Let’s Talk About the Yellow Vests

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably become familiar with the Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vest) movement which has spread like wildfire across France in the span of just a few weeks.


I realize I am a bit late to the party in regards to writing about these events, so I wanted to share some links of fellow bloggers who I feel covered the events very thoroughly.

So, who are the Gilets Jaunes?

To get straight to the point, back at the end of October, President Macron imposed a higher tax on diesel fuel, (which is what the majority of cars in France use) in an attempt to combat climate change and encourage more French people to use public transportation.

To compare to American prices, here is how much gas currently costs in France:

  • 3.785 liters = 1 US gallon; 1 euro = $1.14 USD (as of December 30, 2018)

So, 1 liter of diesel is about 1.40€ ($6 per gallon), and diesel is cheaper than gasoline in France, and Macron proposed an additional tax to further increase fuel prices. Understandably, many, many French people were upset, and hence began their right to protest. They called themselves the Gilets Jaunes because it is a law in France (and most of Europe) that all cars contain a yellow vest in case of an emergency.


A shot I took of Gilets Jaunes protestors in Lille in mid-December (I did not participate in the protest)

Many supporters of the movement claim that Macron is ‘le président des riches’, or a president for the rich, and is out of touch with the financial struggles of today’s average French person, as well as the working class (especially in middle, farmland France), whom make, on average, around 1200€ net per month.

On November 17, les Gilets Jaunes took force around the country, virtually bringing it to a halt. I admit that it was impressive, and almost effective. However, things took a turn for the worst a few days later, when two people were killed, 600 injured, and many extremists from both the left and right overtook the movement, with violence erupting in Paris. I personally find it disgusting that so many national monuments were destroyed. While I agree with a person’s right to peacefully protest, I cannot support a movement that has gotten so, so out of control. I am especially torn because I don’t know what is worse: that people felt they had to resort to violence to be heard, or that the government only seemed to hear the people when they resorted to violence?

As of now, Macron has halted the gas tax, and has put a few other implications into place, including raising the minimum wage by 100€ per month, and encouraging employers to offer employees tax and social-charge free end-of-year bonuses (our school has done this, but we are waiting to see who will benefit).

I feel as though the government could do other things besides impose (yet another!) tax. What about halting the creation of diesel-run cars? What about discounts or tax breaks or rebates for people who purchase hybrid or electric cars? (I should also add that in France, your place of employment is required to reimburse 50% of public transport costs (with a monthly or yearly subscription) for employees who take public transportation to work as their main mode).

As an American, my approach is also a bit different– and perhaps much more frank. While I respect the sentiments from many French people in regards to very low salaries, I still feel as though we all have a personal responsibility to get ahead with finances– aka side hustles, instead of relying on the government .

This is another stanch example of a worldwide division of people- I’m curious to see where 2019 will lead us.

What are your opinions on the movement?



7 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About the Yellow Vests

  1. Thanks for the link to my blog and so glad you enjoyed the post, Dana! ❤️ Like you, I was sympathetic to the movement at first but my support chilled over December as they continued to destroy both private and public property, even after the government had made some pretty big concessions. To my North American sensibilities, it’s time to sit down and negotiate to find lasting solutions, not burn cars and carry placards. But alas, this is France. And it’s complicated…😩

  2. If I understand correctly, there are already big rebates for buying electric and hybrid cars, which will be increased in 2019. We are taking significant rebates too, up to 5000 euros. region also pays for bus passes for those who live more than 30 km from their jobs and other regions have talked about starting to do so as well. So those things have already been happening. I personally have been blocked from going to my 4 year old sons circus class, from visiting family, and from buying diapers by people who don’t think that they should have to pay a few more cents for gas. As a leftist, I see a huge issue of unobserved privilege here. My French husband and I live in a fairly poor region, in a small town. Even so, when I see gilets posted on the dashboards of glittering new Mercedes or other cars that I know cost 30,000 euros new, it’s hard for me to feel much sympathy. And this is coming from an American who grew up lower middle class at best. I don’t like Macron and agree with the assessment of his character made by this movement, but other than that I’m struggling to find much in common to support, as is my husband. There protest strategies are destructive or thoughtless and have alienated me ( and as a general rule, I tend to be strongly in favor of protest, for a just cause). People should have known when Macron rescinded the ISF that the money would have to come from somewhere else, but the protests only started when a few cents extra for gas came up. It just seems like a misguided and selfish movement, in many ways. Not in all ways of course, particularly in the case of retraites. Thanks in any case for your post here. Glad to see you are back writing!

    1. You echo my sentiments exactly! Especially about unobserved privilege! I feel like this is a conversation that most French people have just never had! Thanks so much for your insight and for reading!

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