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Posts Tagged ‘Women’

Sexism Scandal at Cannes Film Festival

In Culture, Film on May 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm

The official poster for Cannes Film Festival 2012. Image from francesoir.fr

Cannes Film Festival opened this week with the usual glitz and glamour one would expect from an internationally respected film festival. French feminist group La Barbe, however, were less than impressed with the ratio of male to female directors nominated for the official selection. Twenty two out of twenty two films were directed by men, meaning none of the films nominated for the official selection had female directors.

Why make such a fuss? La Barbe believes, as would most feminists, that the under-representation of female directors at one of the world’s most prestigious and well known festivals shows a lack of respect women in the film industry. In their statement, La Barbe muses over what the festival must think of women, “Above all, never let the girls think they can one day have the presumptuousness to make movies or to climb those famous Festival Palace steps, except when attached to the arm of a prince charming.” [Guardian Translation]. The actions of the Cannes Film Festival presents the message that only male directors can be the best film-makers, even if that’s not what the official statements say.

In an interview with RTL Radio the activist Rokhaya Diallo (not directly associated with La Barbe, although she clearly agrees with them on this issue) when posed with the statement that there are plenty of female actresses at Cannes, comments,   “[the women at Cannes] are happy to smile, to pose and above all to promote the brands who sponsor them.” ([les femmes] qui sont contentes de sourire, de poser et surtout de bien mettre en evidence les marques que les sponsorisent). Diallo is then posed with the fact that the Master of Ceremonies is a woman this year; Bérénice BejoShe points out that the role is very small and one in which Bejo must be well-presented and with the right etiquette, much like a housewife. She then says, “At Cannes the roles are clearly defined, the men are the creators and the women are their creatures”  (à Cannes les roles sont clairement defini, les hommes sont les createurs et les femmes leurs creatures).

The Festival has released a statement stating that the nominations were made without concious reference to gender,  race, nationality etc. and the fact that all their nominees happened to be male was a complete coincidence.

For more information read the Guardian translated La Barbe’s open letter to the Cannes Film Festival here, the official Cannes Film Festival Website here, and RTL’s interview with Rokhaya Diallo here.

 

Recommended Reads: 

15/12/2011: La Barbe Celebrates 100th Protest Action

29/03/2012: L’Acadamie Française Accepts the Seventh ‘Imortelle’

French Sexual Harassment Law Expected Imminentley

In Crime, Politics, Society on May 20, 2012 at 11:50 am

Image from Liberation.fr

In her new role as Minister for Justice, Christiane Taubira has announced that there will soon be a new law created against sexual harassment. At present, there is no law against sexual harassment in France as it was abolished earlier in May. The previous law, dating back to 1992,  was abolished as it was considered to be “too vague” (trop flou) and it was feared that there was “the possibility of condemning people who are simply flirting” (la possibilité de condamner de simples dragueurs).  Anyone convicted of sexual harassment could be punished with “up to a year in prison and fined up to 15,000 euros” (d’un an d’emprisonnement et de 15 000 euros d’amende).

The end of this law triggered protest amongst women’s rights groups who saw the potential for victims of sexual harassment to go unheard and without justice. The Association européenne contre les Violences faites aux Femmes au Travail [AVFT] (European Association against Workplace Violence against Women) launched a campaign to have the law reinstated, including a letter petitioning the incoming President François Hollande.

This week, the new Minister for Justice reacted to what she sees as,  “a completely intolerable legal loophole ” (C’est un vide juridique absolument insupportable). This commitment was made by Hollande during his campaign, on the exact same day that the law was abolished [4th May 2012]. The law was originally abolished because it was feared that it would be too easy to wrongly convict people of sexual harassment. It is hoped that this new law will be better structured as to protect victims, but also to prevent people from being wrongly imprisoned or fined.

For more information, read about the law’s abolition here and what Christiane Taubira had to say on the new law here.

Recommended Reads:

17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira

27/03/2012: If Hollande becomes President, will it benefit the women of France?

16/05/2012: Hollande Delivers on Equality Promise

Blair’s Babes and the Hollandettes: Spot the Difference

In Politics on May 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm

This article was first published by e-feminist.com on May 18th 2012

Images from Liberation.fr and Dailymail.com

Remember 1997? Tony Blair had become the UK’s youngest Prime Minister and the first Labour Prime Minister in 18 years. Labour’s majority in the House of Commons included double the number of female MPs than had been elected in the 1992 general election. These women even had their own momentous nickname, ‘Blair’s Babes’, and all the spin doctors were telling us that this photo represented a new era in gender equality in British politics. It made us feel hopeful, as if we had been listened to and, most of all, happy with our new government. Looking at the photo of Hollande and the ‘Hollandettes’ it feels as if we could be right back in 1997.

So what’s the difference between these photos? The short answer is not much. Of course, France’s situation is slightly different; Hollande and Ayrault actively chose to include equal numbers of men and women in their government and not all of ‘Blair’s Babes’ became cabinet ministers. However, both Hollande and Blair’s photos aim to present the same cliched political message to nation, “We’re progressive! We like women too! Look how well we’re doing!”.

Understandably, feminists in France have questioned why it was necessary to emphasize the achievement of gender parity in a way which treats women as tokens. In an article entitled “The irritating photo”, Isabelle Germain asks why these highly qualified women are being treated like Hollande’s trophies. Just like the ‘Blair Babes’, Hollande’s female ministers have their own twee media nickname; the ‘Hollandettes’.  Linguistically, the ‘Hollandettes’ are to Hollande what ‘Belibers’ are to the pop star Justin Beiber – relative to their male leader and their roles determined by his authority. Germain argues that this photo aims to set the right mood for the rest of Hollande’s term and keep the electorate sweet on Ayrault’s government. It’s as if Hollande is keeping a copy of this photo in his wallet to pull out in sticky political situations and say, “But look at this photo! This photo proves that I’m a good guy!”.

A sense that Hollande has done this out of necessity has crept in amongst feminist critics. In an article onEgalite Infos, the feminist academic Françoise Gaspard argues that Hollande set himself up during his campaign to commit to gender parity, when it wasn’t necessarily driven by his own personal beliefs. She also points out that gender parity in ministerial positions, no matter how symbolic, is still a long way from real power in strategic political positions. This is, of course, the thing that the political spin doctors don’t want the French electorate to hear. Any hint of insincerity could wreck the message of Hollande’s female-led publicity campaign and ultimately destroy any confidence he has earnt through this momentous gesture.

Considering that between 1962 and 1968 there were no female ministers at all in the French government, a lot of progress has been made in fifty years to finally achieve gender parity. However, it is clear that the place of women in French politics is still determined by their male leaders. In Hollande’s case it cannot be truly judged whether he is sincere in his feminist convictions. It can only hoped that his actions, no matter what their intentions, succeed in holding the door open for other women in French politics. Perhaps one day gender parity in government institutions will be so commonplace that it will not constitute a PR photo op.

Recommended Reads: 

17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira

17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Najat Vallaud-Belkacem

16/05/2012: Hollande Delivers on Equality Promise

Influential French Women: Najat Vallaud-Belkacem

In Biography, Politics on May 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. Image from http://www.wikipedia.org

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is another French female minister to be appointed in Hollande and Ayrault’s new government this week. Her appointment is the most significant of this election in terms of women’s rights in France, as she has taken up the post of Minister for the Rights of Women. This role has been brought back over a decade after it was abolished in 1998. The promise to bring back this ministerial position is one that Hollande made in  a speech during his electoral campaign on International Women’s Day.

In terms of politics, Belkacem is young at only 34 (born 1977). Her origins have also been divisive in a country whose far-right party won approximately 18% of the first round votes in the most recent presidential election. Although she was born in Morocco, Belkacem moved to France at an early age (1982) with her family, to join her father who was already working in Northern France. Despite having dual nationality, Belkacem was attacked by the far-right Front National candidate Nicole Hugon. Hugon said that Belkacem’s election and her dual nationality status was “against French nationality and national preference in France”* (contre la nationalité française et la préférence nationale chez nous). Belkacem came back at these comments saying that dual nationality was “a part of France’s beautiful values” (fait partie des plus belles valeurs [de la République]).

Belkacem’s most prominent work has been in the domain of LGBT rights and bioethics. In Le Monde in February 2011, Belkacem wrote an article arguing the case for bioethic laws in France be changed so that homosexual couples would be allowed to have assistance in creating children through surrogacy or other methods. In an article on her website, Belkacem said, “In the name of freedom, why not extend MAP [medically assisted procreation] to homosexual couples?” (Au nom de la liberté, pourquoi ne pas étendre la PMA (procréation médicalement assistée) aux couples homosexuels). In 2011 this law was updated, but was not changed to include the reproductive rights of homosexual couples.

For more information on Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, see her official website here and her official twitter account here

*National preference is a FN policy involving French national’s having priority for jobs over immigrants.

 

Recommended Reads:

18/05/2012: Blair’s Babes and the Hollandettes: Spot the Difference

17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira

16/05/2012: Hollande Delivers on Equality Promise

Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira

In Biography, Politics on May 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Christiane Taubira. Image from lemonde.fr

Christiane Taubira was recently announced to have become the new Minister for Justice in Hollande and Ayrault’s newly formed government. Élisabeth Guigou was the first woman to become France’s Minister for Justice in 1997. In the years following Guigou’s appointment, three out of five ministers occupying that post have been female.  So Christiane’s appointment has not been entirely ground-breaking in terms of female representation, but she is however the first minister from one of France’s over-seas territories to take up the position.

Christiane has been a députée [MP] for French Guyana since 1993. This means that she has been elected to the French assemblée nationale [parliament] as representative for her department [region]. She has changed political allegiances throughout her career, beginning as an independent candidate in 1993, but every party she has stood for have always been radical socialist or leftist parties.

French Guyana in relation to France. From http://www.wikipedia.org

Her most notable work in her political career has been putting her name to the French law no. 2001-434: For the recognition of human trafficking and slavery as a crime against humanity (Loi no 2001-434 du 21 mai 2001 tendant à la reconnaissance de la traite et de l’esclavage en tant que crime contre l’humanité). This law was passed in 2001, and recognized that slavery in the 15th century of which France partook, was illegal and a crime against humanity. Article 2 of the law also states that these crimes should be compulsorily taught within schools through history lessons in order to educate French children about these events. This law, although some have criticised it for only applying to the enslavement of African peoples,  has helped to officially recognize France’s colonial past and the weight of history which its overseas territories carry.

For more information on Christiane and her new role as Minister for Justice, see her webiste here, the official Minister for Justice site here and her Le Monde news stream here.

Sarkozy finally speaks up on policies affecting women

In Politics on April 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Image from Reuters

Nicolas Sarkozy, so far in his presidential campaign, has failed to attend any women’s rights forums or debates, despite having invites to two well-respected events. It is speculated that Sarkozy may make a late surge in the polls, and given what little attention he has given to women’s issues, it is unlikely that French feminist groups will be pleased by this.

Last month Sarkozy declined the invitation to be present at a question and answer evening organized by Féministes en Mouvement – a direct snub of feminist groups. Sarkozy’s rivals Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Front de gauche), Eva Joly (EELV) François Hollande (PS), and Philippe Poutou (NPA) did attend however and were questioned individually on issues.  Mélenchon was the only candidate to criticize the current President on his policies. He accused Sarkozy of “being against [Muslim] prayers in the street, but allowing Catholics to pray in front abortion clinics.” (d’être contre les prières [musulmanes] dans la rue, mais laisse les catholiques prier devant les centres d’IVG ). Mélenchon added that he believes there needs to be an attack on the ideology of the far right, which Sarkozy partly represents.

More recently, Sarkozy missed the forum organized by Elle magazine this week because protesters were blocking the entrance at a prestigious Paris Science-Po university where the debate was being held. However, Nathalie Arthaud, François Bayrou, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, François Hollande, Eva Joly and Marine Le Pen did manage to make it inside for the debate. Up to this point, Sarkozy had not made any pledges directly relating to problems affecting women.

On the 5th of April, however, Sarkozy did finally unveil some plans for creating 200,000 more places in childcare. On his website it says that these places are “in order to give parents a free choice to either work or stay at home and raise their children” (pour accorder aux parents un libre choix : celui de travailler ou de rester à la maison pour élever leurs enfants).

This is such a small measure which is unlikely to appease feminists who are already unhappy with the present government.

For more information, read the égalité-infos.fr article here, the slate.fr article here and all about Sarkozy’s policies here.

L’Acadamie Française Accepts the Seventh ‘Imortelle’

In Biography, Culture on March 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Today (29th March) the Acadamie Française welcomed it’s newest member into their secretive and prestigious ranks. Founded in 1635 by the Cardinal of Richlieu, L’Acadamie Française is one of France’s long-standing cultural institutions. It’s role is to regulate the French language and ensure that it remains unchanged and therefore untarnished.

The most unusual thing about this newest member is her gender. Danièle Sallenave is only the seventh woman, in the academy’s entire 377 year history, to be accepted as an ‘imortelle’ (an immortal [feminine] – the name for members of the academy). Currently the Academy has 36 members filling a total of 40 seats. All immortals hold their seats for life, unless the holder resigns. New members are elected in the event of a death, which explains why the Academy is presently 4 immortals short as the election process takes a long time to complete.

The first woman to be accepted into the academy was Marguerite Yourcenar in 1980. Yourcenar is best known for winning the Prix Femina in 1968 for her work L’Oeuvre au noir (The Abyss). Of the eight women ever elected to the post of ‘imortelle’, six are alive today.

Sallenave earnt her honour through the publication of over thirty works and for her achievements as a journalist. She won the Prix Renaudot in 1980 for her novel Les portes de Rubbio and now sits on the judging panel for the Prix Femina. Sallnave was already known and respected by the academy, as she won the Academy’s prestigious prize for literature in 2005 in recognition of her entire body of work.

For more information read about L’Academie Française here and the Le Monde article here

If Hollande becomes President, will it benefit the women of France?

In Politics, Society on March 27, 2012 at 7:39 pm

François Hollande in Reims. Image from francoishollande.fr.

“It is the 8th of March and it’s International Women’s Day. But this can’t be the fight of just one day, it should be a fight fought daily, every day, and it will be something we undertake together.” – François Hollande

“Nous sommes le 8 mars, c’est la Journée internationale des femmes. Mais ce ne peut pas être le combat d’un jour ; ce doit être le combat de chaque jour, de tous les jours, et ce sera le sens de ce que nous allons engager ensemble.” – François Hollande

A quick look at the latest polls will tell you that Francois Hollande is most likely to be voted in as France’s next President. But what does this mean for France’s female population, and will it satisfy French feminists?

In a speech made in Riems (on International Women’s Day -8th March), Hollande said, “I want to tell (all the women) of the France of tomorrow, of the France after the 6th of May, that it will be a France where women will have the same opportunities, the same rights and the same capacity as men to succeed in their lives.” (Je veux (à toutes les femmes) dire que la France de demain, la France de l’après 6 mai, ce sera la France où les femmes auront les mêmes chances, les mêmes droits, les mêmes capacités que les hommes pour réussir leur vie.) He obviously has a good speech writer, but what does he propose to actually do to achieve these aims?

As has already been discussed on this blog, February saw debates arise about the accessibility of contraception for minors in France. Almost a month after the publication of a report recommending contraception be made more freely available for teenagers in France, François Hollande announced on his website and during his speech in Reims that he would support universal and free contraception to be made accessible for young girls across the country: “We have young teenage girls who can’t access contraception, for reasons related to where they live and their family situation… I will therefore introduce a plan for contraception for minors. The day after the election, there will be a reform to implement this plan which will offer these young women, throughout the country, access to free and anonymous contraception with consultation from a doctor.” (Nous avons des jeunes filles mineures qui ne peuvent pas accéder à la contraception, pour des raisons qui tiennent à la géographie, à la situation de famille…J’instaurerai donc un forfait mineur contraception. Il y aura au lendemain de l’élection présidentielle une réforme mettant en œuvre ce forfait qui offrira à ces jeunes filles, partout sur le territoire, l’accès à la contraception gratuite, accompagnée par un médecin et anonyme.) This is good news, surely, for feminists in France who have been fighting for greater free and anonymous access to birth-control, although there will surely be some struggle with the right wing to make this possible.

“The feminist battle is a social battle. It’s a battle for the recognition of dignity, for solidarity. It’s a fight that recognises the unique circumstances of women, but above that, one that wants to overcome the inevitable gender differences in nature, in each journey, in our origins in order to bring us together as one republic, the French Republic, based on these values.” – François Hollande

“Le combat féministe est un combat social. C’est un combat pour la reconnaissance de la dignité, pour l’égalité, pour la solidarité. C’est un combat qui reconnaît la situation particulière des femmes, mais au-delà, qui veut dépasser ce qui est forcément des différences liées au sexe, à la nature, au parcours, aux origines, pour nous mettre ensemble dans la même République, la République française, fondée sur des valeurs.” – François Hollande

Hollande proposes to address male and female inequalities in politics and law by creating a Minister for the Rights of Women (un ministère du Droit des femmes). He hastens to note that this new minister will not be there to create further bureaucracy and more laws but make sure there are laws which are, “better enforced, effective and able to be realistically applied” (c’est des lois mieux appliquées, effectives et capables de mettre le droit dans la réalité).

In his speech, Hollande directly addresses the male-female pay gap in France (with a woman’s average salary almost 25% lower than a man’s). He insists companies will be made to enforce equal pay law effectively, and if they don’t comply they will lose tax benefits related to women’s jobs. This is a great idea in theory, but it remains to be tested in practise.

Hollande then addresses what he views to be the three biggest issues of inequality facing French women in today’s society – childcare, abortion rights and violence against women.

Firstly he talks about the need for more accessible childcare, especially when 80% of all part-time jobs are taken by women. He hopes that this would allow more women to find stable and full-time work without the worries of finding affordable childcare. There are no details as to how this would be financed.

The second proposal he announces on the subject of reproduction rights, however, is much bolder. He proposes to make abortions free through social security for every women, not just minors, and available in every medical facility in France. This is a big move for a country which did not legalize abortion until 1975 and will undoubtedly face opposition.

The third and final proposal seeks to help end violence against women. If elected, Hollande wants to make it legally possible for women to force violent partners out of the home in order to stabilize family life and housing for children and women in violent relationships.

Hollande may be able to talk the feminist talk, but it remains to be seen whether any of his great proposals will find support or funding. It is one thing to support women in pre-election speeches, but the real test will be to see what happens when he gets the keys to the office.

Read Hollande’s speech here, his proposals for contraception for minors here and the Guardian news feed for François Hollande 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