• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
'Sexist' Paris streets renamed in feminist stunt
A security worker talks to one of the feminist group members about their street sign stunt. Photo: The Local

'Sexist' Paris streets renamed in feminist stunt

Oliver Gee · 26 Aug 2015, 13:37

Published: 26 Aug 2015 13:38 GMT+02:00
Updated: 26 Aug 2015 13:37 GMT+02:00

Tourists in central Paris got a shock on Wednesday to find that almost all of the street signs on the Ile de la Cité had been changed. 

Instead of the Quai de la Tournelle near the Notre Dame cathedral, signs informed passersby that they were standing at the Quai de Nina Simone. Elsewhere, streets were "renamed" after pioneer lawyer Jeanne Chauvin, record-holding sailor Florence Arthaud, and France's first qualified female doctor Madeleine Brès.

But why?

The move was a stunt by outspoken French feminist organization Osez le Féminisme, members of which spent Tuesday evening covering around 60 of the real street signs with those only bearing women's names. The move was a protest against the fact that just 2.6 percent of the streets in the capital are named after notable women.


(Quai de Nina Simone near the Notre Dame Cathedral. Photo: The Local)

A spokesperson for the organization said that they were renamed with names of women who made "incredible contributions" to France's history. 

When The Local walked the streets of the central island, handfuls of tourists were standing on street corners consulting their maps. Many were asking for directions. 

One Italian family burst out in laughter to learn the reason for why their map wasn't matching the road signs. 

Others were pleased to hear that people were taking a stand for equality.

"I think it's a good idea," said a man on holiday from Colorado in the US. "It's a continuing effort of equality. Maybe some day there'll be an Avenue Hilary Clinton."


(The Rue Madeleine Bres. Photo: The Local)

A Frenchman in his sixties from the Champagne region added that he welcomed the move as it was "better than keeping a bunch of unknown names from the past".
 
Not all Parisians were impressed with the change, however, even if it is only for one day. 
 
"I don't believe in feminism - I believe it equality," said a young Mexican woman named Leonor, who works as a tour guide in Paris.
 
"Everyone should be equal. Do you really think the name of a street is that important? I'd prefer to hear about equal rights and equal pay. I don't see streets signs as the biggest issue right now."
 
Aurelie, a spokeswoman from the feminist group on the scene, said that confused tourists were a good sign.
 
"They'll realize and talk about it, they will talk to their friends, maybe they'll start understanding a bit more," she told The Local.
 

(Another re-baptised sign by the Notre Dame Cathedral. Photo: The Local)
 
Her colleague Aurelia added that while equal pay and equal rights were indeed a key point of feminism, starting small was a key approach.
 
"Little kids walking around Paris will subconsciously be taking in the history of France through things like street signs. They'll think that France was built by great men - but it's important they know about the important women too," she explained. 
 
The organization hopes that their new campaign, which coincides with the 45th anniversary of the women’s liberation movement, will be taken seriously by Paris’s mayor Anne Hildago, with whom they hope to meet to discuss a “concrete action plan”.
 
“Overall around 32 percent of streets in Paris contain proper nouns," group spokeswoman Marie Allibert said over the phone.
Story continues below…
 
"We want half of these streets to be named after women. We are not saying that the streets named after men should be changed to women’s names but that streets named after things such as Rue de la Chappelle could be changed to a woman’s name.”

The organization also hopes to give prevalence to women who are famous for their contributions to society, rather than their relationship to men.

“While there are plenty of men honoured on street signs, just 160 women, mostly wives or daughters of famous men, are given prominence in Paris,” the group noted.


(The team from Osez le Féminisme. Photo: The Local)

“But our history is bursting with female scientists, writers, activists, politicians, artists and Resistance fighters which deserve recognition in our country.”

The organization also notes the lack of female figures represented in the city’s public transport network.

“There’s just one metro station named after a woman, Louise Michel. But that’s not even in central Paris – it’s in Levallois,” Allibert said. 

"There are two other stations where the names are attached to male names like Pierre et Marie Curie and Barbès – Rochechouart (after the French nun Marguerite de Rochechouart de Montpipeau)."
 
Other women given street names included writer Simone de Beauvoir, scientist Marie Curie, and less well-known figures like concert pianist Micheline Ostermeyer, who was also an Olympic gold medalist.
 
Other street names in the newly christened "Fémicité" include foreign female figures such as the American scientist and cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock, who in 1983 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and the American jazz singer Nina Simone.

And there is hope that the mayor will take the initiative seriously. in 2012, officials named nine of the 18 stops on the 3B tramline after women, following complaints about the lack of female figures represented on the public transport network.


(Another street in the first arrondissement. Photo: AFP)

Additional reporting by Sophie Inge.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
15-hour tailbacks in UK as France heightens checks
The local Kent Police force said there was a 12-mile tailback, which it put down to a “vast volume of holiday traffic”. Photo: AFP

British officials were drafted in to help French border police on Sunday after 15-hour queues built up at the port of Dover due to heightened entry checks.

15 injured in Welsh bus accident in France
The bus ended on its side in a ditch. Two helicopters were dispatched to the site. Photo: AFP

UPDATED: Fifteen people were injured, two of them seriously, when a bus carrying teenagers from Wales rolled over on a motorway in eastern France on Saturday, the local gendarmerie said.

Libya armed groups urge fight against French troops
Dozens of protesters rallied Friday outside the GNA’s former headquarters in a Tripoli navy base. Photo: AFP

Armed groups including Islamists have urged Libyans to mobilise against French and other foreign troops deployed in the country, denouncing their presence as a “blatant aggression”.

EgyptAir flight broke up midair after fire: report
The Airbus A320 was en route from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar over the Mediterranean. Photo: AFP

An EgyptAir flight that crashed into the Mediterranean in May likely broke up in midair after a fire erupted in or near the cockpit, the New York Times has reported.

IMF boss Lagarde to stand trial over $400 million payout
Lagarde will be the third successive IMF chief to face trial. Photo: AFP

IMF chief Christine Lagarde was ordered Friday to stand trial in France over a massive state payout to a colourful tycoon when she was French economy minister, dealing a setback to her stellar career.

Hollande defends minister under fire over Nice attack
The Nice assault was the third major attack on French soil in the past 18 months. Photo: AFP

French President Francois Hollande on Friday defended his government from accusations it relaxed its anti-terror defences after the Euro championships, and announced plans to arm the fight against the Islamic State group which claimed the Nice attack.

Why was Nice ordered to delete CCTV images of attack?
Photo: AFP

The fact that city authorities in Nice were asked to delete images of the truck attack has only given weight to those criticizing the government.

Thirteen free and easy ways to learn French
Photo: Runs With Scissors/Flickr

Struggling to learn French? Here are some free and easy ways to help you conquer the language once and for all.

32 mistakes foreigners make when they arrive in France
Photo: Tatyana A./Flickr

How many of these have you committed?

France to supply Iraq artillery as it steps up fight against Isis
Photo: AFP

France is stepping up its battle against Isis in the Middle East.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Six outdoor bars in Paris you simply must visit
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
The open-air Villette cinema has been cancelled over security fears
Culture
Henri Rousseau exhibition proves huge hit in Paris
National
Frenchman caught trying to sell Nice massacre souvenirs online
Society
OPEN NOW: Here's why you should head to the Paris Plages
Culture
What's on in France: Still plenty to see and do in July
Lifestyle
Treasures of Versailles to go on display in Australia
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Nice attack: What we know so far
National
Nice attacker: Body-building, drug-taking, violent flirt
National
IN IMAGES: Drawings in tribute to Nice attack victims
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Promenade des Anglais: The iconic heart of the French Riviera
France faces more questions after latest deadly attack
National
Why is France the target of choice for jihadist attacks?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Nice truck attack: 'Bodies went flying like bowling pins'
Nice attack: Families of missing make pleas on Twitter
Politics
Boris Johnson cheered and booed at Bastille Day party
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Ten reasons not to leave Paris this summer
Ten ways other expats in France drive you mad
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
'Very Stupid' village in France honoured for its silly name
Travel
Ten crazy things to do in France if you dare
Society
Paris: an obstacle course for wheelchair users
Brits ignore Brexit fears to make dream move to France
2,765
jobs available