Weeks after giving birth, French women are offered a state-paid, extended course of vaginal gymnastics, complete with personal trainer, electric stimulation devices and computer games that reward particularly nimble squeezing. The aim, said Agnes de Marsac, a physiotherapist who runs such sessions: “Making love again soon and making more babies.”
Perineal therapy is as ubiquitous in France as free nursery schools, generous family allowances, tax deductions for each child, discounts for large families on high-speed trains, and the expectation that after a paid, four-month maternity leave mothers are back in shape — and back at work.
Courtesy of the state, French women seem to have it all: multiple children, a job and, often, a figure to die for.
What they don’t have is equality: France ranks 46th in the World Economic Forum’s 2010 gender equality report, trailing the United States, most of Europe, but also Kazakhstan and Jamaica. Eighty-two percent of French women aged 25-49 work, many of them full-time, but 82 percent of parliamentary seats are occupied by men. French women earn 26 percent less than men but spend twice as much time on domestic tasks. They have the most babies in Europe, but are also the biggest consumers of anti-depressants. . . . .