“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 real English translation. Intended to be the name for a male equivalent of a feminist.