French press review 3 February 2014

Today France is wondering what the modern family looks like and what it means to be European.


Last week French papers were jittery about teaching gender stereotypes to kids in school, today they're all hot pink and baby blue with this weekend's reactionary protests.

Conservative Le Figaro opens with the headline "Big turn-out for pacifist march for the family," echoed by Catholic La Croix reporting that families worried about the government's reforms took to the streets to talk gay marriage, artificial insemination and so-called gender theory. These are what the Hollande administration calls progress. But, Le Figaro asks, how can progress look so hostile? And is it really progress if so many people are against it?

France's left-wing daily Libération also runs with the story, calling Sunday a day of nightmares. The paper wonders what the connection is between the right-wing radicals, the gay marriage debate dredged up last spring and the anti-Semitic voices we've been hearing lately surrounding the affair of French performer Dieudonné. Then there are also the protestors who called for President Francois Hollande's resignation two weeks ago in what they called a Day of Rage.

The right and the left have their own idea of what the modern family should look like, Libé says. The current socialist government is looking to reform laws to reflect changing values - it's moving away from thinking of marriage as the founding stone for family and putting the child at the heart of the story. This though is what protesters have dubbed 'familyphobia,' when they marched in Paris on Sunday 80,000 strong.

While the conservatives are protesting what they see as their right to bring up conservative children, the left is protesting for their right not to bring up children at all.

Communist paper L'Humanité gives over its front page to another women's rights protest on Saturday. The French are reacting to Spain's plans to amend abortion, which L'Humanité reminds its readers, should be an inalienable right. In case anyone had any doubts, it also runs an interview with French writer Annie Ernaux on her chilling experience getting an unsafe abortion back when it was illegal. These were performed by midwives whom the French euphemistically call 'faiseuse d'anges' or 'makers of angels'.

On the international scene, Le Monde runs with a debate between two somewhat stodgy French intellectuals on what it means to be European. Franco-German former hippy Daniel Cohn Bendit and French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut face off, with Cohn-Bendit arguing that to be European means to put national identity behind you, while Finkielkraut warns that European institutions will never be democratically representative enough--the nation is the basic building block for the future, even in the 21rst century.

Though these questions may seem like old news to you, they're still at the heart of European politics, particularly this past weekend. Le Monde reports on French President Francois Hollande's visit to the UK, where he met his counterpart David Cameron who wants to put the EU to the test in a referendum in 2017. The main thing that struck Le Monde was a general lack of warmth and enthusiasm, despite David and Francois' attempts to look chummy.

And finally, Le Monde has a report on French junk food, which it turns out, isn't junk at all. Instead, you've got gourmet burgers, fair trade kebabs and truffle pizzas making it big on the streets of Paris. Not the mention the new truck food phenomenon, which brings Brooklyn to the Parisian's own back streets.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning