samedi 21 mars 2009


1st Part : 1875-1940

Originally, the word « feminism » was used to describe the « sickness » of a man acting like a woman. In 1872, Alexandre Dumas uses it ironically to describe the supporters of women. It is Hubertine Auclair, in 1882, who gave to this word the sense we know today, which means “fighting for women’s rights”.

This first feminist movement was based on the right for women to contribute to citizenship, and especially for women’s right to vote. Paradoxically, this fight was a little bit sexist, because the women claimed they would be good voters and politicians because they knew what was good for families and children. In France, the feminists mainly demonstrated in the streets, printed posters and expressed theirselves; it was non-violent actions. The feminist Jeanne Valbot disturbed the Senat by throwing tracts : she was arrested. It wasn’t the same in England : Emmeline Pankhurst created in 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union. The members used extremist actions: boycotts, bombs, fire, violent demonstrations, hunger strike and even suicides. The English law of the 2nd of July 1928 gave women the right to vote, almost 20 years before France. In the USA, this right existed for every woman since 1920 in every state (1869 in Wyoming).

In France, the women were given the right to vote in 1944. It is interesting to notice that this right was “given” by men, as a gift. The fight wasn’t about real equality yet.

There were three tendencies in the feminist movement of the early 90’s :
- the reformists: they fought for a better women’s condition.
- the moderates : they fought for political rights but they didn’t ask for a man/woman equality, especially in homes.
- the radicals: it was a very minority part of the french movement.

We have very few images of this fight: the only ones we have were shot by men, and they often are ironic. For example, a film was made in 1912, called "Les femmes-députés". It is a very ironic parody of the suffragettes, and the tone is clearly anti-feminist. But this short movie is interesting because it is a male reaction to a moment when the fight was strong : it shows the fear of the masculinization of women and the feminisation of men.