‘Gender Theory’: Smokescreen or Row Back? Socialists Pressured by Muslims and the Right

A bad year for France’s widely unpopular Socialist government may get worse as it tries without seeming to do so, to retreat from its bitterly opposed ABCD égalité lessons in the national school curriculum – controversially labelled ‘gender theory’ by critics.

Gender equality (Credit Lestatdelc Wikipedia)

Gender equality (Credit Lestatdelc Wikipedia)

For following widespread opposition from parents and rightwing groups the government, Express magazine has reported, “is willing to sacrifice the ABCD”.

This apparent climb-down was welcomed by one of the Muslim leaders of the initial protest, Farida Belghoul, organiser of an SMS campaign to have parents remove their children once a week from school — the JRE, Journée de retrait de l’école or “Day off school”.

She told Express the retreat was “a victory for the Islamic-Catholic convergence” and added it showed the effectiveness of the JRE campaign which using SMS had mobilised (mainly Muslim) parents opposed to the idea.

“Benoît Hamon has abandoned ABCD. Proposed lectures by LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender) lobbyists planned for the autumn term in our schools have been deleted from the schedule …”, she said in a June 28 statement published on her website. She paid tribute to various protest groups including Mères de France (Mothers of France) and what she called the “JRE/Islamic-Catholic convergence (…) as well Christine Boutin of the La Manif pour tous, Béatrice Bourges leader of Printemps Français (French Spring) and Alain Escada, president of Civitas Institute (all right-wing pressure groups). “In April, we wished Christians a Happy Easter, now the time has come to wish Muslims a good month of Ramadan,” she concluded.

Education minister Benoît Hamon  insists sterotypes must be fought against (Credit screen capture)

Education minister Benoît Hamon insists sterotypes must be fought against (Credit screen capture)

She was joined in her self-congratulation by Alberic Dumont of La Manif pour tous who added: “The ABCD programme which denies the differences between the sexes is clearly a Trojan horse for the theories of the LGBT movement”. He said La Manif pour tous would again mobilise its supporters and stage mass demonstrations if ABCD was not removed from school curricula.

Indeed almost non-stop since last Autumn, and including the current peak summer season France has been wracked by mass protests, demonstrations and strikes. Citizens — disenchanted by unrelenting recession and worsening unemployment — have forcefully vented their anger on the streets and more damagingly at the ballot box. The Left got a severe drubbing when Marine le Pen’s hard-line Front National conservative party shocked Europe by winning most French votes in the European Parliament elections in March.

Among the bones of contention – apart from gay marriage, eco-taxes, ministerial corruption and the discredit caused by the president’s tangled love life – was an “experiment” as the official announcement described it, aimed at introducing equality of the sexes teaching in junior schools — immediately branded gender theory by its opponents on the Right and by many Muslim parents.

So great was the disruption caused by the number of parents withdrawing their pre-pubescent youngsters from class (in contravention of the law) in a number of primary schools around the country and particularly in several Muslim-dominated school precincts, that education minister Benoît Hamon has now apparently been forced to swallow some humble pie.

Announcing the purported end of the ABCD of equality experiment, the Education Minister told Le Parisien the plan would be replaced when school resumes in September by new training on the subject for teachers. According to an AP report: “France’s Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, told France 3 television the new plan would include all schools and would be an ‘improved’ version (of the earlier programme).”

Whatever the outcome of a seemingly cosmetic retreat, the claims made by the programme’s opponents were not shared by teachers in some of the pilot schools nor by education minister Benoît Hamon.

Express noted “While denying any “change in strategy”, the Minister of Education said a new “toolkit” was being put in place to teach gender equality in the school from September. “We plan to be ambitious about the content of programs introduced, ” he said. This statement was designed to deflate the cries of victory from opponents of the programme that followed publication of an article in L’Express under a headline saying the government was willing to “sacrifice ABCD”. Bernard Bagaggia head of one school in the pilot at Venissieux in the Rhône, stressed that in his establishment “The results were very satisfactory because the programme enabled us to discuss issues which are usually taboo in the schools.”

ABCD de l'égalité: "La lutte contre les… par BFMTV

In an interview with Benoît Hamon, Minister of Education, and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of Women’s Rights published June 29 by Le Parisien it was made clear that government planned a new toolkit to teach children about sexual equality in the new school year starting September.

Hamon said : “The conclusion of the report of the Inspector General, is that on balance the ABCD experiment was positive… From September, we will launch a unique action plan giving all teachers access to appropriate educational tools. All formal teacher training will now include an enriched module on equality. For teachers already in service we will provide additional training and access to basic tools to teach students that they are equal, that boys and girls should be respected and that there are no training schemes, no diplomas or degrees, and no jobs that are reserved for one sex over another.”

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem added: “Equality of rights between men and women in our country is the mark of true equality. If we are not there yet, this is particularly because at school girls and boys do not learn to develop the same skills and ambitions. Many teachers are aware that schools perpetuate inequalities because we do not expect the same results from the girls and the boys there.”

Hamon insisted a nationwide CSA poll showed that “a vast majority of parents support the programme. 88% of the French polled believe that education should allow society to move to equality between men and women. And nearly 8 out of 10 of those questioned consider the mission of the school in this as important.”

As we reported earlier here (before the cabinet reshuffle which saw Manuel Valls promoted to prime minister) “Interviewed above Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the campaign by Farida Belghoul and her supporters calling on parents to remove their children once a week from school — the JRE, Journée de retrait de l’école or ‘Day off school” – was a manipulation. Everyone knows gender theory is not being taught in our schools,’ he said promising firm action against parents who kept their children away from schooling (which is compulsory in France).

“Referring to the company Farida Belghoul now keeps, Manual Valls said those who propagate ‘anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic views’ should be aware that ‘theirs is not an intellectual debate it is a crime and one that will be punished under the law’.

“Farida Belghoul sets out her views on the movement’s website about why the government’s ABC of equality curriculum is a not-very-well disguised version of the 1980s gender theory and why traditionalists should fight it”.

The controversial ABCD pilot scheme covered 275 primary schools out of a total of about 48,000 in France.

Three mass anti government demonstrations were held by La Manif Pour Tous against same sex marriage (Credit Twitter)

Three mass anti government demonstrations were held by La Manif Pour Tous against same sex marriage (Credit Twitter)

It may still be early days for the conservatives opponents of equality training to be crowing victory but the government has also been warned that if it pursues its “gender theory” the streets will again be the scene of noisy demonstrations come September.

Story: Ken Pottinger

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