Resisting ‘Gender Theory’ in France: A Fulcrum for Religious Action in a Secular Society

Thursday, April 14, 2016
Assembly F (DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City)
Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer , University of California, Los Angeles
Josselin Tricou , Université Paris VIII
This paper argues that French resistance to so-called ’gender theory’—and other related social changes, such as adoption and marriage for same-sex couples—is a new manifestation of historic struggles between conservative and liberal forces both within the Catholic church and in broader French society. Anti-gender activists, many of whom have ties to the Church and its satellite organizations, have garnered widespread public visibility and a measure of political success despite the passage of marriage and adoption equality. Their modes of action, including international partnerships and appeals to youth-culture, took advantage of French Catholic’s feelings of displacement and tapped into disappointment at the newly elected Left’s reforms in a time of crisis. Activists and conservative politicians leveraged popular secular discourse against globalization, unchecked economic liberalism, and loss of national identity to federate otherwise disparate social interests. The Manif Pour Tous and its sister organizations have developed a secularized conservative religious movement that is particularly well suited for an evolving transnational backlash against gender and sexual equality.