Gender theory gaining ground in French society?

Publié le : 28 February 2013

 The setting up in Sciences Po (a higher education institution, Paris) in 2010 of a compulsory course on gender studies, the secondary school textbooks in biology and natural science which since September 2011 cover "sexual identity in its gender aspect," and the visit in September 2012 by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister for Women’s Rights, and Dominique Bertinotti, to a crèche "which makes no difference between little girls and little boys as part of the fight against ‘clichés’," raise the question of whether ‘gender theory’ is "gaining ground in French society.”

In this context, some redefinitions are required, such as the distinction between ‘gender studies’ and ‘gender theory”. Thus, "gender studies examine the function of men and women in society owing to their sexual difference and the situations of inequality that result from it." On the other hand, gender theory, as propounded by the American feminist philosopher Judith Butler, establishes "a distinction between biological sexual identity, and sexual orientation that is the result of a social construction and personal choices." Hence, in gender theory, "men and women define themselves as such after having decided it and in accordance with their practices.
Today, many of the opponents of the new law on marriage for all "denounce a swing from genders studies to gender theory, or to gender ideology." In other words, the journalist points out, "a switch from the study of stereotypes to a dogma on sexual orientation." The UMP member Xavier Breton, chairman of the joint Senate-National Assembly group Entente Parlementaire pour la Famille, explains: "It is not the fight against discriminations that we oppose, but the negation of sexual otherness." He thus emphasises "the disappearance of the sexual terms ‘father’ and ‘mother’ in favour of the neutral term ‘parent’." Xavier Breton and Virginie Duby-Muller add: "we need to make a proper review of the extent to which this theory has penetrated all our country […].The consequences that it involves represent such a radical change to our social contract that French people have the right to be informed."

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