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Sexing Political Culture in the History of France By Alison M. Moore ...

Chapter 1:  Historicizing Sexual Symbols
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Sexing Political Culture in the History of France

Chapter 1

Historicizing Sexual Symbols

Alison M. Moore

There is little doubt that gender and sexual imagery have played a uniquely symbolic role in the modern French history of politics, religious struggle, and nationalism. That role was at no time more obvious than it is at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In the belief that certain types of religiously symbolic corporeal attire conflict with the republican secular values of France as a nation, the French state has now introduced new laws that most conspicuously intervene in the personal grooming of Islamic French female citizens who wear headscarves for religious reasons.1 Heads, it might be argued, have often been the focus of profound symbolic signification in French national politics. Consider the guillotine of the revolutionary terror of 1791–1794; or the Phrygian cap as symbol of the Republic;2 or the public furore surrounding women’s short haircuts during the interwar period;3 or the way that women’s heads were shaved as ritual punishment for collaboration with the Germans at the end of both the First and Second World Wars;4 or the