In the French polemics over the Islamic headscarf, the relationship betweensecularism and sexual equality has sometimes been made out to be an artificialone. The articulation between politics, religion, secularism, and women'srights is examined here over the longue durée. Since the beginning of the secularizationprocess during the French Revolution, a minority has championedan egalitarian conception of secularization. Rivalries between or convergencesof political and religious authorities have driven an ambivalent and not veryequal secularization, creating secular pacts that rely on gender pacts to thedetriment of equality. This dynamic reversed itself beginning in the 1960swith the battle for legal contraception and abortion, which shook one of thevery bases of French Catholicism to its foundation. The headscarf affairsrevealed the egalitarian effects of secularism and favored the elaboration ofthought about secularism in conjunction with sexual equality, which, whateverthe various interpretations of that thought may be, could prove to be anon-negligible benefit.