A deputy meets them in the press hall of the National Assembly with the remark, “Ah, so you’re picking up someone, waiting for a client.”
A senator bemoans that they’re wearing a turtleneck instead of something more revealing.
A press officer for a presidential campaign takes a photo of them while they’re asleep on the plane and shares it with the rest of his team.
These represent a fraction of the incidents described in a new open letter from nearly 40 female French journalists, representing the country’s most prominent publications, blasting their country’s elected officials for forcing them to endure a regular barrage of sexism.
“We, the generation of female journalists charged with covering French politics under the Sarkozy and Hollande administrations, must still put up with the machismo of male politicians in order to perform our jobs effectively,” they write in French daily Liberation.
While they must on some level have a relationship with the subjects they’re covering, they say, their male colleagues don’t face the same constraints they do, since they don’t have to protect against ambient sexism.
“They don’t have to avoid one-on-one meetings as much as possible, they can be much more casual, and don’t have to maintain a permanent vigilance about being formally addressed when spoken to.”
Besides sexual harassment, the halls are rife with condescension, they say. At a recent press conference, one minister responded to a female reporter by saying, “Now that is a girl question.”
Nor is the behavior is not confined to older officials.
“Certain politicians, often the youngest, excuse their behavior by saying they’ve been unduly influenced by their elders ,” they write. And their mothers are feminists, these guys will add.
They write that with the discovery of Dominique Strauss Kahn’s sexual assault, such behavior would abate.
“Sadly, no,” they say.
The writers say that such examples, as bad as they are, pale in comparison to what many other female workers in the country face.
But even here, at the top of France’s ruling class, many who signed wished to remain anonymous to avoid retribution.
“As long as politics rests almost entirely in the hands of heterosexual males mostly over 60, nothing will change,” they say. “In 2015, what we really would have preferred is not have had to write this.”
The letter is signed by reporters from LeMonde, Liberation, radio station France Inter, Agence France Presse, and TV channel France 3, among a dozen other outlets.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.