Sexism: 50 years ago, the unthinkable was still the norm in France

1972. Exactly 50 years ago, the law sanctioned the principle of “equal work, equal pay” (which has yet to be applied in practice as today a difference of 9% remains). At the time, the cause of women was moving forward: it had only been seven years since a woman could open a bank account on her own. She is also seven years old that she has full legal personality, and therefore she is no longer considered a child in the eyes of the law. Finally, in 1972, it was only two years since the men no longer had the title of “head of the family”, and the marital and paternal omnipotence that ensued. But there is still a lot to do …

♦ 50 years ago, the husband could open his wife’s mail

Everything that is not prohibited is in fact authorized. Thus, going beyond the absence of a formal text authorizing the husband to open his wife’s mail, “this remained a very common practice,” says Lucette Parisot, at the time 29 and married since she was 19. My husband has not he wanted to open mine because he didn’t feel the need, but most of my friends’ mail has been screened ”. Only in 1994 did an article 226-15 of the penal code appear, which condemned anyone who opened the mail (paper or electronic) of others in bad faith to one year of imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 francs. . As for your emails, the small subtlety of today’s Criminal Code is that no search can be done unless there is a password. A priori, nothing prevents your husband from looking at your emails if your computer is not protected by a secret code. But the big difference is that it works both ways …

The woman was not yet officially authorized to wear pants

“In 1970 I only wore pants in my private life and because my husband agreed. I never wore it to work, it was banned in public service, “explains Lucette. Although many of them have passed it, women have officially had the right to wear pants only since … 2013. The law prohibiting” the disguise of women “, dated November 17, 1800, established that” any woman wishing to dress as a man must go to the Prefecture of Police to obtain authorization “. However, this prohibition had been attenuated by two circulars of 1892 and 1909 which authorized women to wear trousers “if the woman holds the handlebars of a bicycle or the reins of a horse by the hand”. Obviously incompatible with our modern society, it was definitively repealed on January 31, 2013.

The woman could divorce only in case of guilt

Since 1975 the law allows spouses to divorce by mutual consent, but before that divorce was governed by a law of 1884, which authorized it only for fault reported by the evidence. The sins were then exhaustively enumerated: adultery, condemnation to afflictive and infamous punishments, excesses, abuses and grave injuries. In the event of marital disagreement, the two spouses doubled their inventiveness by writing numerous insulting letters (most often under the dictation of their lawyers) to convince the courts … For Lucette, divorced in 1979, even with a legal reason, women however, they very rarely divorced: “From an early age, women had learned to adapt, to endure. They have closed their eyes to this and many other things.

The adultery of the wife was more serious than that of the husband

Before the 1975 law, the woman guilty of the “crime” of adultery was punished with imprisonment from 3 months to 2 years, while the husband incurred a fine of 360 to 7,200 francs for this fault alone – and, beware, only if his adultery had been committed in the marital home. The sanction was all the more severe as the courts of the time tended to a very broad jurisprudence: “Two beings, of different sexes, locked up in a room with a single bed were enough to constitute the crime of adultery”, recalls the trunk of tree The Official Gazette, September 3, 1890. There was also the other sentence, the unofficial one, Lucette whispers: The famous “what shall we say about it”. If fickle men were said to be “interested,” women were “sluts.” “When the superintendent was informed by her husband of an adultery in progress, he went to look for the woman who had just dressed in her lovers’ bed and took her to the police station.” Only in 1975 was adultery decriminalized and inserted into the civil code, thus preventing the woman from being jailed for the crime.

The husband could veto the wife’s care

Lucette laughs yellow when the subject is brought up. Following tumors, she had to undergo a hysterectomy, the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Before the operation, her surgeon, in her time, asked her to give him marriage authorization proving her husband’s consent. “That’s it, I removed the bedroom but I left the playroom! the doctor exclaimed to her husband after the operation. “It was the surgeons joke,” says Lucette.

If the latter was “lucky” to have her husband’s approval, she knows many women for whom she has not. For these unfortunates only one solution was possible: to undergo surgery in secret. “I know a woman who waited for her husband to go on a trip to have her tubes tied for fear of getting pregnant again,” she says. There was really only one situation in which the surgeon could operate without her husband’s approval: if yet another pregnancy could endanger the woman’s life.

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