Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Pierrette Pape and the threat of Anti-feminism

In Movements, Politics on January 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Pierrette Pape. Image from Égalité Infos.

“More subtle are the daily attacks on the advances in women’s rights: tolerance for violence against women; the suspicion of the media just like the police or the justice system towards women who dare file a charge for rape (in citing examples of the way women dress…); the sexist remarks in the media or public sphere…”

These are the words of Pirette Pape, member of the European Women’s Lobby. Her role is as political officer and project coordinator for the lobby’s campaigns to end violence against women. In an interview with Égalité Infos she addresses  what she believes are the greatest challenges to women’s rights, not only in France but in Europe as a whole. Here are the highlights.

Firstly, Pape is asked about anti-feminism and movements aimed at stopping the progress of women’s rights.

“We have found several forms of anti-feminism, from the very obvious to the more subtle. The most obvious would be, for example, the existence of a congress with the clear intention of ‘eliminating’ feminism, like the claims of the organizers of the 2nd international anti-feminist meeting, in Switzerland in June 2011. Some divorced fathers associations, all proposing similar rhetoric, also deliver anti-feminist discourse by advancing, for example, statistics on male suicide in order to illustrate a ‘crisis of masculinity’.

Q: Does [anti-feminism] remain low-key or does it pose a real threat to feminism?

“What is problematic in this evolution is that ‘masculinist’* or anti-feminist discourses are received with a certain empathy in the public arena which allows anti-feminists to fulfil three objectives: to de-legitimize feminism, to blame women and to mobilize resources for men. It’s quite paradoxical in the current situation in terms of resources and decision-making: men continue to dominate in all sectors.”

The interview then continues on to discuss the role of men in equality politics and male feminist activists in women’s rights issues.

“During our research for the seminar, we found that Finland had, in 2007, implemented a policy of equality, including masculine issues and to involving men in achieving equality. This policy is based on international documents that focus on male involvement, whilst keeping in mind the fundamental objective of female autonomy in a context of male structural domination.

Pape then continues on to highlight male feminist initiatives and projects which she considers to be the best.

“Whilst contacting experts for our seminar, we discovered several initiatives of male feminists, be they researchers or activists. We also invited Matt McCormack Evans who founded the Anti-porn Men Project having been a campaigner in several feminist associations in Great Britain. The initiative of these young men against pornography was really novel and we wanted to know more about the motivations of these new feminists.

The survey also uncovered the project Free from violence, developed by the Swedish NGO Men for Gender equality aiming to prevent violence towards women by young men. The researchers from the start based their work on feminist analysis of social relations between the sexes, something that is a reliable gauge of a real desire to transform society.

The lobby is also a partner of male feminist groups such as  le réseau Zéro Macho (The Zero Macho Network) which supports our campaign of “Together for a Europe free of prostitution” (« Ensemble pour une Europe libérée de la prostitution »). In raising awareness of these politically engaged men, we’re creating a new image of feminism, diverse and rich, and constructing successful collaborations between women and men for a truly equal society. Men have everything to gain from a society built on a feminist vision! ”

No original texts of the French interview are included due to the length of it. Read the full interview (in French) here and read more about the work of the European Women’s Lobby here.

*No real English translation. Intended to be the name for a male equivalent of a feminist.


Male and Feminist: Égalité Infos Interviews Marc Tarabella

In Media, Politics on January 5, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Marc Tarabella. Image from egalite-infos.fr.

In recent weeks Egalite Infos has published a series of great interviews with high-profile male French and European feminists. Here are a few of the highlights from their interview with MEP Marc Tarabella.

Marc Tarabella is a MP in the Belgian socialist party who is also an European Minister and sits on the EU Parliament Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. He is one of only 5 men (out of 60 MEPs) who sit on the committee.

When asked how his male colleagues view his place on the committee, Tarabella says, “Some of my colleagues still politely make fun of me. They’re not nasty taunts, it just makes them smile.” (Certains de mes collègues se moquent encore gentiment de moi, ce ne sont pas des railleries méchantes, ça les fait juste sourire.)

In his daily and family life Tarabella tries to implement his feminist values just as much as in his professional role: “For me, there aren’t any differences between the sexes. At the start of our marriage, my first wife was a lawyer. She earnt more than me, but it didn’t bother me. I know many men who wouldn’t have stood for it. I was also unemployed for three months and I did [my wife’s] secretarial work. In the evenings it was me who made the dinners. And also with my children (I have a son and a daughter) I try to be egalitarian.”  (Pour moi, il n’y a pas de différences entre les sexes. Au début de notre mariage, ma première femme qui est avocate, gagnait plus que moi, cela ne me gênait pas. Je connais de nombreux hommes qui ne l’auraient pas supporté. J’ai même été au chômage pendant trois mois et je faisais son secrétariat. Le soir, c’est moi qui faisais à manger. Et puis avec mes enfants, j’ai un garçon et une fille, j’essaye d’être égalitaire.)

So what does Marc Tarabella consider to be the big issues for women’s rights? “For me, the most fundamental struggle is against violence against women. It is a tragedy which also affects children. We are pushing member states to get more involved. It’s Spain who has done the most in this domain with a framework law.” (Pour moi la lutte la plus fondamentale est celle contre les violences faites aux femmes. C’est un drame qui rejaillit d’ailleurs aussi sur les enfantsNous poussons les Etats membres à s’impliquer davantage. C’est l’Espagne qui en Europe a fait le plus en ce domaine avec une loi-cadre.)

Legislation to support women who are victims of violence is on the way and the Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality is working hard to raise awareness of these issues.  Tarabella comments, ” I am the co-author of a declaration to make 2013 the European Year against violence towards women. We want to set up a large campaign which would include the exchange of practises.”(Je suis co-auteur d’une déclaration visant à faire de 2013, l’Année européenne contre les violences faites aux femmes. Nous voudrions mettre en place une vaste campagne qui comporterait des échanges de bonnes pratiques.)

There are several notable initiatives which are expected to be presented as ‘best practises’ to be copied in other states.  Tarabella continues, “It already exists in Belgium, as in several countries, ‘The White Ribbon Campaign’, an initiative of men who are against violence towards women. I feel close to this initiative because it is men who are responsible for this violence.” (Il existe en Belgique, comme dans de nombreux pays, « la campagne du ruban blanc », une initiative d’hommes qui s’engagent contre les violences faites aux femmes. Je me sens proche de cette initiative car ce sont les hommes qui sont les responsables de ces violences.)

For more information read the original interview (in French) here and Marc Tarabella’s profile on the official EU website (in English) here.