bow to societal pressure to stay smokin’ hot. And it’s pretty much accepted that you can sleep around (though you have to expect she will, too). Plus: plentiful wine, duck confit, and fresh-baked baguettes. Vive la révolution!