DSK letters in blue, white and red with the word “come” (“viens”) displayed in Saint-Denis and St. Peter. This is not a message from the Socialist Party, but those of an individual sympathetic to the politician. While l’affaire DSK has made DSK a national hero in some quarters, it has left many with a ‘nasty taste in their mouths’, except perhaps for the DSK Hot-Dog.
France 24 News International 24/7 in its article After Strauss-Kahn dismissal, French and US press reflect – and point fingers poses the question, ‘France in its dominating arrogance’ or ‘America looking for scapegoats’? In doing so it points out that the idea that Strauss-Kahn represents a larger French problem is not shared by all commentators in France. I am sure that both sides of particular fracas will continue with their respective snow-jobs long after the rest of us are bored to death with it.
Part of that ‘larger French problem’ is covered in another article by France 24 at Strauss-Kahn’s sex crime allegations: What’s so funny? The Strauss-Kahn case resulted in a fair amount of French soul-searching regarding gender inequality and treatment of women in both professional and private spheres in France, with French feminist Florence Montreynaud penning a fiery editorial in Le Monde. “Strauss-Kahn incarnated France in its dominating arrogance,” Montreynaud wrote. “But with the emperor having lost his clothes, the so-called seduction ‘à la française’ will now be seen for what it is: sexual violence.” Also, women’s rights campaigners in France are protesting against what they describe as “a torrent of sexist jokes” concerning the accusation that Dominique Strauss-Kahn trapped, sexually assaulted, and tried to rape a hotel maid in New York last weekend.
It is evident that when the news broke that IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of attempting to rape a chambermaid, the sorry tale didn’t get through the French press without a touch of humour. The free daily, Metro splashed “La débandade” across its front page. Literally meaning “stampede” or “disarray”, it is also a play on the word “bander”, which means “to be sexually aroused”.
Meanwhile, a popular pun mocking the incident was coined. “J’la force tranquille”, or “I force her effortlessly”, is a play on former president François Mitterand’s 1981 election slogan, La force tranquille (quiet strength). The pun resulted in a Photoshopped version of the original poster and its own Facebook page, which quickly attracted more than 18,000 followers, and an endless stream of jokes about the chambermaid herself attesting to DSK’s “seduction” methods.
But non of this compared with what appeared elsewhere online. On Twitter, tweets about DSK’s “doomed erection” were endless: “DSK preferred erection to election”, “It’s all gone wrong for DSK’s erection”, “An erection too far”… Even lawyer and influential blogger Maître Eolas tweeted: “DSK still favourite for the presidential erection”. A young people’s forum listed a number of videos parodying the scandal, four out of five of which readers voted “LOL” (laugh-out-loud). A favourite is by Mozinor who is famous for film parody and here turns his talent to a parody of l’affaire DSK/Diallo. He transposes the voice of Diallo for that of a man and perhaps leaves you to draw your own conclusions. There is even a pretend game, entitled “Maid Catcher”, showing a naked Strauss-Kahn edging his way closer to a cartoon character dressed as a French maid in high heels, and an old woman with a duster. A round-up of cheap jokes are also being passed around, among them: “Strauss-Kahn mixed up foreplay (préliminaires) with primaries (primaires). We all make mistakes!”
Such responses have outraged French feminists. “We are not talking about a libido problem,” Thalia Breton of the “Osez le féminisme” movement told FRANCE 24. “Whether Strauss-Kahn is guilty or not, we are talking about a serious crime. You cannot joke about that.” With the number of sexual violence victims in France who actually press charges against their aggressors at only 10%, Breton argued that they could do without mockery. “The reaction to this affair will send a very dangerous message to victims of sexual violence,” Breton said. “They’re going to think that as soon as they speak out, their ordeal will be put under scrutiny and joked about. “People need to be educated on this issue,” she continued. “They need to realise that sexual violence is not a laughing matter.”
French historian Georges Vigarello, author of “A History of Rape: Sexual Violence in France,” described in the book how the French have come to realise, after centuries of misunderstanding, that sexual violence is “the worst crime of all,” which causes “the shattering of identity,” and even “psychic death”. But in terms of justice, the reality is far less impressive. It is estimated that only 2% of rapists are convicted and sentenced in France. As Breton points out, “There is a long way to go when it comes to raising awareness on this issue. The jokes that have arisen from this story only show that violence against women is simply not taken seriously enough”.
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