French wives encouraged to cheat… as protesters march against same-sex marriage

This week, leaflets in support of this Sunday’s march against same-sex marriage in Paris were distributed to hurried Parisians outside metro stations. Needless to say, the leaflet paints the French Socialist government’s bill to allow gay marriage in alarming terms. “This bill intends to challenge the basis of human identity: sexual difference and the filiation that results from it”, it shrieks on the back page. It finishes with the following slogan: “The people of France must rise up for their children, their future… and our humanity, made up of a man and a woman!”   The front page of the leaflet encouraging people to join in Sunday's protest. "La manif pour tous" (the protest for all) is a take on the French government's name for its same-sex marriage bill, "Le mariage pour tous" (marriage for all).   Down inside the metro, however, it’s a different story. While on the threshold I was ambushed by people giving out the anti-gay marriage leaflets, once down in the tunnels waiting for my train I was visually accosted by adverts for Ashley Madison, a Canadian extra-marital dating website which recently entered the French market. This advert in particular was encouraging married women to cheat on their husbands. A picture of a married lady placing her forefinger over her lips to signify discretion accompanied the following tagline: “It’s 6 pm. Do you know where your wife is?”   The Ashley Madison advert visible in the Paris metro this week. It ends with the website's slogan, "Life is short. Have an affair". Photo © Caroline Clarkson.   As France 24’s Sophie Pilgrim reported in October of last year, Ashley Madison’s first campaign was shunned by advertisers, for fear of being sued by a former French president, several of whom featured in the advert. This time, there have been no such qualms, with the poster visible on no less than 100 metro platforms. (And let’s not forgot that the people who manage the advertising in the metro are the same ones who made Jacques Tati appear without his pipe due to strict anti-smoking regulations).   In any case, I couldn’t help but notice the contradiction between the anti-gay marriage leaflets being doled out, and then this rather shocking advert in the metro - clearly visible to children and teenagers - cheerfully encouraging people to break their marriage vows. What seems particular scandalous is the idea that woman are being encouraged to deliberately look for an affair by signing up for the website. (Being forced to work with some George Clooney lookalike in the office and then deciding whether to resist temptation is surely a little different). Luckily, I’m not the only one in France who has noticed that the ancient institution of marriage involving a man and a woman, to which the anti-gay marriage activists seem so attached, is no longer what it was. Back in November 2012, French journalist Christophe Barbier, the managing editor of centre-right magazine L’Express, penned an editorial in which he announced his support for the government's bill. While backing equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, Barbier declared that marriage itself is an “obsolete institution”. He added: “In the era of globalisation and of the fulfilled and mobile individual, this norm [of marriage] is as artificial as it is inefficient, as shown by the fact that divorce has become commonplace”. He finished on the following note: “Civil unions for all!”   Amen to that.
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