Shut up Jean-Marc
September 4, 2016 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Le Projet Crocodiles (in French ; English version here) collects from Belgian and French readers true stories of (mostly) sexism, sexual harassment and sexual violence directed at women and turns them into comics where men are depicted as crocodiles. There is also a Brazilian version and a book. NSFW et TW for nearly everything.

Also includes some sad but sweet stories, and at least one happy ending. Note: the way Belgian police (mis)handled this story is currently being investigated by the committee in charge of police supervision for the Federal Parliament. Comics up from 2013 to July 2015 were drawn by Thomas Mathieu. Later stories are drawn by Juliette Boutant.
posted by elgilito (35 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
You know, I never really realized how much I assumed sexist and harassing behavior was a mostly American thing, and that the rest of world had maybe moved beyond that; it's a fairly wrenching change of perspective to realize that no, it's just a male thing, and it's everywhere, all the time.

Man, I wish I could apologize for every time my eyes moved before my frigging brain engaged.
posted by Mooski at 7:59 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Dehumanizing criminals (or generally, people one doesn't like) is fraught with danger, no matter how much one might think the criminals deserve it.

I'm particularly concerned about how this affects men of color in countries like France (or USA).
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:47 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Seriously? This is fairly common in comics, anthropomorphising some characters and here the total green crocodile is radical in that all the men become indistinguishable in age and size and race - they're just green crocodiles en masse, while the women are individuals and have their stories and viewpoints centralized which is a fascinating (and rarely seen) viewpoint for stories ABOUT WOMEN.

And - a lot of the stories include men speaking up for the women, men who are kind, men who express vulnerability, men in supportive relationships - the crocodiles aren't all harassers. The stories are diverse.

As a more productive derail - the green crocodile visual amused me because the phrase for a man who harasses women here, or a pick-up artist is buaya, malay for crocodile!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:05 AM on September 4, 2016 [27 favorites]


Re: dehumanizing criminals

Different crimes are different. We don't have a problem with dehumanizing men who engage in predatory behavior. If anything, we humanize them too much, by constantly making excuses for their behavior while dehumanizing the women they victimize. This comic contributes to an environment where male sexual predators are treated as subhuman in the same way #killallmen contributes to an epidemic of female-on-male violence--that is, it doesn't.

Also, the situations portrayed in these comics are varied. I would also be concerned if it was focused primarily on street harassment, but these comics show predatory coworkers and ex-lovers as well. It's not likely that people reading the comics will assume these are all men of color.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:09 AM on September 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


Dehumanizing criminals (or generally, people one doesn't like) is fraught with danger, no matter how much one might think the criminals deserve it.

Actually, it reminded me of Art Spiegelman's graphic novel Maus, which depicts the Holocaust with Nazis as cats and Jews as mice. I think these comics employ the effect to a similar purpose, to highlight the inherent power imbalance between men and women in society and demonstrate that although women live and work alongside "crocodiles," they are always potentially vulnerable if one decides to use his power to harass or be violent.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:17 AM on September 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Maus is one of my all time favorite graphic novels. The writer does confront the complexities inherent in the animalization, though:

Art is sitting under a tree, trying to decide what kind of animal his wife should be in the book. She is French, but she is also Jewish, having converted before marriage in order to make Vladek happy. Art attempts to draw his wife as a frog (a common and somewhat derogatory term for the French), a mouse (because she's Jewish), a poodle (presumably a reference to a "French Poodle"), and many other animals. For her part, Francoise would prefer to be identified as a mouse. But when Art confronts her with her French nationality, she pauses and suggests a bunny rabbit. Art, however, rejects this portrayal as "too cute" to apply to a nation with a deep history of anti-Semitism and Nazi collaboration. (link)

What about crocodiles? In the graphic novel world, Killer Croc is at least often perceived to be black.

In France and other European countries and for that matter the USA as well, predatory characteristics are disproportionately applied to men of color.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:39 AM on September 4, 2016


ALL the men in this comic are green crocodiles.

There's no way to tell if some of the men are white or POC outside of looking to secondary signals like clothing which are very indistinct - while the women are much more diverse and do include women of POC.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Crocodile has a a totally different connotation in France than it does in the USA. I really don't think it has anything to do with assigning predatory characteristics to men of colour. You can't just project your cultural values onto other cultures.

If you want to make your own comic humanizing men who harass women, go for it, but it seems pretty #notallmen to complain about this.
posted by ssg at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2016 [18 favorites]


It is also worth noting that many of the crocodiles are depicted as thin, wiry or just plain out of shape, which is a nice touch and counter to the stereotype of the hyper-predator.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 9:54 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


ALL the men in this comic are green crocodiles.

I think this is key. Dehumanizing minority/disenfranchised/vulnerable populations is unquestionably bad, even considered to be a step toward genocide. But as with all things sociological, context matters, and in this context the dehumanization is being applied to all men - not a group you will convince me is minority/disenfranchised/vulnerable - in France, or the US, or pretty much anywhere else. For that matter though, you'd have a pretty damned hard time convincing me that the subset of men who are sexual predators fall into those categories, either.
posted by solotoro at 10:01 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I get that it is uncomfortable to be confronted with a picture of the world where you are grouped in the same category with predators. However, I think its a critical and important way to force us to confront our privlege. If I want to live in a world where there is that difference I feel internally, then We (in the royal sense) need to figure out a way to remove the structural and institutional behaviors that created it.
posted by herda05 at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2016


I think the strips do a good job of illustrating the variety of harassment, from the persistent harassing ex to the microagressions of strangers leering one after another, to the unwillingness of workplace environments to deal with harassing employees and patrons, and so on. Also the way that at least some women engage in victim-blaming and normalizing of the harassing environment.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:06 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, we could spend our time critiquing the comic's extremely unrealistic depictions of crocodiles -- I mean, who's ever seen a crocodile with hair? Or wearing pants?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:07 AM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Guys, in both France and Belgium there is very much a strongly racist strain of 'opposing street harassment' that is really just a thin excuse to hate brown people under the guise of 'feminism.' These comics don't read that way to me at all, but is not the least bit ridiculous to interrogate how something dealing with street harassment in France and Belgium interacts with race.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:12 AM on September 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Seriously this post is about giving a voice to women experiencing harassment and we've spent almost the entire thread so far wringing hands about whether the men are depicted fairly.
posted by AV at 10:15 AM on September 4, 2016 [56 favorites]


The comics aren't only about street harassment though. There's office harassment, intimate relationships, exes stalking, carers getting harassed by a client, etc.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:15 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Seriously this post is about giving a voice to women experiencing harassment and we've spent almost the entire thread so far wringing hands about whether the men are depicted fairly.

Yeah, it's so fucking typical that something describing what happens to women is turned into a "But what about the mens?" derail. Is one if the reasons is so hard to even discuss the experience of women.

Anyway, I'm going to be sharing these with my friends. I'm anticipating a lot of "Yeah, I've been there" responses.
posted by happyroach at 10:31 AM on September 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Guys, in both France and Belgium there is very much a strongly racist strain of 'opposing street harassment' that is really just a thin excuse to hate brown people under the guise of 'feminism.'

Did you even look at the comics here?
posted by My Dad at 10:36 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm interested in the crocodile choice because I'm not quite comfortable with it. In one of the comics there are two little boys in the background -- that is, little crocodiles. It's unsettling. Is it wrong? I don't know. There's also a lot of local context to this that I can appreciate that I don't understand. In the States, we have this idea that men from Francophone nations harass women on the street out of pure joie de vivre and that the women let it roll off their back because they're so breezy and sophisticated. It is of course bullshit and I'm happy to see these responses.

When I was twenty-one, I flew across the Atlantic alone, and I was seated next to an older French man. He let me know, half in gestures, that he would move over so that I could lie down on the empty seat in the row and sleep. I thanked him, and lay down as much as I could. Then I felt my hair being stroked. It was agony. I didn't dare open my eyes because I didn't want to confront him, all alone in the world. I pretended very hard that I was asleep, and told myself that I was mistaking the sensation of the AC moving my hair aside. How could I suspect that twinkly-eyed old man? And what if he was? Why was I so sensitive . . . ?

I tell this story, I suppose, because the comic of the woman who was literally unable to scream reminded me of it. The normalization of harassment can literally enter into women's synapses, and choke their responses.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:48 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I learned a few things.
posted by BentFranklin at 10:52 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


In the States, we have this idea that men from Francophone nations harass women on the street out of pure joie de vivre and that the women let it roll off their back because they're so breezy and sophisticated.

My only piece of anecdata regarding this is from my friend, a well-traveled black American woman, who absolutely detested white French men (out of all the men in the world) because of how entitled they felt to her body and how rude they were about it.
posted by splitpeasoup at 11:01 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm interested in the crocodile choice because I'm not quite comfortable with it. In one of the comics there are two little boys in the background -- that is, little crocodiles. It's unsettling. Is it wrong? I don't know.

I'd say it's a perfect analogy for the way young boys grow up in a culture where predatory male behaviour is modelled for them by grown men, and normalized. They are already on the path of crocodile-dom if we don't dismantle patriarchal structures and attitudes.

And the comic does a good job of showing that this is a structural problem. For example, the woman whose assault was handled horrendously by the authorities has a terrible encounter with Mme. S, a policewoman who minimizes the attack and blames her for her own assault. She's not a crocodile, but she's a crocodile enabler.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:28 AM on September 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


in both France and Belgium there is very much a strongly racist strain of 'opposing street harassment' that is really just a thin excuse to hate brown people under the guise of 'feminism.'

This isn't just a concern in France and Belgium--you can see a similar thing happening in the US. Remember the discussion about that one video of the woman walking down the street and filming herself being harassed, mostly by men of color? That wasn't that video's intent, but it played right into already existing racist narratives about street harassment and was rightly criticized for it.

But that's not what these comics portray, at all. They're not even about street harassment; most of them are about other kinds of harassment. I would be very surprised if readers thought this was about men of color, even the racist readers who use "street harassment" as a dog whistle.

(Coincidentally, I am posting this from Belgium, where I have been harassed twice today. I love pretending I can't speak French.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:35 AM on September 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


For Americans following along, that was Femme de la Rue, which can be watched here with English subtitles (17:36). Its about a very brave Flemish student living in Brussels confronting the men who harass her, who are almost exclusively of North African descent. It sparked a lot of discussion here, much of which was hideously racist, and very little of which acknowledged how incredibly European these men were.

I didn't get the vibe that these comics were racist either. The racist discourse on this sort of thing that I've seen seems to categorically never get around to centering women or the experience of women, being to busy getting racist, and these comics are all about doing exactly that. Then again though, I've learned not to trust my own ability to suggest that things aren't racist, and am certainly much more interested in the perceptions of metafilter's POC then yet more eagerly dismissive white feminism.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:40 PM on September 4, 2016


The video I was talking about was 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:11 PM on September 4, 2016


Probably unfair to crocodiles.

Not completely a silly point, I hope. If you wanted to pick a sexist animal, I can't think of a better one than lions. But lions, for complicated cultural reasons, would be a complimentary comparison. Crocodiles are culturally regarded as insincere and cold-blooded, but fair enough, also predatory. But predation is their natural mode of existence, whereas the metaphorical predation of sexist men is another thing.

This is the kind of reason why I was sort of unhappy with Maus. It's natural and excusable for cats to hunt mice. The Nazis were partly atrocious because they denied the common humanity of Germans and Jews... which Spiegelman inadvertently also denies. I really don't get his thinking.

Drastic over-thinking on my part, and I appreciate that these are presented as jokey reportage, not deep analysis.
posted by Segundus at 1:41 PM on September 4, 2016


My gosh, if you can't handle your gender being depicted as a green predatory animal in a comic, you really have insecurity issues. :-)

I thought the most interesting parts were the tips for people who weren't sure how to intervene when they saw harassment happening -- which is generally useful for any kind of harassment, not just the sexual kind.
posted by smidgen at 2:23 PM on September 4, 2016


My mom recently told me a story about something that happened to her as a young woman in Brusselles. She was on the bus, seated next to "just a...skinny guy" a few years older than her. She felt something on the side of her thigh, but she thought she imagined it. Then she felt it again. She looked down and the guy was poking her with the very long, pointy nail on his index finger.

In her day women were expected to not speak up against this kind of thing (or any kind of thing, I guess) but my sweet little mom is a secret badass and she stood up and loudly said, "Stop that, you're hurting me!" and she got up and moved near the front of the bus and stood near the driver for the rest of the ride. This was probably sixty years ago.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:29 PM on September 4, 2016


These are all true stories of people who decide to act like animals and treat other people like animals.

I also like the choice of crocodiles because when I was little my family called childish inauthentic mimic-crying for attention or to prove a point "crocodile tears" which is what I think of whenever the topic of "Is it ok to joke about male tears" comes up. All of this boo-hoo woe is the menz whose uncivilized behavior got them drawn in an ugly way in a tumblr comic is pure crocodile tears.
posted by bleep at 3:56 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


We're not all crocodiles. I'm not, at any rate.

Seriously, people complaining about the fact that all the men are universally depicted as predators are completely and totally missing the point. When this shit is so relentlessly prevalent, from all types of men in every single possible situation, there is NO WAY to distinguish between 'totally fine' and 'potential threat of sexual assault and murder' at first glance. Or even second, or third... and then the betrayals will still happen down the line from people thought to be safe. After a lifetime of living in this space, all you see are crocodiles, some of whom haven't bitten yet, and some that you think - just maybe - can be trusted not to behave like the crocodiles they could turn into in the blink of an eye.
posted by FatherDagon at 5:24 PM on September 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


Maus eventually problematizes the depiction of people as different species. As mentioned, there's a bit about discussing what animal Spiegelman's wife should be drawn as. There's also a part, late into the comic, where Spiegelman visits a relative who's married to a non-Jewish German. The kids are drawn as mice with tabby cat stripes, which of course don't exist in real life. Spiegelman's self portrait is also of a human wearing a mouse mask, suggesting that cultural identity is, in a way, performative. The point is that drawing people as different species is actually absurd.

Drawing all the men as crocodiles also elides their race. It helps avoid arguments like "is it their culture etc". No, it's that for women, all men, regardless of race, are Schrödinger's rapists.
posted by airmail at 5:57 PM on September 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm surprised that anyone is associating the crocodiles with men of color. I mean, given that every single man in the comic is a crocodile, the conclusion would have to be that white men were suddenly eradicated from the world, leaving only men of color to dominate every single office environment, subway car, and street.

Second, the author actually writes this in the blog, which makes their stance on the issue pretty clear:

Myth #2: Street harassment is a cultural thing.

Simply put, street harassment happens in every country in the world. So no, it’s isn’t cultural. But there is something deeper to this question. In our experience what people really mean by this question is: “is this a men of color thing?”

This question is a dangerous one, because it perpetuates the myth that men of color are sexual predators which simply isn’t true. In New York City, where we have the longest history of posts with pictures, the racial breakdown of harassers perfectly mirrors the racial breakdown of the city itself. This is consistent with all forms of gender-based violence. Harassers, like rapists, come from all racial and class backgrounds. And this is because harassment is deeper than the color of our skin or the income brackets of our neighborhoods. It’s about an international culture when gender-based violence is simply seen as OK. So yeah, I guess it is a “cultural” thing. It just happens to be everyone’s culture.


I mean, look. I like analyzing the racial implications of things, and I'm usually pretty stringent on cracking down on white feminism too, but I'm going to have to say that I've noticed a real trend in men who consider themselves progressive bringing up racial critiques as a way of rationalizing their discomfort with women pointing out misogyny and shut them down. It's the exact same base reaction that leads to "not all men", but one that can resemble something palatable from a social justice perspective. And I'm saying this as someone who hasn't been entirely immune to doing this myself. I think it's worthwhile to give women who are doing great work the benefit of the doubt when the doubt is vanishingly small, as it is here, because the alternative is just to police their discourse to increasingly unreasonable standards until they're effectively silenced.
posted by Conspire at 7:34 PM on September 4, 2016 [20 favorites]


Thank you so much OP. The crocodile as a representation for male gender is a great tool, and it makes me think about the reptilian brain.

I also love that the comic is available in different languages.
posted by vrittis at 1:53 AM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


My only piece of anecdata regarding this is from my friend, a well-traveled black American woman, who absolutely detested white French men (out of all the men in the world) because of how entitled they felt to her body and how rude they were about it.

Three guesses why I'm still single (in France) going on 12 years now and the first two don't count. White Frenchmen see me as the stereotype I'll describe below, and more diverse guys in France have been burned so hard by white people that I totally understand why they're wary of dating a white woman. (This is something friends and I talk about; it's not an assumption.)

Along with the misogyny in France comes a very pronounced "exotification" of foreign women in France. Where "foreign/exotic" is any woman who is not white or from a Western European country, although, oddly enough, Scandinavian women are considered "exotic". It's like being objectified twice or thrice over depending. If you're white and from an "exotic" country – and wouldn't ya know, me being American counts (American women are exotic libertines who speak their minds and naïvely believe in love! They're so dumb they actually believe people are sincere! *headdesk*) – you're shoved into a box from which you can never escape. You do at least have a box?! If you're not white... it's just... I still have no words. It's a level of dehumanization that defies explanation. I have women friends originally from other countries who married white Frenchmen after dating for a year or so, y'know, a short enough time that the dudes STFU with their nonsense around their then-girlfriends, but once they were married. omigod. I have heard so much BS spewed from the guys' mouths, in front of their wives. Always followed up with, "but hey! I saved you from your home country, you're in the best place in the world now! Just imagine how much worse it would be without me!"

Crocodiles? I'm fine with this depiction.

Also this is why I tend to get pissed off when Frenchwomen are exotified – first, exotification = objectification, second, not only is the assumption that the Frenchwomen being exotified are white, it's like the perfect misogynist + racist weapon to continue this nonsense on their own end.

(and yeah, Not All White Frenchmen.)
posted by fraula at 6:05 AM on September 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also this is why I tend to get pissed off when Frenchwomen are exotified – first, exotification = objectification, second, not only is the assumption that the Frenchwomen being exotified are white, it's like the perfect misogynist + racist weapon to continue this nonsense on their own end.

Eh, I think everyone exotifies to some extent; opposites attract and all that. In grad school the Erasmus folks were boinking like bunnies. There was a whole l'auberge espagnole thing going on.

But, in a normal person, that initial flush of 'oooh different!' is quickly replaced by getting to know that other person as an individual with their own personal quirks and idiosyncrasies and not as a simple $CULTURALSTEREOTYPE.

Folks who keep insisting, "Oh Pauline, you must like X because you're French," tend not to be a particularly reflective sort.
posted by percor at 10:32 AM on September 5, 2016


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