French defenders of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and accused rapist, are drawing sharp criticism from those who say his supporters are using, sexist language to defend him.
“He lifted the skirt of a servant, that's what I mean, it's not right, but, there, it's my impression,” said Jean-Francois Kahn, an unrelated supporter of Strauss-Kahn, of the allegations that Strauss-Kahn raped a Black maid in a luxury Manhattan hotel suite May 14.
In a broadcast interview, he characterized the episode as “troussage de domestique,” a phrase that describes a master having non-consensual sex with a servant.
The victim, a 32 year-old single mother who emigrated from Guinea is said to be a devout Muslim according to neighbors in the apartment in which she and her 15 year-old daughter live.
“I am certain that there was no violent attempt to commit rape, I do not believe that,” Jean-Francois Kahn told an interviewer in France May 16, two days after Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on sexual assault charges and held without bond.
He was indicted in a New York state court May 18 and released after posting a $1 million bail. He is currently under electronic detention at a New York apartment.
Jack Lang, a friend of Strauss-Kahn and once a member of the cabinet of former French Prime Minister François Mitterrand, criticized the five-day detention of the IMF chief, first in a Harlem police facility and later on Rikers Island.
“Not to free a man, when no one has been killed, not to free someone who has paid a large fine, is something that is practically never done,” he said.
The remarks by the supporters touched off a firestorm of criticism in France, especially among women. “There is a certain impunity in France when it comes to this kind of uninhibited sexism,” was stated in a petition signed by more than 1,000 French women, including prominent political activists and journalists.
“We do not know what happened in New York on Saturday May 14, but we know what has been happening in France in the past week. We are witnessing a sudden rise of sexist and reactionary reflexes, so quick to surface among part of the French elite,” said a statement signed by a woman and posted on the website of Le Monde, the national newspaper.