In France, Criticism Grows Over U.S.-Inspired Activism on Race, Gender

Matthew Dalton:

Prominent French politicians and intellectuals say that the country faces a growing threat: U.S.-style activist movements that are foisting American multiculturalism and gender politics onto France.

In recent months, President Emmanuel Macron, government ministers and other high-profile figures have said that activism on a range of issues—from gender-neutral language to condemnation of French historical figures for racism and sexism—is threatening to cleave the republic along the lines of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

That, they say, contradicts France’s republican ideals, which call for citizens to subordinate such group identities to the country’s universalist values of “liberty, equality and fraternity.”

To characterize the purported threat, some have adopted the English term “woke.” Coined in the U.S. to describe a heightened awareness of racism and other prejudice, it has become shorthand for a worldview that puts identity politics front and center in addressing injustice and inequality.

As such, the term has been used as an epithet in the U.S., and now in France, by those who challenge that view as dogmatic.