Twentieth-century France invented for itself an "exception" that successfully preserved the French culture industry. Postcolonial France is experiencing another "French exception" that renders a "virtuous racism" commonplace and legitimates the discrimination that expresses this racism by identifying the undesirable "new French" as scapegoat figures. Four gender-specific stereotypes strengthen the belief that there is a form of sexism exclusive to the segregated neighborhoods of the suburbs that are inhabited primarily by French people of immigrant and colonial descent. Associated with the central figure of the garçon arabe are the beurette, the veiled Muslim French woman, and the secular Muslim. The article argues that the model of abstract, universalist France has become one of a fundamentalist republicanism that plays diverse expressions of otherness and singular identities off of one another in order to preserve a soft regime of oppression.
Virtuous Racism and the War of the Sexes in Postcolonial France
Old Paradigms, Current Tendencies, New Directions
Over the past three decades modern French history has undergone important changes, introducing new methodologies and taking up new questions. Two directions are especially promising. Since the “global turn” of the 1990s, many French historians have shifted their focus outside of the hexagon to examine France in a global and transnational context. Their work has explored the contradictions of France's democratic heritage and exclusionary practices evident in the history of colonialism, immigration, and ethno-racial exclusion. A second body of research has addressed the gender dimensions of French colonialism and has examined how colonialism deployed sexuality and sexual difference in maintaining colonial rule. Both strands of research have demonstrated how France's engagement beyond the hexagon has shaped French institutions and social life.
In France, the 21 April 2002 presidential election result has renewed interest in the electoral cleavage between women and men, who cast their votes very differently to qualify candidates for the second round of the election. Among women voters, Lionel Jospin (the Socialist leader) came in second behind Jacques Chirac, with Jean-Marie Le Pen (leader of the Front national) being eliminated from the contest; among men, Le Pen came out on top followed by Chirac. On the basis of a major quantitative election survey conducted in France in 2002 by the Centre de Recherches Politiques de Sciences Po, this article undertakes to understand why fewer women than men vote for the extreme Right. Sociologically, Le Pen made his lowest scores among two groups of women that contrast in numerous aspects: young, highly educated professional women, and older, retired, widowed women. Strong ideological logics lie behind this contrasted sociology of female anti-Lepenism, rationales that are generation-specific, but gender-specific as well: feminism and Catholicism "process" male and female identity differently. (This research was first published in French in Bruno Cautrès and Nonna Mayer, eds., Le Nouveau Désordre électoral (2004), 207-28.)
The Fleshy Horror of the Unknowable Other in Spring and Honeymoon
Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon (2014) and Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring (2015) initially seem like two horror films birthed in the spirit of classical psychoanalytic film criticism. They deal with a monstrous female, a fearful, castrated male, and the “otherness” of sexual relationships. Through a close analysis of each film, however, I suggest in the following that both films “think” through problems of the gendered other, sexual politics, and cinematic affect outside the bounds of contemporary psychoanalytic or affect theory. By suggesting and analyzing two neologisms that blend the insights of psychoanalytic and affective film theory—objet a(ffect) and che(www) vuoi—I argue that both films not only complicate typical readings of horror films “about” gender and sex, but that each film performs its own type of philosophical thought about gender and “otherness” through its very form and content.
Women Workers and the 1906 Finnish Suffrage Victory
This article examines how working-class women helped transform Finland in 1906 into the world’s first nation to grant full women’s suffrage. Activists organized into the League of Working Women fought for full suff rage in the context of an anti-imperial upsurge in Finland and a revolution across the tsarist empire. These women workers simultaneously allied with their male peers and took autonomous action to prevent their exclusion from the vote during the political upheaval of late 1905 and early 1906. In the process they challenged traditional gender norms and articulated a political perspective that tied together the fight against class, gender, and national domination.
East and West
Ann Taylor Allen, Women in Twentieth-Century Europe, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, 208 pp., $28.95 (pb), ISBN 1-4039-9374-2.
Efi Avdela, Le genre entre classe et nation. Essais d’historiographie grecque (Gender between class and nation. Essays on Greek historiography), Paris: Syllepse, 2006, 205 pp., €20.00 (pb), ISBN 2-84950-045-3.
Françoise Thébaud, Ecrire l’histoire des femmes et du genre (Writing women’s and gender history), Lyon: ENS Editions, 2007, 312 pp., €24.00 (pb), ISBN 978-2-84788-093-9.
The author provides a historical analysis of the use of gender metaphors in republican discourse, chiefly the representation of the republic as a father (patria) and as a mother (matria). Both metaphors are present throughout the history of Western political thought, from ancient Rome to the Modern Era. The text shows that their use has profound implications in the way citizenship is conceived and loyalty to the republic can be justified. Finally, the text also identifies a third republican metaphor, fraternity, which has been mostly neglected by republican thought, with few important exceptions. The author concludes by exploring the normative and theoretical possibilities opened up by substituting fraternity for the gendered metaphors.
Gender Nonconformity in Middle-Grade Fiction
In this article I use four middle-grade novels to query the relationship between gendered forms of childhood and gender nonconformity in tweens. For the young characters in these novels, objects and spaces of gender enfranchisement— including gendered forms of childhood—are often out of reach. Using conceptual tools such as the orientation of objects, queer futures, and the transgender gaze, this work examines the ways in which these novels narrate their main characters’ yearning for things that will make their gender identities legible, and how they, as agentic subjects, attempt to take revenge on the rules and structures of gender normativity.
Voices from South Lebanon
This paper examines how specific femininities have been constructed in Palestinian refugee camps in south Lebanon through the intersecting discourses of gender and nation. Through these discourses, Palestinian girls and women have been positioned largely as biological reproducers, gatekeepers, metaphors, ideological reproducers and cultural transmitters of the nation. This has worked to shape Palestinian girls' upbringing in the home and in the community and presented them with limited gender scripts from which to construct their identities and imagine their futures. However, Palestinian females have also exercised agency to gain the most advantageous position available to them at any given time in Palestinian society. Although structural, legal and cultural barriers have severely limited their participation in political activism, education and paid work, Palestinian females in Lebanon have constructed their identities through Islamic feminism, and to a lesser extent, secularism. Moreover, these identities are continually being transformed through the processes of resistance, negotiation and accommodation.
Kenyan Maasai Schoolgirls Make Themselves
This article examines the practical construction and effects of the schoolgirl as an emergent social category in contemporary Kenyan Maasai society against mainstream development's figuring of the girl-child. The paper relies upon ninety-eight interviews with schoolgirls between the ages of ten and seventeen in nine primary schools in Kajiado District, Kenya. A contradictory resistance to traditional gender norms and social forms characterizes the schoolgirls' narratives of education and development in their daily lives. These narratives are embedded in larger questions regarding the transnational intersections of ethnicity and gender in the formation of local identities in marginalized indigenous communities in postcolonial Kenya. Without disputing the practical necessities of educating girls, I problematize the seamless rhetoric concerning formal schooling as a neutral public good in order to open up the complex conversation about educational access and attainment in the global south today.