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The International Writers Magazine: Comment

Being French
• Dean Borok - real power revealed

No amount of money can induce a French woman to go along with the program if it’s against her nature.  Sometimes her resistance can be passive, as in Diderot’s “La Religieuse”, wherein the young novitiate refuses the priest’s injunction to accept an oath of poverty, chastity and dedication to Christ and is subsequently locked away by the nuns, to Molière’s “School For Wives”, where the young Agnès attempts to defenestrate herself rather than succumb to the advances of the much older Arnolphe.
More extreme examples, such as Joan of Arc, who was so contrary to male-dominated society that the French and English establishments of the day vied to send her up in smoke; or Charlotte Corday, who was pleased to puncture Marat with a dagger over some trivial matter having to do with guillotines and the French Revolution, will not be addressed for purposes of this essay in favor of the garden variety recalcitrants who hold up half of the French sky.
Contrary to the Anglo-Saxon female, who can be faithful to a fault and impossible to get rid of barring an enormous financial settlement, the average French woman will use whatever resources happen to be at hand to avenge herself on the male oppressor.  The most obvious and commonly used weapon brought to bear is, naturally, sex.  An overbearing male cuckolded by his woman can go down in flames like the Titanic, sunk by the ballast of his own ego.  This apprehension of finding out that there are other mules kicking in his stall, as Muddy Waters so poetically termed it, has been a primal fear of men only second to castration, and it extends to other primates as well, as any sea lion or bush monkey will testify.  Lions and gorillas routinely murder any offspring they suspect is the product of extracurricular activity.
Geneticists ascribe all this playing around on the part of females as a strategy for endowing their offspring with the strongest genetic inheritance, but the poet in his contemplation can conjure up other, equally compelling motives, among them revenge at their being born into a supporting role in life.
As Arnolphe frankly instructs Agnès in “The School For Wives,”  “Men and women are partners in life, but not equal partners.  Men rule and women obey.”
Being brought up in such a school is bound to stimulate the perversity in any independent nature, and Agnès finds her weapon in Horace, who is young and handsome.  Even after being found out by Arnolphe, Agnès, knowing she holds all the trumps, confesses to him sweetly and quietly.  No screaming and histrionics here.  What difference if the knife is slipped in cleanly between the ribs rather than a hacking butcher job?  She destroys her erstwhile oppressor with almost a whisper.
Sometimes a woman will lay low a man for something that was done to her by a previous man, or in anticipation that he will eventually deceive her.  Maybe she wants to get one up on him just out of general principles.
Men generally don’t pursue such convoluted strategies in their extramarital affairs.  Generally it’s just a case of straightforward animal aggression that motivates a man to go after a lot of women like a caribou.  But in the case of women there are always tactical considerations.  My first girlfriend in New York was a married woman named Claire.  She was Spanish, from Bolivia, and she had married a WASP banker for social position and respectability.  This banker, Thomas, had a triumphalist Anglo-Saxon mentality that drove Claire crazy, and she used to bitterly complain to me between our bouts of sexual gymnastics about his arrogant smugness and rituals of self-satisfaction.  It meant a lot to Claire that I was broke, a struggling assistant designer, as though having a liaison with somebody beneath Thomas’ social class were yet another pin to stick in his voodoo doll.  Finally, she left him for another, more highly placed banker, and shortly after she got rid of me too.
The bed is a battlefield fraught with minefields and barbed wire, and the woman chooses her instruments of seduction with the same loving care that a man uses to select his weapons of war.  Nobody goes through that much meticulous preparation unless there is an element of aggression involved.  Aggression toward other females because her goal is to assert domination over them, and aggression towards men, whom she must dominate to assemble the elements of survival and procreation.
Rejection of powerful males is a very satisfying factor in the female game of one-upmanship.  Dressing for success also means laying low highly placed males.  How many times have you heard, “So-and-so tried to make it with me but I told him I wasn’t interested.”  This option is not available in the animal world, where the dominant male generally gets his way, as well as being the case in primitive human societies.  But in the western world, with its values of equality, female aggression toward powerful men is protected by the judicial system and given its head.
French-English animosity, which extends at least back to the many English invasions of France and probably a lot longer, is not a negligible factor in these latest culture wars.  Add to that the natural Anglo-Saxon attitude of punitive superiority toward the rest of the world in general, and it’s a shock that any romantic relations would exist between French and English at all.  But they do, for reasons of physical proximity if nothing else. 
Nevertheless, the French-English conflict only pours accelerant on the already rampaging firestorm of sexual revanchism.  Back in the1970’s, when the style was long hair and roaring Jimmy Page guitar solos, Prince Charles happened to attend a dance in Montreal.  The Prince was a forerunner of the modern age of dorks and nerds, with his hair plastered down and his whiskey jug ears sticking out.  He was really out of his element in Montreal, which is the second largest French-speaking city in the world.  The prevailing look there at the time was a cross between Roger Plant and the Hell’s Angels, and when the hapless successor to the throne of England asked a French girl to dance she blew him off.  As she later told the press, “I didn’t like his hair.”
Ha-ha, the Prince of Wales being told to bugger off by a common French-Canadian from Ville D’Anjou or Chateauguay!  That’s hysterical!  Imagine that happening now, in a time when Monica Lewinsky conserves the Gap dress for posterity because it’s got Clinton’s jism stains all over the front of it!
In the latest instance of a French woman telling a powerful Anglo-Saxon to piss off, Cécilia Sarkozy, the wife of the French head of state, declined an invitation from George Bush for a weenie roast at Bush’s family vacation retreat at Kennebunkport, ME.  One can only imagine what she told her husband.  “Too low-end.  Don’t waste my time.  I don’t eat hot dogs.”  Maybe she told him, “I don’t like Bush’s haircut.”
The president of France and his wayward wife seem to have arrived at a state of equilibrium, but there is no doubt that she is holding a very strong suit of cards.  As this one French woman once described the modern state of sexual relations to me, “You men have the money, but we have you by the balls.”  However you care to describe it, the French presidency is now a co-presidency.  Foreign leaders have to contend not only with Nicholas Sarkozy, but also with his wife, who is representing a constituency that has yet to be recognized or defined by policy planners or by the Fifth Estate.
Who can say Cécilia Sarkozy was in error when she declined to attend that tedious lunch?  It’s a little peculiar to invite the President of France to a lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, and even more peculiar that Bush and Sarkozy decided to wear bankers suits to an outdoor weenie roast.
The Sarkozys have acted in tandem before, when he sent her down to Libya to negotiate the release of the Bulgarian hostages.  Who’s to say that her refusal to meet Bush for lunch was not orchestrated by the two of them to show the French public that even though he might be perceived as toadying to the Americans, his wife is representing a segment of the electorate that prefers to see them snubbed?
I maintain that when the Americans get over their initial euphoria at seeing Sarkozy elected president of France, they will find themselves severely disappointed, the way they were with Putin.  They might end up waxing nostalgic for the days of Chirac, who was unpalatable to them but was nevertheless predictable, instead of these two frenetic, freewheeling Frenchmen.

© Dean Borok Aug 17 2007

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