France resists US challenge to its values - by Hugh Schofield for the BBC News in Paris - 13.12.21

Campaigners argue France is years behind the US on a number of human rights issues

Six months ago, if asked what they understood by "woke", most French people would have assumed it had something to do with Chinese cooking. And yet today in Paris, the notion of "le wokisme" is suddenly all the rage.

The government warns of a new cultural totalitarianism creeping in from the "Anglosphere". The education minister has set up a Laboratory of the Republic, dubbed an "anti-woke think tank", to co-ordinate the fightback.

And everywhere the precursors of what might be to come are being reported in the media: a new gender-neutral pronoun, a threatened statue of a dead statesman or a meeting on campus only for black students.

For the French, these signifiers of what critics in the UK and US have termed "woke" are all very new and unfamiliar.

Resistance to 'Anglosphere'

For good or bad, France has so far resisted what is seen here as a left-wing cultural movement dedicated to the promotion of minorities that originated in American universities and now exerts considerable influence in the public sphere in the English-speaking world.

Partly, that is, because of an in-built French resistance to any intellectual invader from the "Anglosphere".

But more importantly, it is because France has its own post-revolutionary culture rooted in the defence of human rights.

"Don't preach to us about protecting racial and sexual minorities" is the instinctive French response. "We do it in our sleep."

And yet, as with so many other cultural forces that arrive from the US and the UK - think pop music or lunchtime sandwiches al desko - what was originally decried in France often ends up becoming the norm.

I am not obsessed with wokism. I am simply against the idea of telling young people to enter social life by wading into competing grudges

Jean-Michel Blanquer French Education Minister

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France resists US challenge to its values - article from the BBC by Hugh Schofield 13.12
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Campaigners argue France is years behind the US on a number of human rights issues

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