A new book has re-ignited a fraught debate in France over whether gallantry is a “brilliant but poisonous myth” that must be jettisoned a year after #Metoo or a treasured Gallic exception that is the envy of the world.
Gallantry, which first appeared in France in the mid-17th century as a code of conduct between the sexes in high society and an art form, may have provided subservient women with a modicum of empowerment at the time but its legacy is perpetuating gender inequality.
That is the view of Laure Murat, a French professor at the University of California in Los Angeles in her A Sexual Revolution, Post-Weinstein Reflections, written in response to the rape scandal involving Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ms Murat described the concept of gallantry as a “screen” that has helped keep sexual relations partially in the dark ages in France by stopping people thinking about “what seduction is exactly”.
It continues to be viewed by many, she said, as a central part of French art de vivre based on “asymmetric consent, namely that the man proposes, the woman disposes.”
The central point being that it is women who have that decision making power. This oppresses women, does it?