France’s dirty postcards might soon be sent packing

A French feminist group is pushing for lewd holiday postcards featuring mainly near-naked women to be banned, calling them "sexist and sometimes pornographic".

France's dirty postcards might soon be sent packing
Photo: Femmes Solidaires

You’ve seen them before. Those tacky holiday postcards featuring young women with 90s hair, posing in compromising positions in Borat-style bikinis. 

Thought they were a thing of the past?

Well it turns out this lewd form of holiday correspondence is still around in France and one feminist association wants it banned from newsstands and souvenir shops for good.

Since last Thursday August 2, France’s Femmes Solidaires group has embarked on a mission to denounce and ban these “sexist and sometimes pornographic” postcards.

Under the hashtags #GenerationNonSexiste and #StopCultureDuViol (Non-sexist Generation and Stop Rape Culture) they’re sharing an example of these vulgar postcards everyday in the hope that public awareness will lead to alegal ban on their printing.


The association has also received more than 200 postcards from activists throughout France who are also offended by these “day to day sexism” examples.

“These traditional postcards are available to all, regardless of the age of the customers,” Femmes Solidaires writes.

“They contribute to the culture of the rape which imposes a degrading image of women and legitimises and trivialises violence against women.

“These postcards reinforce the stereotype of women as objects, consumable and disposable under the pretext of leisure and entertainment.”

But for some of French publishing houses under fire, this type of racy post represents an inconsequential part of the postcard market, which in 2015 drew in €400 million in France.

“It's been years since we published those,” publisher Yves Nicolet told French daily 20 Minutes.

“It’s an anecdotal market these days, it doesn’t really affect anyone.”

But for Femmes Solidaires the fact that these postcards are still in circulation is sufficient reason for a complete ban.

“They illustrate the difference in which men and women are viewed and the issue of inequality in the image processing between men and women,” said Sabine Salmon, president of the association.

Femmes Solidaires is calling on Marlène Schiappa -French Secretary of State for Gender Equality – and Françoise Nyssen – Minister of Culture and the High Council for Human Rights – to outlaw their production and distribution.

“We're focusing on the postcards now but we’re fed up with TV and advertising, these same representations are used,” Salmon added. 

The group’s campaign comes just days after the French public was left shocked by a video of a woman being punched by a male harasser outside a Paris café.

French lawmakers reacted quickly on Thursday by voting to pass a law which imposes on-the-spot €750 fines on catcallers and wolf-whistlers, as part of a broader crackdown on sexual harassment in public places.

SEE ALSO: Woman hit on Paris street launches website to help others tell their stories


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New app aims to protect women in France against sexual harassment

An app to help protect women against sexual harassment in the streets is now being rolled out across France after a successful trial in Marseille.

New app aims to protect women in France against sexual harassment
Photo: AFP

The Garde Ton Corps (protect your body) app was developed by yoga teacher Pauline Vanderquand in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence after she and her friends experienced harassment and assaults on the streets.

She told French newspaper Le Parisien: “It all started with a personal story. I was followed in the street, I asked for help at an institution and they wouldn't let me in. A little later, a friend was assaulted. I got really fed up, the next day I started the app project, too many stories of harassment were coming back to me.”

After help from the police and mairie (town hall) in Aix she then expanded the app to Marseille, where 20,000 people downloaded it in in the week of its launch in March.

Lockdown then delayed her plans, but the app is now available across France to download on Android, and will be available for iPhones later in August.

READ ALSO The 8 smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier


The app has several functions.

The first 'I'm going home' allows users to transmit the geolocation of your route home to trusted people in your contacts book, using the phone's location services.

The second 'help me' is for use in an emergency situation, if there is a problem a pre-loaded alert message is sent via test-message to selected contacts in your address book, giving your location and the amount of battery left on your phone.

For those in selected locations there is also the 'safe places' option, which gives a list of establishments, usually bars, that have partnered with the app offering themselves as a safe space where women can go if they are being followed or harassed in the street.

Pauline has already partnered with several establishments in Aix and Marseille and is now working on getting Paris bars signed up to the app, helped her by ambassador in the area Anita Mas.

Bars or other establishments register themselves with the app as a 'safe space' and users can then find the nearest safe space to them in case of problems.

The app is free to download but bars and other partners pay a fee to register themselves, which goes towards helping the development of the app.

Amokrane Messous, manager of the Le Mondial bar in the 10th arrondissement, is one of those who has signed up.

He said: “The concept is interesting because in this neighborhood, after a certain time, there are security problems. Some people may feel uncomfortable. For women, it's a real plus to know that they can find a safe place.”

READ ALSO Is France the home of romance or a place of rampant sexual harassment?


Street harassment is a long-standing problem in France, with public transport a particular problem.

A study in 2017 showed that at least 267,000 people, mostly women, were sexually abused on public transport in France over a two-year period.

In 2018 France brought it a new law that punishes sexual harassment in public spaces.

The new law allows for on-the-spot fines for behaviour including comments on a woman's looks or clothing, catcalling, intrusive questions, unwanted following and “upskirting” – taking pictures under a woman's dress without her knowing.