Le Style Politique

28 July 2022

Le Style Politique Français

Logic is not en vogue.

By Neil Tidmarsh

The sans culottes were confusing enough. Did the revolutionary lower orders of eighteenth century France really not wear trousers? Or pants? Crikey, no wonder they were revolting. Perhaps it was some sort of political protest? (And a particularly French one at that – more than thirteen million French men and women are keen naturists, according to Charles Bremner in The Times last week.)

But French politics, a la mode, got even more confusing this week. Twenty angry female MPs from Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s radical left France Unbowed party turned up in parliament wearing green neck-ties a few days ago. It was clearly some sort of protest or demonstration. But against what? Or for what?

Were they protesting against some sort of rule or regulation which banned women MPs from wearing the traditionally male neck-tie in parliament? But no, no such rule or regulation exists – female MPs are indeed allowed to wear ties if they so wish.

Were they showing solidarity with their male comrades? Are the men of the Left being forced to leave their neck-ties at home and come to parliament with their shirt-fronts laid bare? But no, Left-leaning MPs can wear la cravate if they wish to. And they don’t wish to – most wouldn’t be seen dead in that badge of the upper or middle classes. They’d rather have their necks treated with Monsieur Guillotine’s blade than adorned with a bourgeoise strip of silk. They make a point of dressing informally, even scruffily. The radical Left is infamous for its devotion to Corbyn-chic.

So were those tie-wearing women protesting against their left-wing colleagues’ notorious scruffiness? Were they trying to encourage their political brothers to smarten up a bit? Do they think that the men of the Left are letting the side down? No, indeed, the woman of France Unbowed share their men-folks’ disdain for the uniforms of the establishment.

So were they showing solidarity with and support for the men in parliament who were wearing ties? Unlikely. The tie-wearing men in parliament are invariably of the Right. The women of France Unbowed would hardly want to support them.

Indeed, and puzzlingly in this context of tie-wearing left-wingers, the neck-tie is more or less a badge of the Right. The radical Right takes as much pride in being smartly-dressed as the radical Left takes in being proletariat-scruffy.  The 88 new radical Right MPs of Marine le Pen’s National Rally party are impeccably dressed; Ms le Pen has imposed a strict dress-code on them to reflect the party’s new respectable image. And Eric Ciotti, a member of the centre-right Republican party, is campaigning to make tie-wearing obligatory for male MPs in an attempt to combat the more casual dress adopted by many new MPs.

And that, confusingly, seems to be at the heart of the matter, somehow.

The angry, protesting female MPs from France Unbowed have condemned Eric Ciotti’s proposal as sexist and elitist. “The idea of making ties compulsory is profoundly reactionary” and an “expression of class hatred”, said one of them, Clementine Autain. Fair enough, from her political point of view. But she also complained that “it excludes women, since it’s a male fashion accessory.” And the party’s parliamentary leader, Mathilde Panot, said that it “raises the question of women in the assembly” and “shows that for some on the right and far right, the presence of women is not yet accepted.”

Eric Ciotti’s proposal is unlikely to be taken up. The parliament’s new speaker responded by simply reminding MPs of the established dress-code which specifies jackets for men and formal dress for women.  They “have a duty to set a dignified example,” she said. Nothing about ties.

So the twenty tie-wearing women from France Unbowed are complaining about being excluded from being excluded. By a measure that’s unlikely to come into force. It’s hard to see the logic in any of that. (Should male MPs complain about being ignored and excluded if, say, someone suggested that female MPs should always wear a bra in parliament?) And it’s even harder to see the logic behind the form which their protest has taken. Protesting against the obligatory wearing of ties, by wearing a tie?

Then again, your columnist might simply be missing something. France, after all, takes pride in being the home of logic and reason, of Descartes and Pascal. Logic and Reason have been the state religions ever since the Revolution overthrew Religion and separated Church from State. The knotty science/philosophy of Logic is in the very DNA of French education.

But perhaps those twenty tie-wearing female MPs are just trying to remind us that France is also the home of Surrealism and the Surrealists…

Your columnist remains confused. Perhaps he needs a break, a rest, a summer holiday. So this will be his last piece until the beginning of September. For the whole of August, he and the rest of the Shaw Sheet team will be giving their over-heated brains a chance to cool down. They wish all their readers a very happy holiday.

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