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After banning the burqa, French lawmakers target floral dresses

An embarassing spectacle took hold of the French parliament on Tuesday when a Socialist government minister turned up to work in a floral dress. Rightwing lawmakers raised their eyebrows and hooted as minister of territories and housing, Cécile Duflot, took to the podium to speak about an architecture project.

Centrist MP Jean-Christophe Fromantin called on the hecklers to pipe down and listen up, allowing Duflot to address the house. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she began, adding “obviously more gentlemen than ladies…”.



The reaction could have gone two ways in France, where the nasty 2011 Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair was initially received with more amusement than ire, and ogling or getting ogled at work comes as part of the job. Reassuringly, the majority of French twitterers took pity on Duflot, denouncing the MPs as a “bunch of sexist imbeciles” who “can’t see beyond their testosterone levels”.

Not surprisingly, the “sexist imbeciles” in question denied any wrongdoing. “We were just admiring her,” conservative MP Patrick Balkany (pictured right) told French daily Le Figaro. “If she didn’t want us to take an interest in her, then she shouldn’t have changed her look.” Adding insult to injury, he suggested that she had only worn the dress “to get us to listen to what she had to say.” MP Jaqcues Myard (picture bottom right) went one sorry step further, telling Le Point magazine that the catcalls were a way of “paying homage to the beauty of this woman”. 

Clearly, 64-year-old Myard and 63-year-old Balkany have never been told that whistling and catcalling is far from what most women consider “paying homage to their beauty”, or that “paying homage to a woman’s beauty” is something best left to more romantic circumstances.

Trouser ban

Deciding what to ban women from wearing has long proved a nuisance for France’s political elite. Long before the contentious “burqa ban”, middle-aged, upper-class Frenchmen struggled to enforce their dress-code convictions on the female masses.

In 1799, French lawmakers banned women in Paris from “dressing like a man”. The ban targeted trousers in particular, ruling that women wishing to cover her legs with trousers must obtain police permission beforehand and prove their medical reasons for doing so. The law is futile today – although it still exists – but even in the 1970s it could be found lurking in mainstream political circles.  



In 1972; then cabinet advisor Michèle Alliot-Marie (pictured above left) turned up at the Assemblée Nationale in trousers, forcing the guard at the door to apprehend her. “If my trousers offend you, I’ll take them off at once,” she quipped. No more questions were asked. But four years later, in 1976, then universities minister Alice Saunier-Seïté found herself in trouble with the prime minister, Jacques Chirac, for breaching the same decree. By wearing trousers, he declared, she was “defaming both her position [as minister] and the image of France.”

As for Cécile Duflot and her ground-breaking attire, it’s not the first time her wardrobe has ruffled conservative feathers. When she turned up to the new Socialist government’s first council meeting in May, she was bashed for wearing jeans (see right). Asked to comment on the issue by Le Figaro daily, Duflot said she was too busy working. Perhaps her male colleagues should take note…

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Since I was not there, I do not know what the hooting and catcalls was all about. From the photograph, the dress appears to fit well and while a little loud it is not provocative or revealing. I suggest that they used it as an opportunity to attempt to marginalized her so whatever she had to say would be diminished. It is politics. She is a very attractive woman.
I may be old fashioned but, I like to see women in skirts and dresses too. I understand that it may be inconvenient sometimes but, they just look so much better. Here in the United States, most women wear pants and they look horrible. Women in the U.S.A. should look as good as French women.


is this still an issue in France? J' adore les françaises!!!
The economy is going down the toilet and this is how the male MPs justify their salaries. They need to get some work done.
what is wrong with these government officials?? is it so hard to focus on real issues like IMPROVING THE ECONOMY, CREATING JOBS, REDUCING INSECURITY, IMPROVING THE EURO CURRENCY...E.T.C so that now the only thing they focus on is outward appearance and "Fashion" VERY DISAPOINTING INDEED......!!
In response to Chris, it was rightwing lawmakers, not the Socialists, who catcalled her. Not surprising. In France rightwing conservatives tend to be real chauvinists (like most places). The Socialists are more committed to gender equality. Well done Duflot for standing up for herself.
An amazing display of juvenile behavior unbecoming of any member of the French Parliament for sure. As another writer remarked, "You're making Americans look good.". I have to agree. Amazing how the left wing in the US wants to be like those in Europe. Don't get me wrong, I admire much of what is Europe... but, if this is where left wing, socialist, welfare state gov't leads...no thanks...
Stay classy France! You're making Americans look good.
There is a time and place for everything. A floral dress should not be worn in Parliament. What is flowery and happy about the French economy; People losing their jobs; The terrorism threat. Sober dress or pants suit should be worn. The issue of professional women all over the world not knowing how to dress at different occasions is an issue. Which is why etiquette classes and non-academic professional seminars are gaining in popularity. I am a young professional and sometimes I am appalled. Different career paths demand that you dress appropriately; so you choose to be a law maker, you dress sensibly to go along with your choice.
When I read the headline I though a male MP had turned up in a dress as some sort of personal protest-this is ridiculous-I'm rapidly loosing respect for French Males.......
Women in dresses with whatever print or sporting some sort of pantalone is not at all interesting. In our culture, women are taught to dress as they please in order to please (or displease) whomever is taking notice. I think it would be far more interesting if these male legislators would turn up dressed in "robes" (dresses). Hmmm. Then, maybe, we would or could or should take notice.
Really "gentlemen", grow up. If a woman wears pants, she is practical, not a slut or being disrespectful. Additionally, if wearing pants is a shame, then what is the furor over a floral dress. She wore a dress! It was a lovely dress as well, you boys are playing politics and trying to do the Mitt Rommeny BS issue mongering. Much ado about nothing. There are far more important issues before you and the EU, than someone's dress. Grow up and join the 21st century. Your views passed out of vogue in the late 70s.
Balkany & Myard and any other MP shown by CCTV or other videos to have participated in this immature and ignorant behavior should be formally censured by the Parliament or their parties; for sexual harassment.
It would be more ground-breaking if a male MP (better even a minister) turned up to work in a floral suit... but perhaps we will see something like that in short time... maybe as an act of "gay pride" performed by an MP.
The French are the last men in the world still running their country, and admiring women as women. The French men are admirable!!
“If she didn’t want us to take an interest in her, then she shouldn’t have changed her look.” My God some French men are worse than Islamists in their archaic views.
J'ai toujours voté à droite, je sais que le programme ecologiste est une farce, mais quand je vois le spectacle LAMENTABLE donné par ces messieurs aujourd'hui, je vire socialiste. Serieusement.