It was reported by egalite-infos.fr yesterday that La Barbe was to celebrate its 100th protest action by co-ordinating six protests in France and a further three in Denmark, Haiti and Mexico. So, what is La Barbe and does it have any potential to move to the UK?
La Barbe (translates as “The Beard” in English) is a French feminist protest movement which aims to highlight the absence of women in high profile political and business positions. The main tool used to gain column inches in the French press is the wearing by protesters of a (rather comedy) beard. La Barbe supporters, wearing their beards, turn up to protest against the disproportionate numbers of men in certain domains such as business, sport, arts and media.
Their manifesto states: “Pour toutes les femmes effarées par la montée du sexisme dans les médias, pour les femmes excédées par la domination masculine dans la société française, pour celles effraient de voir augmenter encore les inégalités entre hommes et femmes dans tous les secteurs d’activité.”
Translation: “For all the women startled by the rise in sexism in the media, for all the women fed up with male domination of French society, for those shocked to still see the inequality of men and women in all sectors.”
According to their statistics it seems La Barbe have every reason to be effarées. They estimate that in the French media 85% of television executives are men and 85% of experts who appear on French radio discussions are male. There are similarly shocking statistics presented for the domination of men in the arts, sports and business.
It seems the movement is spreading, too. Danish feminists, under the name Nordic La Barbe, have also embraced the beard, taking part in the 100th protest celebrations in Copenhagen. They also stand alongside their counterparts in Mexico known as Las Bigotonas (The Mustaches). So could this hirsute form of feminist protest spread to the UK?
Sadly, La Barbe has gone relatively unnoticed by the British media. Aside from a fairly comprehensive overview by the Guardian, and a couple more specific articles in the Independent and Guardian covering the protests following the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, there has been relatively little said about La Barbe in the UK.
Furthermore, English language feminism organizations such as The F Word and Feministing have produced very little on La Barbe. The only mention of it I could find was a very brief article explaining the movement on Feministing dating back to September 2010. It’s a shame because La Barbe has been a effective and visual way to highlight the issues of sexism in France. It has also somewhat rejuvenated the feminist movement in France, so perhaps we have something to learn from our bearded French sisters?
For more information on La Barbe visit their web page: www.labarbelabarbe.org or their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Barbe-groupe-daction-f%C3%A9ministe/149218445123550 (Unfortunately only available in French).