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Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

Street Harassment Highlighted by Belgian Film Maker

In Film, Movements, Society on August 3, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Belgian film maker Sofie Peeters has made a film about her experiences of street harassment in Brussels, Belgium. Femme de la Rue has attracted attention in the press for its secretly-filmed footage of the comments and sometimes physical harassment that Sofie received whilst wearing a dress around her neighbourhood. It has also sparked activity on the twitter hash tag #harcelementdelarue.

The film begins [see youtube video above for an interview followed by the full film] with Sofie interviewing women living in Brussels about their experiences of street harassment, what measures they take to avoid it and why they think it happens. Sofie then interviews different groups of men from her neighbourhood to determine why street harassment happens. One group of young men explain that they are aiming to initiate conversation with women they shout at, often with the hopes of having some sort of sexual encounter. The group of older men that Sofie confronts, however, believed that by making comments they are fulfilling the purpose of women wearing make-up, clothes or [to take it to the extreme conclusion of that logic] leaving the house.

It was not just sexually suggestive comments either. “Bicth” and “whore” were used several times, revealing the aggressive nature of some of the harassment.

In the above interview for Belgian TV, Sofie states that all the secretly-filmed footage of the harassment she received was filmed in the space of one afternoon [3:03].

She is also asked by the interviewer to address criticism that this could be portrayed as a racist film. Many of the men she questions are of foreign descent, so there is a seeming bias against these different groups. In the interview Sofie describes street harassment [according to the subtitles] as a “small problem within the foreign communities”.

The film has made waves on twitter, where many women have begun to testify about their own experiences of street harassment via #harcelementdelarue. It seems that Femmes de la Rue has touched a nerve, but it remains to be seen whether it has done so in a fair and balanced way.

For more information, read the Guardian’s take on the film here.

Sexism Scandal at Cannes Film Festival

In Culture, Film on May 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm

The official poster for Cannes Film Festival 2012. Image from francesoir.fr

Cannes Film Festival opened this week with the usual glitz and glamour one would expect from an internationally respected film festival. French feminist group La Barbe, however, were less than impressed with the ratio of male to female directors nominated for the official selection. Twenty two out of twenty two films were directed by men, meaning none of the films nominated for the official selection had female directors.

Why make such a fuss? La Barbe believes, as would most feminists, that the under-representation of female directors at one of the world’s most prestigious and well known festivals shows a lack of respect women in the film industry. In their statement, La Barbe muses over what the festival must think of women, “Above all, never let the girls think they can one day have the presumptuousness to make movies or to climb those famous Festival Palace steps, except when attached to the arm of a prince charming.” [Guardian Translation]. The actions of the Cannes Film Festival presents the message that only male directors can be the best film-makers, even if that’s not what the official statements say.

In an interview with RTL Radio the activist Rokhaya Diallo (not directly associated with La Barbe, although she clearly agrees with them on this issue) when posed with the statement that there are plenty of female actresses at Cannes, comments,   “[the women at Cannes] are happy to smile, to pose and above all to promote the brands who sponsor them.” ([les femmes] qui sont contentes de sourire, de poser et surtout de bien mettre en evidence les marques que les sponsorisent). Diallo is then posed with the fact that the Master of Ceremonies is a woman this year; Bérénice BejoShe points out that the role is very small and one in which Bejo must be well-presented and with the right etiquette, much like a housewife. She then says, “At Cannes the roles are clearly defined, the men are the creators and the women are their creatures”  (à Cannes les roles sont clairement defini, les hommes sont les createurs et les femmes leurs creatures).

The Festival has released a statement stating that the nominations were made without concious reference to gender,  race, nationality etc. and the fact that all their nominees happened to be male was a complete coincidence.

For more information read the Guardian translated La Barbe’s open letter to the Cannes Film Festival here, the official Cannes Film Festival Website here, and RTL’s interview with Rokhaya Diallo here.

 

Recommended Reads: 

15/12/2011: La Barbe Celebrates 100th Protest Action

29/03/2012: L’Acadamie Française Accepts the Seventh ‘Imortelle’

French Sexual Harassment Law Expected Imminentley

In Crime, Politics, Society on May 20, 2012 at 11:50 am

Image from Liberation.fr

In her new role as Minister for Justice, Christiane Taubira has announced that there will soon be a new law created against sexual harassment. At present, there is no law against sexual harassment in France as it was abolished earlier in May. The previous law, dating back to 1992,  was abolished as it was considered to be “too vague” (trop flou) and it was feared that there was “the possibility of condemning people who are simply flirting” (la possibilité de condamner de simples dragueurs).  Anyone convicted of sexual harassment could be punished with “up to a year in prison and fined up to 15,000 euros” (d’un an d’emprisonnement et de 15 000 euros d’amende).

The end of this law triggered protest amongst women’s rights groups who saw the potential for victims of sexual harassment to go unheard and without justice. The Association européenne contre les Violences faites aux Femmes au Travail [AVFT] (European Association against Workplace Violence against Women) launched a campaign to have the law reinstated, including a letter petitioning the incoming President François Hollande.

This week, the new Minister for Justice reacted to what she sees as,  “a completely intolerable legal loophole ” (C’est un vide juridique absolument insupportable). This commitment was made by Hollande during his campaign, on the exact same day that the law was abolished [4th May 2012]. The law was originally abolished because it was feared that it would be too easy to wrongly convict people of sexual harassment. It is hoped that this new law will be better structured as to protect victims, but also to prevent people from being wrongly imprisoned or fined.

For more information, read about the law’s abolition here and what Christiane Taubira had to say on the new law here.

Recommended Reads:

17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira

27/03/2012: If Hollande becomes President, will it benefit the women of France?

16/05/2012: Hollande Delivers on Equality Promise

Blair’s Babes and the Hollandettes: Spot the Difference

In Politics on May 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm

This article was first published by e-feminist.com on May 18th 2012

Images from Liberation.fr and Dailymail.com

Remember 1997? Tony Blair had become the UK’s youngest Prime Minister and the first Labour Prime Minister in 18 years. Labour’s majority in the House of Commons included double the number of female MPs than had been elected in the 1992 general election. These women even had their own momentous nickname, ‘Blair’s Babes’, and all the spin doctors were telling us that this photo represented a new era in gender equality in British politics. It made us feel hopeful, as if we had been listened to and, most of all, happy with our new government. Looking at the photo of Hollande and the ‘Hollandettes’ it feels as if we could be right back in 1997.

So what’s the difference between these photos? The short answer is not much. Of course, France’s situation is slightly different; Hollande and Ayrault actively chose to include equal numbers of men and women in their government and not all of ‘Blair’s Babes’ became cabinet ministers. However, both Hollande and Blair’s photos aim to present the same cliched political message to nation, “We’re progressive! We like women too! Look how well we’re doing!”.

Understandably, feminists in France have questioned why it was necessary to emphasize the achievement of gender parity in a way which treats women as tokens. In an article entitled “The irritating photo”, Isabelle Germain asks why these highly qualified women are being treated like Hollande’s trophies. Just like the ‘Blair Babes’, Hollande’s female ministers have their own twee media nickname; the ‘Hollandettes’.  Linguistically, the ‘Hollandettes’ are to Hollande what ‘Belibers’ are to the pop star Justin Beiber – relative to their male leader and their roles determined by his authority. Germain argues that this photo aims to set the right mood for the rest of Hollande’s term and keep the electorate sweet on Ayrault’s government. It’s as if Hollande is keeping a copy of this photo in his wallet to pull out in sticky political situations and say, “But look at this photo! This photo proves that I’m a good guy!”.

A sense that Hollande has done this out of necessity has crept in amongst feminist critics. In an article onEgalite Infos, the feminist academic Françoise Gaspard argues that Hollande set himself up during his campaign to commit to gender parity, when it wasn’t necessarily driven by his own personal beliefs. She also points out that gender parity in ministerial positions, no matter how symbolic, is still a long way from real power in strategic political positions. This is, of course, the thing that the political spin doctors don’t want the French electorate to hear. Any hint of insincerity could wreck the message of Hollande’s female-led publicity campaign and ultimately destroy any confidence he has earnt through this momentous gesture.

Considering that between 1962 and 1968 there were no female ministers at all in the French government, a lot of progress has been made in fifty years to finally achieve gender parity. However, it is clear that the place of women in French politics is still determined by their male leaders. In Hollande’s case it cannot be truly judged whether he is sincere in his feminist convictions. It can only hoped that his actions, no matter what their intentions, succeed in holding the door open for other women in French politics. Perhaps one day gender parity in government institutions will be so commonplace that it will not constitute a PR photo op.

Recommended Reads: 

17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira

17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Najat Vallaud-Belkacem

16/05/2012: Hollande Delivers on Equality Promise

Influential French Women: Najat Vallaud-Belkacem

In Biography, Politics on May 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. Image from http://www.wikipedia.org

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is another French female minister to be appointed in Hollande and Ayrault’s new government this week. Her appointment is the most significant of this election in terms of women’s rights in France, as she has taken up the post of Minister for the Rights of Women. This role has been brought back over a decade after it was abolished in 1998. The promise to bring back this ministerial position is one that Hollande made in  a speech during his electoral campaign on International Women’s Day.

In terms of politics, Belkacem is young at only 34 (born 1977). Her origins have also been divisive in a country whose far-right party won approximately 18% of the first round votes in the most recent presidential election. Although she was born in Morocco, Belkacem moved to France at an early age (1982) with her family, to join her father who was already working in Northern France. Despite having dual nationality, Belkacem was attacked by the far-right Front National candidate Nicole Hugon. Hugon said that Belkacem’s election and her dual nationality status was “against French nationality and national preference in France”* (contre la nationalité française et la préférence nationale chez nous). Belkacem came back at these comments saying that dual nationality was “a part of France’s beautiful values” (fait partie des plus belles valeurs [de la République]).

Belkacem’s most prominent work has been in the domain of LGBT rights and bioethics. In Le Monde in February 2011, Belkacem wrote an article arguing the case for bioethic laws in France be changed so that homosexual couples would be allowed to have assistance in creating children through surrogacy or other methods. In an article on her website, Belkacem said, “In the name of freedom, why not extend MAP [medically assisted procreation] to homosexual couples?” (Au nom de la liberté, pourquoi ne pas étendre la PMA (procréation médicalement assistée) aux couples homosexuels). In 2011 this law was updated, but was not changed to include the reproductive rights of homosexual couples.

For more information on Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, see her official website here and her official twitter account here

*National preference is a FN policy involving French national’s having priority for jobs over immigrants.

 

Recommended Reads:

18/05/2012: Blair’s Babes and the Hollandettes: Spot the Difference

17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira

16/05/2012: Hollande Delivers on Equality Promise

Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira

In Biography, Politics on May 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Christiane Taubira. Image from lemonde.fr

Christiane Taubira was recently announced to have become the new Minister for Justice in Hollande and Ayrault’s newly formed government. Élisabeth Guigou was the first woman to become France’s Minister for Justice in 1997. In the years following Guigou’s appointment, three out of five ministers occupying that post have been female.  So Christiane’s appointment has not been entirely ground-breaking in terms of female representation, but she is however the first minister from one of France’s over-seas territories to take up the position.

Christiane has been a députée [MP] for French Guyana since 1993. This means that she has been elected to the French assemblée nationale [parliament] as representative for her department [region]. She has changed political allegiances throughout her career, beginning as an independent candidate in 1993, but every party she has stood for have always been radical socialist or leftist parties.

French Guyana in relation to France. From http://www.wikipedia.org

Her most notable work in her political career has been putting her name to the French law no. 2001-434: For the recognition of human trafficking and slavery as a crime against humanity (Loi no 2001-434 du 21 mai 2001 tendant à la reconnaissance de la traite et de l’esclavage en tant que crime contre l’humanité). This law was passed in 2001, and recognized that slavery in the 15th century of which France partook, was illegal and a crime against humanity. Article 2 of the law also states that these crimes should be compulsorily taught within schools through history lessons in order to educate French children about these events. This law, although some have criticised it for only applying to the enslavement of African peoples,  has helped to officially recognize France’s colonial past and the weight of history which its overseas territories carry.

For more information on Christiane and her new role as Minister for Justice, see her webiste here, the official Minister for Justice site here and her Le Monde news stream here.

Hollande Delivers on Equality Promise

In Politics, Society on May 16, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Image from Liberation.fr

During campaign season, Hollande was very forthcoming about his promises regarding women’s rights. From childcare to contraception, he set out several policies which aimed to help women in their everyday lives. There was a certain amount of scepticism as to whether all of these policies would be implemented after a potential election victory.

Today Hollande announced who would be the members of his cabinet, including the newly-created post of Minister for the Rights of Women (as promised in his International Women’s Day speech). The cabinet included, for the first time in French history, an equal number of male and female ministers. All the names that were announced have long been prominent names in French political activism and politics, such as; Cécile Duflot [Minister for Housing], Najat Vallaud-Belkacem [Minister for the Rights of Women] and Christiane Taubira [Minster for Justice]. Hollande has also been credited for reflecting France’s cultural and racial diversity in his appointments.

It seems that Hollande has begun to follow through with his promises to women. Although we are unable to see the long-term changes only several days into his presidency, it is clear that Hollande’s decisions today will be forever remembered as a momentous occasion for women in France.

For more information on this news, see the Guardian’s article here, Liberation’s coverage of the new cabinet here and Le Monde’s candidate-by-candidate break-down here. Also, why not read Triple F’s profiles of  some of these influential women? [See Archives]

Campaign launched encouraging French women to vote for the Left.

In Movements, Politics on April 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Logo for "Les droits des femmes passent par la gauche" campaign.

The results of the first round of Presidential elections in France have produced the two final candidates: François Hollande and the incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy. It now leaves those who voted for any of the eight other candidates to choose between Sarkozy and Hollande in the next round. A new campaign [roughly translated as], “Women’s rights lean to the left” (Les droits des femmes passent par la gauche), has been launched by women’s rights activists to try and ensure the victory of the leftist François Hollande in the next round.

The movement has been created by three of France’s most prominent feminists: Caroline de Haas, Martine Storti and Françoise Picq. Haas is founder of the French feminist movement Osez le feminisme, Storti is a feminist academic and journalist, and Picq is a lecturer in feminist studies and women’s history at Université Paris 9.

The campaign is recruiting for activists in preparation for the second round of elections in early May. Their preliminary manifesto is thus: “About a hundred feminist men and women will launch in the coming days a campaign in order to take part in the victory of the left in the second round of the presidential elections. This campaign will remind people why the advancement of women’s rights can only be achieved with progressive policies. It will also underline that if the victory of the left is a prerequisite for advancing gender equality, then it is inadequate. [...] We know that the battle to roll back oppression and stereotypes will be tough, even if the left come to power.”

(Une centaine de femmes et hommes féministes lanceront dans les jours qui viennent une campagne afin de participer à la victoire de la gauche au second tour de l’élection présidentielle. Cette campagne rappellera pourquoi l’avancée des droits des femmes ne peut passer que par des politiques progressistes. Elle soulignera également que si la victoire de la gauche est une condition importante pour faire avancer l’égalité entre les sexes, elle n’est pas suffisante. [...] Nous le savons, la bataille pour faire reculer les oppressions et les stéréotypes sera rude, y compris si la gauche arrive au pouvoir.)

It seems that women, by feminists at least, are being encouraged to vote for Hollande in May. It has already been recorded in this blog that Hollande spoke out about women’s issues on International Women’s Day. Sarkozy, however, was silent until the last moment and did not entirely match what Hollande and others promised. As ever, it remains to be seen what impact this campaign will have until the votes are cast.

For more information on the “Women’s rights lean to the left” campaign see their blog here, for more information on Hollande’s campaign see his website here, and for information on Sarkozy’s campaign click here.

Poll: Who would you vote for in the second round?

In Politics, Poll on April 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Image from lefiagro.fr

According to my very small poll on this site, the two candidates through to the second round would have been Eva Joly and François Hollande.  However, in reality, according to exit polls François Hollande and Nicholas Sarkozy have been chosen as the two presidential candidates who will stand against each other in the second round. See the Guardian live blog here.

This poll has the same principle as the last, vote for who you would like to win, not who you think will win.

Let’s see if it matches reality.

Poll: Who would you vote for in the first round?

In Politics, Poll on April 17, 2012 at 8:36 am

This is a quick poll for visitors to my site just for fun! Please vote based on your personal views, not who you predict will win.

If you’re not sure, take a moment to google their names, or look at their wikipedia pages (not that wikipedia is entirely reliable!).

Just like the real polls, this one is now closed! Thanks to everyone who voted.

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