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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