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Book Review

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Women in French Studies



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To celebrate its fifth birthday, the French feminist group La Barbe–an ironic play-on-words with a symbol of masculine domination and the colloquial equivalent of “to be fed up with something”–released a selection of their most significant actions in La Barbe! Cinq ans d’activisme féministe. In the introduction, La Barbe underlines the specificities, goals, and genesis of the organization. Originally a response to the sexist treatment of Ségolène Royal in the media during the 2007 presidential election, La Barbe claims to imitate a third Republic masculinist style so as to expose the lingering gender gap and “entre-soi masculin” in French society (17). For La Barbe, it is not feminism or equal rights that are “ringard[s]” but this very lingering masculine domination (24). The group also underlines the collective nature of their actions: the speeches, pamphlets, and book translate their non-hierarchical stance.

They go on to describe their “modus operandi” (9): members of the organization attend conferences, talks, or business meetings where men are exclusively or primarily speaking. They rise up in the middle of talks, put on fake beards, and interrupt the speakers. They call them by their first names to underline the male-centeredness of the event but also to reverse the sexist media habit to call women experts by their first names (90). They read an ironic speech that congratulates the male participants on keeping patriarchy and masculine domination alive by not allowing women to join their circles of power. When a token or a few women still partake in these events, they deplore this feminist invasion. While audiences usually support the group’s actions, the ones “barbés” react according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief: ranging from denial to acceptance; the latter being an exceptional occurrence (18-22).


This is a manuscript of a book review from Women in French Studies 22 (2014): 97, doi:10.1353/wfs.2014.0034 Posted with permission

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