Tag Archives: feminism

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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Where do we go now?

After a selection in Cannes earlier this year, Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s new film “Where do we go now?” is finally out and about in France. Films are released on Wednesdays here and I am surprised that it is released in France before it is in Lebanon (date of release: 22 sept.). Labaki is a young and promising film director/actress who impressed me with her first film Caramel. Caramel’s women were subtle and their characters just felt right. I remember it as a touching movie.

“Where do we go now?” is also about women. Women in a mountain village who fight against the sectarianism of their husbands and sons (Christians against Muslims). The women are strong, humorous and smart. Young or old they are remarkable women and Labaki’s feminist streak is always welcome in the film world! The women use all kind of tricks to unite the men – I will not detail those in case you would like to see the film – while more serious issues about religious divides and the violence that follows are depicted.

If, like me, you do not like to hear critiques of films or books before discovering them yourself, you might want to skip what follows!

“Where do we go now?” is filmed very well, the acting is impeccable within the script and the idea of uniting women for a second time but in a different setting is an idea I quite like. Yet, there are a few elements that I also disliked. The first was that the divide between Christians and Muslims living in the same village (a cohabitation not very common in Lebanon as most villages or cities are predominantly of one religious community) is introduced abruptly. If Labaki wants to bring up the issue of sectarianism, a more subtle, mounting tension would have been more efficient and also, more credible.

Also, the narrative lacks coherence and this is partly due to the fact that Labaki is too present as an actress. Labaki’s character is the owner of a café and the film gives the impression that her love story with the worker renovating the café will be central to the narrative. However, halfway through, she switches focus to follow the tragic events a mother from the village is confronted with. This mother becomes the main character and really is the most gripping one. Finally, the pace of the story is uneven as we are rushed from one event to another, without enough time to fully know the village and its inhabitants.

Overall, the film deserved to be a little more polished and could have been much more striking and anti-sectarian in that sense. This being said, I think the film may appeal to different sensibilities, especially in Lebanon where, different generations might relate in various ways to Labaki’s work. Labaki is still bringing forward a new genre and I am sure we will soon discover other new films of hers as potent as Caramel.

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