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Why are French women taking to the streets on Saturday?

This weekend, thousands of French women across France will be taking to the streets in a series of marches and protest events. Here's why.

Why are French women taking to the streets on Saturday?
Feminist groups are demanding that the French government opens its wallet to fight the country's high femicide rate. Photo: AFP

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in France on Saturday, in a national bid to denounce violence against women.

What’s the occasion?

Saturday's march is organised to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which falls on Monday, November 25th. Monday is also the day when the French government will present the results of its Grenelle (public inquiry), a long-awaited plan to ameliorate its current support system for vulnerable women. 

Where will it happen?

In Paris, the march kicks off at 2pm at Place de l’Opéra. There will be marches and events held in several French cities. Click here to find out what is going on near you.

Who's going?

Saturday's national event is organised by #NousToutes, a French feminist grassroots collective that sprung out of the Me Too movement. #NousToutes are hoping to repeat last year's success, which they proclaimed to be the largest known feminist mobilisation ever in France.

More than 20 feminist organisations and about a dozen public personalities have announced that they too will hit the streets on Saturday. In a letter published in Le Monde, they wrote that they intend to “scream out their outrage against the impunity of violent men” in France.

Does France have a problem with violence against women?

One woman is killed by her male partner or ex every other day in France.

So far this year, 136 women have been killed by their partners, according to the group Féminicides par conjoints ou ex (Femicide by partner or ex).


A protest denouncing the violence against women was held in Paris in September, to mark that 100 women had been killed by their partner or ex so far the same year. PHOTO: AFP

What is the government doing to improve the situation?

That’s the big question. We will know the answer on Monday, November 25th, when the government will present the results of its first “Grenelle against intimate partner violence,” launched in September. 

France is currently under pressure both from the outside and within for not doing enough to fight violence against women.

A new report, published this Tuesday by a European Council expert group stated that, despite having made several steps of progress, the country’s “figures on violence against women and the impunity of perpetrators remain worrying.”

The report also qualified the existing French support system as inadequate and called for stronger measures to be taken to protect victims of violence.

Earlier this year, President Emmanuel Macron paid a visit to a women's support service in Paris and overheard a phone call where a gendarme was refusing to help a domestic violence victim, wrongly claiming that the law prevented him from helping. 

“She left him, he killed her.” PHOTO: AFP.

Will the Grenelle be a turning point for France?

That's the hope, although organisations remain cautious until the final results are presented. A range of organisations, associations and even family members of victims took part in the Grenelle to offer their expert advice. The plan will contain both political and economic measures to improve the existing system.

Hélène De Ponsay, deputy president of the National Union for Families of Femicide Victims, told The Local that their goal on Saturday is to push for real action.

“This needs to be a wake-up-call,” she said.

“We need to show that we won’t hide. We are not ashamed.”

De Ponsay’s sister, Marie-Alice, was killed in April. Her body was found inside a suitcase, floating down the river Oise. Her ex partner quickly became the main suspect. 

“When something this awful happens, the shock is numbing. You don’t know what to do or how to act,” De Ponsay said. 

Marching with Marie-Alice’s photo held high is a way of honouring her sister, making sure that no one forgets why she’s dead.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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