samedi 18 avril 2009


May 68

The cinema quickly became a very important weapon in the service of the struggle. The women grabbed the camera to allow the women without a voiceto express theirselves. By assuming their representation, they assumed their liberation. The idea was that the control of the image of their body would lead to the control of their body. The feminist cinema of May 68 was of course militant, shot in the middle of the action, on the fringe of the production and distribution systems. Cinema was, at this time, almost exclusively for men. That is why women shot all their short-movies in Super-8 or Video, and these little cameras were the best tools for this kind of militant action, thanks to the technological innovations : they could watch their images immediately, the cameras were less heavy, the shots could last 30 seconds. The video allowed the filmmakers to be quick and reactive.
Their movies rejected the language of the dominant cinema, reproducing the dominant ideology. They gave women the right to talk : for instance, Carole Roussopoulos interviewed a female manual laborer in Monique Lip 1 , and she talks about her life during the strike.
A movie synthetizes all the feminist questions : Sorcières Camarades by Danielle Jaeggi in 1971. It symbolizes the birth of a “We, women”, from the individual to the collective. This movie links politics to aesthetics. You can see an extract on : it is the beginnig of the movie.
These militant movies were often about abortion. One was particularly direct. Y a qu’à pas baiser, by Carole Roussopoulos, shows images of an abortion in 1971 : the camera was really between the legs of a woman. It was of course censored (as many feminist movies were) and was projected in illegal theaters.

vendredi 10 avril 2009


2nd part (1968-1977)

This feminist movement, begun in 68, is different from the first one, because it’s no longer about civil rights. It is about the right for women to control their body. The main demands were about abortion and contraception. In May 68, the French “Feminin Masculin Avenir” group was very active and organized a lot of debates on womens’ roles.

The 28th of August 1970, nine women put down some flowers under the Triumph Arch to the glory of the unknown soldier’s wife. This is the birth of the MLF (Mouvement de Libération de la Femme). Actually, this name was given to these women by a journalist of France Soir; they of course hated it and changed for the Mouvement de Libération des Femmes (and that made all the difference).

So the feminist movment was divided into smaller groups:

- The Movment for the Legalisation of Abortion and Contraception : this group created the centers of Planning Familial. It was a women's group: men were forbidden.

- The MLF : it was mixed, and divided into smaller groups:
+ “Psychanalysis and politics”: led by Antoinette Fouques, it was based on literatury contestation. They did not trust cinema to serve womens’ struggle.
+ “Revolutionary Feminists” : they fought against patriarchy, doing a lot of videos.
+ “Class struggle” : composed by gauchist groups.

It is the period when women became aware of their oppression, and they began a real struggle as an oppressed population (as Black people or gays did). This feminist movment rejected the idea of a feminine essence, a sort of genetic predisposition to softness, motherhood, futility and submission. “The Woman doesn’t exist, there are just women”: that was one of the main messages. That is what Simone de Beauvoir means in « Le Deuxième Sexe », with her famous sentence : « On ne naît pas femme, on le devient. »
Contrary to a common idea, feminists did not fight men (there were some in feminist groups), but the patriarchal society, which makes women feel inferior. Actually, this kind of society is led by men... For example, until 1965, a woman could not work or have a bank account without her husband’s agreement!
But the main pressure was against womens’ body and their right to have a baby (or not) when they want. A lot of demonstrations were done on this theme. One of them, shot by Carole Roussopoulos, became famous : an old lady , who was asked by the filmmaker what she thought about abortion, answered : “Y a qu’à pas baiser!” (I don’t translate it because it’s better in french...). It was a so clever answer... This sentence became the title of one of Roussopoulos’s movie. The feminists did a lot of militant movies, but I will talk about feminist cinema in my next article...
The Bobigny trial, in 1972, was a very important event which contributed to the legalisation of abortion a few years later (1975). Five women were judged : a 16-year-old girl, who aborted after a rape, and four grown-ups (including her mother) who have helped her and performed the abortion. Gisele Halimi was their lawyer : they were all freed or had symbolic sentences. This trial made a huge impression on public opinion, and contributed to letting people know what women were asking.
The following link leads to a video called “Debout! Une histoire du mouvement des femmes 1970-1980” by Carole Roussopoulos. It is made with extracts from feminist militant movies, and some interviews of feminists. I love this film because it makes us remember our duty to these women who fighted for our rights.