Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

The End for ‘Mademoiselle’

In Movements, Politics, Society on February 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Still from the Osez le Feminisme campaign video "Madame Mademoiselle Clown"

The female title ‘Mademoiselle’ (the equivalent of ‘Miss’ in English) is to be made no longer available on official French governmental forms according to the French prime minister’s office. From now onwards there will only be one option available to women – Madame (‘Mrs’, but also used as a general term of address). Libération noted that the terms “nom de jeune fille” (maiden name) and “nom d’épouse” (married name) were also to be removed. The Guardian reported that these changes were in response to “the persistence of terms referring, without justification or need, to women’s matrimonial situation.”

The campaign against ‘Mademoiselle’ began in September 2011 with the launch of a campaign headed by the feminist movements Chiennes de Garde and Osez le Feminisme.  The two movements created the joint website madameoumadame.fr (“Madame or Madame”), arguing that being called ‘Mademoiselle’ is “not flattering!” and “not compulsary!”. The campaign was concerned that whilst men were able only to choose “Monsieur” (‘Mr’), women were being unnecessarily judged by their marital status: “It is much more polite to call a woman ‘Madame’, and also to not judge her on her private life.” (Il est bien plus poli d’appeler une femme «madame», et ainsi de ne pas porter de jugement sur sa vie privée. ) In the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec ‘Mademoiselle’, according to egalite-infos.fr, has long been a derogatory term.

The use of two titles for women has already been eliminated in Denmark, USA and Germany. There has been a similar shift in Britain, too, with the availability of  ‘Miss’, ‘Mrs’ and ‘Ms’ as titles for women. However, in the UK it has been a move that has widened women’s choice rather than reducing the choice to equal it with the number of titles available to men.

Ultimately, the collective of Osez le Feminisme and Chiennes de Garde believe that defining women with titles according to marital status is to define women in relation to their status with men. Marie-Noëlle Bas from the Chiennes de Garde said, “It’s as if marriage gives women extra value. Today marriage is a choice and a personal matter, so why still define women by their marital status?”  (comme si le mariage conférait une valeur supplémentaire aux femmes. Alors qu’aujourd’hui le mariage relève d’un choix et de la vie privée, pourquoi encore définir les femmes en fonction de leur statut matrimonial ?)

For more information see the Guardian article here, the “Madame Mademoiselle Clown” video here, the Liberation article here and the Égalité Infos article here


Is contraception soon to be free for minors in France?

In Health, Society on February 18, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Image from liberation.fr

A report entitled “Let’s talk to our teens about sex? Preventing unplanned pregnancies in young girls.” (Et si on parlait de sexe à nos ados ? Pour éviter les grossesses non prévues chez les jeunes filles) was presented to the French Secretary of State for Young People on the 16th of February, this week.

The report, conducted by one of France’s foremost gynaecologists Israël Nisand, recommends that the government and pharmaceutical companies work together to provide free and anonymous contraception for young girls in France. The proposal advocates the anonymity of access to contraception because, at present, contraception for minors is only available through the health insurance of parents and guardians. The professionals who have produced the report hope that access to free and anonymous contraception would reduce the number of abortions undertaken by young girls.

This position on birth control, although supported by politicians such as the current Secretary of State for Young People, Jeanette Bougrab, has met opposition from others, most notably Nora Berra the Secretary of State for Health. Ms. Berra, in 2011, stated her preference for free and anonymous access to contraception to remain available only in family planning centres. Furthermore, the plans that were blocked in 2011 were mainly aimed at women between the ages of 20 and 30, not at teenage girls.

Currently there are some regional systems in place that allow teenagers in France access to one free medical consultation and free contraception without the involvement of their parents. It is noted by infirmiers.com that the regional system of “Pass Contraception” is mainly supported by the left politically.

In 2011 Ms. Berra, part of the right-wing UMP (Also the party of current French President Nicholas Sarkozy), commented, “I want it remembered that the pill is a drug (…) I don’t want it to be suggested that this is a small pill  that can be taken easily without any risks.” (Je veux rappeler que la pilule est un médicament (…) je ne veux pas laisser penser que c’est une petite pilule sans risque qu’on peut prendre facilement). In the same article she also urges people not to under-estimate the “potential toxicity” (toxicité potentielle) of the contraceptive pill, making reference to the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in some women who take the pill.

For those with a feminist perspective at egalite-infos.fr, however, it is hoped that “this new report does not go unheard, and that the future government is able to broaden its horizons beyond reading damning findings.” (Espérons que ce nouveau rapport ne reste pas lettre morte. Et que le futur gouvernement se donne les moyens de ne pas se cantonner à la lecture d’accablants constats.)

For more information read the egalite-infos.fr article here, the Le Monde article here and the Libération article here (All in French, unfortunately!).