French town changes name for 2023 to boost equality
January 5, 2023 12:23 AM
A French mayor has announced that his town's name will take on the feminine form for a year to raise awareness about gender equality.
Bertrand Kern, the socialist mayor of Pantin outside Paris, announced the move in a New Year's video message on Twitter earlier this week.
"Pantin will for a year be called Pantine," he said, adding an 'e' to its name to highlight "equality between women and men" and the struggle to end "violence against women".
A noun can often be made feminine in French by adding an 'e' on the end.
He hoped it would be "a wake-up call for this equality between women and men, which is still not perfect -- even if there have been improvements in recent years."
Women are still "less well paid than men", and their place in the public domain is "not always well accepted by men", he said.
But the move seems to be largely symbolic.
The mayor's office said there would be no changes to road signs on the outskirts of town, or in the municipality's official communications.
Its Twitter account on Wednesday remained unchanged, except for a background banner reading "Pantine: committed to equality".
The announcement has unleashed a stream of mockery on social media, with many users suggesting rude feminine alternatives for other towns in France.
But others have seen in it a welcome media stunt to revive the debate on gender disparities.
France ranked 15th worldwide in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index 2022.
Elisabeth Borne, a 61-year-old engineer, was named French prime minister last year, becoming only the second woman to hold the position.
But French politics has been rife with allegations of sexual harassment and assault in recent years.
In one of the latest cases, a prominent young leader of France's hard-left party, Adrien Quatennens, was handed a suspended four-month prison sentence last month for slapping his wife.
Three ministers in President Emmanuel Macron's governments since 2016 have been accused of rape, including one who was sacked in July. All three deny the allegations.
Feminist collective Nous Toutes counted 145 femicides in France last year.