Archive for the ‘Movements’ Category

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.


Campaign launched encouraging French women to vote for the Left.

In Movements, Politics on April 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Logo for "Les droits des femmes passent par la gauche" campaign.

The results of the first round of Presidential elections in France have produced the two final candidates: François Hollande and the incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy. It now leaves those who voted for any of the eight other candidates to choose between Sarkozy and Hollande in the next round. A new campaign [roughly translated as], “Women’s rights lean to the left” (Les droits des femmes passent par la gauche), has been launched by women’s rights activists to try and ensure the victory of the leftist François Hollande in the next round.

The movement has been created by three of France’s most prominent feminists: Caroline de Haas, Martine Storti and Françoise Picq. Haas is founder of the French feminist movement Osez le feminisme, Storti is a feminist academic and journalist, and Picq is a lecturer in feminist studies and women’s history at Université Paris 9.

The campaign is recruiting for activists in preparation for the second round of elections in early May. Their preliminary manifesto is thus: “About a hundred feminist men and women will launch in the coming days a campaign in order to take part in the victory of the left in the second round of the presidential elections. This campaign will remind people why the advancement of women’s rights can only be achieved with progressive policies. It will also underline that if the victory of the left is a prerequisite for advancing gender equality, then it is inadequate. […] We know that the battle to roll back oppression and stereotypes will be tough, even if the left come to power.”

(Une centaine de femmes et hommes féministes lanceront dans les jours qui viennent une campagne afin de participer à la victoire de la gauche au second tour de l’élection présidentielle. Cette campagne rappellera pourquoi l’avancée des droits des femmes ne peut passer que par des politiques progressistes. Elle soulignera également que si la victoire de la gauche est une condition importante pour faire avancer l’égalité entre les sexes, elle n’est pas suffisante. […] Nous le savons, la bataille pour faire reculer les oppressions et les stéréotypes sera rude, y compris si la gauche arrive au pouvoir.)

It seems that women, by feminists at least, are being encouraged to vote for Hollande in May. It has already been recorded in this blog that Hollande spoke out about women’s issues on International Women’s Day. Sarkozy, however, was silent until the last moment and did not entirely match what Hollande and others promised. As ever, it remains to be seen what impact this campaign will have until the votes are cast.

For more information on the “Women’s rights lean to the left” campaign see their blog here, for more information on Hollande’s campaign see his website here, and for information on Sarkozy’s campaign click here.

“#ididnotreport” Crosses the Channel

In Crime, Movements, Society on March 26, 2012 at 10:48 am

*Trigger Warning*

On Twitter, the hashtag #ididnotreport began as a voice for rape victims (both male and female) to give their testimonies of unreported rape and sexual assault. The point being to highlight the number of unreported rapes and sexual assaults in the UK and worldwide.

According to Le Monde, the hashtag #jenaipasportéplainte (#ididnotreport ‘s French counterpart) was started on Twitter on the 22nd of March by the movement Femmes en Résistance. The hastag is accompanied by a wordpress blog entitled “pasdejusticepasdepaix” (No justice, no peace) which provides information on rapes and conviction rates in France.

Pasdejusticepasdepaix has documented some of the testimonies which have appeared on Twitter under #jenaipasportéplainte. What can be read is very harrowing, but shows, very sadly, the common experiences of rape and sexual assault victims who felt that they could not report what had happened because of fear or a sense of helplessness. It is estimated that of the rapes and sexual assaults that are committed in France each year, only 8% of victims report the assault or rape.

Pasdejusticepasdepaix has also begun a petition to raise awareness of the low report rate and conviction rates of rapes in France. The manifesto is thus, “We demand a broad reflection upon the running of our judicial system, so that it finally begins to abandon its patriarchal reactions, at all levels and to consider all means of protecting the victims of sexual violence: the children, women and men who go through hell on a daily basis.” (Nous demandons l’ouverture d’une vaste réflexion sur le fonctionnement de notre système judiciaire  pour qu’il commence, enfin, à tous les niveaux, à abandonner ses réflexes patriarcaux, et à envisager tous les moyens nécessaires pour protéger les victimes de violences sexuelles, enfants, femmes et hommes qui subissent l’enfer au quotidien.)

As of the 26th of March, there have been 1,406  on the petition.

Read Pasdejusticepasdepaix here, the petition here and the Le Monde article here.  

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

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.

La Barbe Celebrates 100th Protest Action

In Movements on December 15, 2011 at 2:04 pm

"Des Barbues à Paris" - Image from La Barbe.

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).