French politician Aude Picard-Wolff has made national waves for rejecting the French practice of “la bise” — a traditional greeting that involves planting a kiss on each cheek of the person you are greeting, as French President Emmanuel Macron and Paris Mayor Anne Hildago are seen doing above.
Picard-Wolff, the mayor of the small village of Morette, sent an email to 73 councilors saying that she would “prefer to shake hands, like men do,” France24 reports.
In France, it is customary for women to greet men and other women by kissing them twice — or more, in some regions of the country. Alain d’Iribarne, a labour sociologist and economist, told The Telegraph that the practice began in the 1960s after student uprisings espoused “familiarity over hierarchical distance.” But some women are now pushing back against the practice.
Picard-Wolff told The Local that having to kiss dozens of male colleagues is a waste of time and unhygienic. Above all, she said, the practice “shows an inequality between men and women.” She also noted that her email was well-received by all of her colleagues.
Picard-Wolff is not the first to publicly take issue with la bise — in August, the French blogger Romy Duhem-Verdière wrote about grappling with how to tell her colleagues that she did not wish to partake in the double kiss. But Picard-Wolff has once again sparked discussion about whether or not la bise is a sexist practice.
“It’s French custom to kiss people we know well, even amongst men, depending on where you live,” one Twitter user wrote, according to France24. “If the habit bothers you, offer your hand in the morning. It’ll be clear that we shouldn’t offer the cheek.”
But Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu, a spokesperson for the women’s rights group Osez le Feminisme, told The Local that she believes la bise is sexist.
“We are really talking about the importance of non-sexist and positive education — teaching children when they are very young that they are not obliged to do these greeting kisses,” she said. “Too often women do not dare to shake hands and more often than not they are mocked when they wish to do so.”