The day Edith Cresson became the first female Prime Minister of France

“This afternoon, I have appointed Mrs. Edith Cresson as Prime Minister.” Staring at the camera, François Mitterrand, then President of the Republic, curtly announces to French women and men in front of their televisions the name of Michel Rocard’s successor, who has just resigned.

On May 15, 1991, who introduces himself in Columns Globalism As a “left-wing Gaullist,” she became, at the age of fifty-seven, the first female tenant of Matignon. Three decades later, she remains the only French politician to hold this position.

Nearly 31 years to the day after that appointment, and as re-elected President Emmanuel Macron prepares to unveil the identity of the future head of government, 74% of French women and men say they want a female politician to take over this role. this study FIFGpublished on April 28, 2022, reveals that French women are somewhat more likely (76%) to express this desire than their male counterparts (72%).

This number also changes according to the political leanings of those involved. Among Socialist Party voters, 87% said they hoped to appoint a female politician (compared to 85% of EELV supporters, 83% of LaREM, 73% of Republicans, and 70% of RN.And 64% of the payback, and finally 60% of the intermediary), this is the highest percentage.

However, at the time, the Prime Minister of the Socialist Party suffered from sexist statements from politicians in her camp. “There were a lot of competitors. All these gentlemen wanted to become Prime Minister. (…) because we were heading towards the end [du mandat, ndlr]And [ils] They were angry at the idea that they [le] No,” Edith Creson returns to Senate General.

The hatred of the political class for women transcends divisions. On the right as on the left, the major is mocked, and attacked. This is from the public policy speech he gave before the National Assembly only 7 days after his appointment.

The Prime Minister confronted the surrounding sexism of the political class

In Hemiclaic, politicians laugh out loud until they drown out her voice as she presents them with her project for France. “I heard MPs behind me say, ‘She’s not so rotten,’ ‘Do you think she has panties?’ , recalls former Communist Party deputy Denis Kashio, who is present at the assembly Edith Cresson heard parliamentarians shouting “Naked!”

The former head of the Constitutional Council, Pierre Mazoud, then a deputy from the RCD party, violently compared his speech to “a list of stronghold’,” when UDF deputy deputy Yan Peat called him “asexual.”

“Not because it is a woman that Edith Cresson has suffered from all these attacks; her ‘big mistake’ is rather that she personified a bad sex, in contrast to the feminine habitat as described by Bourdieu, i.e., a home characterized by reticence, self-absorption and self-sacrifice,” analyzes sociologist Delphine Dulong. , specialized in relations of hegemony in political institutions.
In other words: her detractors with sexual undertones accuse her of being a woman, but also, above all, she does not behave as such – her strong temperament approaches the “masculine” character, in their opinion.
I have been elected Deputy, Mayor, General Counsel and Ministers 5 times. So, what do you have to do to be legit when you’re a woman?

François d’Aubert, then deputy of the Democratic Revolutionary Union (a few years after his appointment as Minister of State for Research), will dare to assert that there is a “kind of parallel” between the careers of the Marquis de Pompadour and Edith Cresson, implying that the latter is the lady of the head of state. We read in an annoying subtext “How could a woman have otherwise reached such a prestigious position?”.

The Bourbon Palace is home to this vile and unrestrained sexist. On the media side: not much better. The Daily of Pariswhich now no longer exists, was titled Matignon when she was appointed, while televisions filmed her legs up close when she arrived at the cabinet.

tacky show [émission de télévision satirique de marionnettes, diffusée sur TF1 entre 1982 et 1995, ndlr] Like me in the guise of a lustful tiger that rolled at the feet of François Mitterrand, who kicked to get rid of it ”, recalls the major in a microphone French culture.

“I have been elected deputy, mayor, general, and minister five times. So, what needs to be done to be legitimate when you’re a woman? It’s really unusual…”, indignant at 30 years of a woman politician, often lost Her credibility is due to the color of a suit, her haircut, or even her loud voice.

“What you want to do doesn’t matter to them in the end…,” the former prime minister lamented. Which he bitterly summarizes in his autobiography French stories (Editions de Rocher, 2006): “I was going to be a man, something that wouldn’t have led to such a circus“.

A long political career before “Inferno of Matignon”

Daughter of a financial inspector and mother of a housewife, this Parisian “HEC-young girls” graduate, who is also a PhD in demographics, can boast of a brimming political resume.

Mayor of Schättlerault, a town of 30,000 inhabitants in Vienna, she was also deputy and general counsel of this department.

Prior to being elected Head of Government, Edith Cresson was a member four times. She was appointed Minister of Agriculture (1981-1983), then Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism (1983-1984), Minister of Industrial Redeployment and Foreign Trade (1984-1986), and finally Minister of European Affairs (1988-1990).

But when François Mitterrand offered her to succeed Michel Rocard, the politician had already left the latter’s government. At that time, she devoted herself to creating a company whose goal was to support French companies set up in Eastern European countries.

I expected difficulties but not to this extent, not this unusual aggressiveness, this unwarranted villainy.

For many years, Edith Cresson accompanied François Mitterrand at the head of the Socialist Party, and then in the country. The first head of state from the left under the FifthAnd Republic pays him well with this appointment. first. This experiment It was a real ordeal for politicsset in the second part of his state, in a complex social context – with high unemployment.

In addition to the misogynistic attacks targeting her, from the press as well as from the political world, Edith Cresson gains an imploding unpopularity, on the one hand, because of this surrounding sexism, but also because of her few inappropriate outings.

“When we talk about Matignon’s Inferno, I am in a good position to know that it is not exaggerated, and the ex-Prime Minister painfully testifies to the French culture. I expected difficulties but not to this extent, not this unusual aggressiveness, this unwarranted villainy. All this wrong information. They loaned me words I hadn’t said before.

The left’s failure in the regional and cantonal elections shortens its suffering. On April 2, 1992, i.e. Just over ten months after her move to Matignon, Edith Cresson has been replaced by Pierre Peregovoy..

after matignon

François Mitterrand does not abandon her because of all that. In January 1995, the President of the Republic chose her as a member of the European Commission. Still Mayor of Chatelerault, Edith Cresson was in charge of science, research and development in Brussels, before the European Court of Justice indicted her for favoritism.

The politician was accused of offering a fake job to a dentist friend from her former hometown (in 1997, Lionel Jospin, then prime minister, asked her to leave her position to avoid a backlog of mandates).

After that, Edith Cresson will be discreet. He will support the Socialist Segolene Royal in 2007 and Francois Hollande in 2012 to applaud her in her meetings, but Emmanuel Macron in 2017.

When she was a member of the European Commission, and when she dealt privately with questions related to education, Edith Creson Established Second Chance Schools For young people who left school early. Undoubtedly, one of the projects undertaken during her political career is closest to her heart when she looks back. The sites are now published on French soil and the results of those who take the courses there are mostly conclusive. In 70% of cases, the latter finds a job or returns to an eligible course of study after undergoing this programme.

At 88 years old, Edith Cresson is now the Honorary President of Simmons, It was launched by two representatives from the center at the end of 2021. The purpose of this association? Encourage women to get involved in politics. I’m not sure that the experience of a person who is violently confronted with sexism is the motive. But how to dispense with the only prime minister of the Fifth Republic?

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