A Brief History of Feminism in France

When you think of French women in the 70s, you probably think of some sexy Brigitte Bardot film filled with mini-skirts for days and dangerous liaisons. But it wasn’t all quite as hot as the movies make it out to be.

Until December 23, 1980, rape was not a punishable crime, making it more or less legal in France. Sexual harassment wasn’t punishable by French law until 1992, and newly-coined “feminists” fought an uphill battle for the right to wear what they wanted and not suffer sexual assault or harassment for it. In reaction to increasingly publicized incidents of workplace harassment, sexual harassment, and rape, the MLF, or Mouvement de Libération des Femmes, was born. These ladies were a little more in the vein of what would even today be considered radical feminism, and they used language to shock and inspire. Just as France took #MeToo and made it #balancetonporc, the MLF did things like publish “Le Manifeste de 343 Salopes” (“Manifesto of 343 Sluts”), a signed document by 343 women who had had illegal abortions.

Feminism in France has come a long way, and there’s always farther to go. Short films like Majorité Opprimée have done a lot to take a stance against sexism, and movements like #balancetonporc have continued to call for accountability among men. And women everyone should strive still to make Simone de Beauvoir proud.