In many of the same French squares and streets that were occupied in the general strikes of 1968, a new generation has been re-inventing the art of protest for the age of Twitter. Their focus has been opposing a law that would legalize gay marriage, which is expected to pass a final legislative hurdle on Tuesday. Although the protests may be misdirected, they are a symptom of the crisis this generation faces in influencing its government and economy in France.
For a generation that is staring at a “lost decade” of economic stagnation and joblessness, this protest seems like a form of escapism to observers. With economic and political spheres surrendered to global markets and German politicians, the protesters may be trying to reclaim ownership of the cultural sphere by seizing on the gay marriage proposal. This desire for individuality within the euro zone was, in fact, the same effort that led the French government to introduce the proposal in the first place.
This predominantly Catholic revolution without leaders has spawned a new organization – le Printemps Français, or the French Spring – that compares the fight against gay marriage to the Arab Spring uprisings that began in 2010.
The majority of the troops in this culture war are the children of the 1968 generation in France. Le Monde has pointed to a new generation of right-wing activists taking to the streets of Paris and other French towns to declare war on their parents’ sexual permissiveness.
The Web pages for the movement mark the progression of demonstrations that have attracted hundreds of thousands of participants, as well as a petition that has attracted more than 700,000 signatures. Since November, they have been congregating nightly outside the French National Assembly building in Paris and have used social media to recruit members and spread word about the fight.