In the lead-up to International Women’s Day 2020, every year on March 8, it’s a good time to take stock of how France is contributing to the intersectional feminist landscape and the advancement of womxn.
Intersectional feminism is truly highlighted by the word womxn, a more inclusive term that not only sheds light on the prejudice, discrimination, and institutional barriers all women — including transwomen and women of color — have come up against, but also demonstrates that women are more than just an extension of men.
Here are 11 contemporary intersectional feminist activists based in France who are advancing the cause of womxn and helping to amplify voices that need to be heard.
While Adèle Haenel vented backstage, the French actress Aïssa Maïga got up on stage at the Césars to speak out against the lack of diversity within the French film industry, addressing the audience members as “family.” Pointing out that this was the first industry event at which she could count on more than two hands the number of non-white invitees present. A brave move — especially for France — applauded by Aïssa’s contemporaries on social media. The message is simple: please make room at the table for people outside of the white, cis, heteronormative, privileged spectrum.
The French-British fashion and music journalist Alice Pfeiffer recently added “published author” to her resumé. Je ne suis pas Parisienne was a deep-dive exploration into the marketing myth of Parisian and French women. An excellent deconstruction and questioning of this myth, almost consistently presented as white and heteronormative.
Professional podcaster Mélanie Hong quit a law career to focus on the story of France’s multicultural landscape, so often reduced to lazy stereotypes by the media. Each episode of her Melting Pot podcast features a guest French person — born to foreign parents — who share their double culture experience while growing up in France. Necessary listening for those who are looking to know more about France’s attitude towards societal diversity.
In France, the bodypositive conversation is a much more recent movement compared to the U.S. It’s making waves, not just on social media, but also within the beauty, lingerie and fashion industry. One of the pioneers behind this movement is fashion designer Gaëlle, who spent years yoyo dieting in order to conform to western beauty standards, before finally learning to love the skin she’s in — going one step further by actively challenging the industry standards and sending an empowering message that style shouldn’t be reserved for slim bodies.
Rebecca Amsellem is an economist and founder of the hugely successful Les Glorieuses, a weekly feminist newsletter with over 150K subscribers to date. Her initial motivation for starting the newsletter, which has now grown to include a teen-friendly version, was to relieve French women from the daily judgements on their bodies, sex lives, career aspirations, friendships and politics. The long-term plan is to roll out an Anglophone version of the newsletter but for now there’s Glorious & Cash.
Inna Modja is a successful Malian singer, model, and actress based in France, and a committed advocate in the fight against female genital mutilation and violence against women. At the age of four and a half Inna was circumcised, unbeknownst to her parents. This trauma led to years of identity and self-esteem issues before Modja sought out restorative surgery at the age of 22. Today Modja is patron of the Maison des femmes of Hospital Delafontaine in Saint-Denis.
Illustrator Jüne Pla is behind the Instagram account Jouissance Club, which mixes educational posts related to sexual pleasure for women and the LGBT+ community, along with positive and humorous reflections about all things sex. The account has already been suspended twice for not conforming to Instagram’s posting regulations, which only strengthens June’s desire to keep spreading her message.
Rokhaya Diallo is a French journalist, author, filmmaker, and activist who dedicates herself to racial, gender and religious equality. Taking on the role of extremely vocal activist, both in France and abroad, Diallo regularly receives death and rape threats via her social media platforms in response to expressing her views on Islamophobia or France as a “structurally racist” environment.
Also known as Mrs. Roots, Laura Nsafou is an Afrofeminist who aims to give visibility to a generation that is heavily underestimated or rendered invisible by French society. Her debut book for children Un million des papillons noirs educated beautifully on the subject of black hair and her recently released Le chemin de Jada tackles colorism with the story of two twin sisters, one of whom is treated better by the community due to her lighter skin.
Lexie, a trans-woman, has to be one of the most patient trans-activists out there. Motivated to start her Instagram account after being asked one too many times “what are you?”, today the art history major fights for the rights and visibility of the transgender community via Instagram but also on conference panels and in French schools. By including her personal journey and struggles, Lexie is driven by the hope that ignorance and transphobic violence will one day disappear.
French media figure Mélanie Wanga is not here to please — she’s here to actively disrupt mainstream media channels. This self-described “Afrofeminist 2.0” speaks up about the discriminations experienced by minority figures, women in particular, such as blatant sexism, racism, and homophobia… Additionally, she is co-host of Le Tchip podcast, a bi-monthly podcast, that unpacks global pop culture from an Afro-Caribbean viewpoint.
Featured image: Stock Photos from Nadia Grapes / Shutterstock