I had intended to steer far clear of the so-called 'Manif pour Tous' (a slick euphemism) today, the big conservative rally against gay marriage that interior minister Manuel Valls recently decribed as a sign of an emerging 'Tea Party à la française'. But it happened to be on my way to the gym and I had no choice but to pierce through it.
I have been told by several sources that, as an American, I'm in no position to interpret political events in France, so I'll try to forego interpretation as best I can and stick to straight description. One thing is clear and not open to interpretation: the French Right prefers really, really shitty pop music: Hall & Oates, the Pointer Sisters, Moby, could be heard from the loudspeakers at Place Denfert-Rochereau for miles around. When the music was finally shut off to give way to speeches, I felt well primed to assent to just about anything.
There was much talk of 'familophobie' and the threat of 'homoparentalité', concepts that have no names in the US but that have become standard in 'Manif pour Tous' parlance. There was a concerted effort to distinguish views that are 'anti-homosexuel', which are unacceptable at least for the mainstream of the 'Manif pour Tous' crowd, from those that are 'anti-LGBT'. Whenever 'LGBT' was uttered, the crowd booed in roaring unison.
At some point there was a speaker who identified himself as 'homosexuel et non-membre de la communauté LGBT', which got huge cheers. He had written a book called Homosexuel, contre le mariage gai, for which he clearly hoped to boost sales today.
The strangest part was when a French-speaking American academic, whose name I didn't catch, gave a fiery speech in which he denounced 'le gender studies' as a dangerous form of ideological brainwashing currently being imported from the United States (!) to indoctrinate primary-school children. There was no mention, or evident awareness, of any deeper French pedigree for this theoretical project. When he was done, the old man who was MC'ing the whole spectacle said, "Vous voyez, il y a aussi de bons américains." Tens of thousands of people were calling for the death of gender studies in the streets of Paris today, in defense of more authentic French values, against the encroachment of American influence.
In fact, the 'Manif pour Tous' website explicitly claims that "La théorie du gender est née aux États-Unis à la fin des années 1980." There is a link provided nearby to an article on Judith Butler, in which it is mentioned that she was influenced by Foucault and Monique Wittig, but you have to be a fairly diligent manifestant to click through and discover the French connection. For the rest of them, it's all just more unwanted McDo.
I emphasize that I was only there long enough to push through the crowd on my way back home from the gym, and even in so doing I was regretting that this would add even one more body to their numbers.