The French art of war

“About time such a book was brought to the forefront!” I have not read it (yet) but that’s the first thing that came to my mind when I read this about Alex Jenni’s “reflection on France’s colonial history in Indochina and Algeria”. Now I need to dig it! 

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Heavy metal from Baghdad

Maybe one day I will manage to create a whole music section for this blog but in the meantime I would like to share a band that just pumps you up! Acrassicauda is a heavy metal band from Iraq I discovered through the documentary “Heavy Metal in Baghdad”. This was a random spot of luck that came up while I was looking for the band Baghdad Heavy Metal (which, by the way, I would also recommend).

Intrigued, I ended up watching “Heavy Metal in Baghdad”, eager to find out a bit more about something related to heavy metal and to Baghdad. The documentary is really touching as it shows a fragment of every day life in Baghdad and the struggles of the band whether in Iraq, or later in Syria after they have left Iraq. It is available on Youtube (there are nine parts all in all).

I am not particularly a fan of heavy metal – though not against it either – but I do like the mixing of genres, especially of traditional arabic music or celtic music and electric guitars. Acrassicauda have that little touch in some of their songs  – though not exclusively. Here are my two favourite songs, but you might want to check their other tracks. Oh, and if you were wondering, they now live in the U.S.

 

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Women as defined by the French

The discrepancy between women’s civil status on documents and men’s is today highlighted in an article by France 24:

Is that Madame… or Mademoiselle?” It’s a question often asked in France, whether you’re opening a bank account, voting, or even booking a train ticket. French feminists argue that France needs to get with it, and stop defining women by their marital status.

Married French women are not only defined by their marital status but are often defined and identified through their husbands: official mail such as bank or tax letters are often addressed to women through their husbands’ name. For example, if Marie Dupont is married to Jacques Dupont, letters meant for her will be sent to Madame Jacques Dupont.

This habit inscribed in every day institutions reflects a wider problem: women are still not seen as independent and capable people. According to the article, France was ranked “a poor 46th in global gender equality at the World Economic Forum last year” and in a country where women are still paid 30% less than men (French link), this is not surprising.

“Small” steps such as revising women’s civil status would not change anything for administrations but would do a lot to ensure that women’s image in society is re-evaluated and more positive.

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Respect our women!

I just found a post about “The Adventures of Salwa” on “Stop Street Harassment“!

“The Adventures of Salwa” was created by Lebanese feminist group Nasawiya  as a campaign against sexual harassment in Lebanon.  I first discovered Salwa at a Lebanese cinema and was pleased that clips of Salwa were broadcast before the beginning of films.


I have witnessed sexual harassment in both Lebanon and France; sexual harassment is not flattering nor pleasing, it is offensive and makes women feel uncomfortable and unsafe. I wish an initiative similar to “The Adventures of Salwa” was taken in France to replace the deprecating and sexist advertisements we see every day on television and elsewhere.  Here are a few that I remember seeing recently – unfortunately they are only a micro-sample of  the kind of sexism that is too widely visible and accepted over here.

This ad is for an online shopping website:

[Translation of the dialogue:
– Your dress is very nice.
– Thank you – order on Zalando, they have a good choice of  clothes and shoes. We all order there. See Julie’s dress (the woman on the chair)? It’s from Zalando. Isn’t it great?
– Quiet! Stay on the floor!]

“Hurlez de plaisir” meaning  “scream out of pleasure”…

A car ad:

[Vous voulez? Vous pouvez. = You want? You can.]

In these advertisements women are depicted as downright stupid and artificial. You might also notice the implicit sexual connotation of each of the slogans. These slogans are associated with distorted images of women and repeated to viewers regularly. Women are not only about appearances and these ads encourage street harassment; they project the idea that women are commodities or objects one may have fun with.

“Stop Street Harassment” has a “harassment map” where people can tag a location and describe how they have been harassed (unsurprisingly we are talking mostly about women here…). The location tags are not representative of the countries where there is the most harassment (users connect to the website and tag themselves randomly) but it is obvious that the phenomenon is spread worldwide. Another interesting feature of the website is the emphasis on collaboration with men (“male allies“). If men are not the only perpetrators of sexism, working on respecting women more needs to be done with them and not against them.

Let us all respect our women!

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From Tunisia to Europe

Recently we have heard of clashes between Tunisian migrants and locals/police forces in Lampedusa. Here is a video about how these migrants travel to Europe across the Mediterranean.

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Sarkozy & the Israel-Palestine peace process

Today at the U.N. General Assembly, Sarkozy announced he was in favour of scheduling the Israel-Palestine peace process and reaching a deal in a year’s time. Sarkozy’s interest in the resolution of the conflict seems to coincide with France’s involvement with Libya’s new government; this probably testifies of France’s wish to consolidate its relations with the Middle East, in particular in these times of change.

Green politician Noël Mamère also pointed out the electoral stakes of Sarkozy’s position*: supporting Palestinians in some way or other is a way of remaining politically neutral with respect to a highly controversial issue. Foreign relations will not be a point of contestation from opponents when election time comes next year.

Also, the Palestinian cause is massively supported by France’s Muslim community and Sarkozy’s new move may serve to camouflage the controversial ban on the niqab that became effective in France in April 2011 . Is Sarkozy trying to appeal to France’s Muslim community while remaining attractive to far-right voters?

[* I will update this post with a link as soon as possible]

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“Being Mean in Academe”

Here is an article found on twitter through @chronicle about how some academics are not always the nicest when it comes to criticising their students’ work/plans or younger academics. I often found that many of the professors inside my faculty were condescending with students, even if deep down they were sometimes trying to make a good point (though not always!). It should be obvious that the role of professors and senior academics is to support and guide rather than compete and put down!

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