Neither Whores nor Submissives: Secularism, Equality, Pluralism
November 20, 2007 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Ni Putes Ni Soumise (Neither Whores Nor Submissives) is a French organization started by Fadéla Amara to combat the growing misogyny in the banlieues, the housing project suburbs that ring the major cities. Her organization began to protest a rash of gang rapes, and now works on human rights issues in and around the experience of Arabs in France. Amara has joined Nicholas Sarkozy's conservative cabinet as the minister of urban policy. For some, she is a hero, for others a hypocrite, but everyone agrees that she's shaking things up.

NPNS controversially sides with the ban on the 'foulard' or headscarf, worn by many Muslim women in public spaces. They also approve of mixed marriages in a way that has alienated many other Muslim activists. It's an interesting movement: they've done a lot to garner attention for the 'ghetto' problem in France: men without jobs, forcing their wives and daughters to live restrictive lives in order to preserve a cultural identity at odds with the very Judeo-Christian-Secular French society.
posted by anotherpanacea (12 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Somewhat related: ni violeur ni terroriste (great hip hop track by Médine, included on the Banlieue 13 soundtrack)
posted by anthill at 7:54 PM on November 20, 2007

Yeah, it's a bit of a trope: "Ni Machos, Ni Proxos" (Neither Thugs, Nor Pimps" is another group protesting the implicit claim that Arab men in the banlieues are all, well, thugs and pimps. That didn't last very long.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:03 PM on November 20, 2007

Great post.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:23 PM on November 20, 2007

it's a bit of a trope:

It's a riff on «ni dieu, ni maître», ([with] neither god, nor master), which became an anarchist slogan. It was coined, I think, by Auguste Blanqui; it was the title of his 1880 journal of the same name, in any event.
posted by Wolof at 10:25 PM on November 20, 2007

posted by Wolof at 10:31 PM on November 20, 2007

Well, I'm not sure how much I agree with the contention that she is a hypocrite. I mean, female genital mutilation can be a cultural tradition, and at the same time be a means of subjugating women--one could be, without hypocrisy, an advocate for chinese culture while condemning the thousand year old tradition of foot binding.

And clearly, a tradition requiring women to wear the burqa--a full body covering which leaves--if you're lucky--they eyes visible, is designed to suppress the individuality of women. But a scarf/hajib which leaves the face visible is a bit more tricky.

Both Orthodox Jewish men and Mennonite Christian women wear (almost identical) little round hats as a sign of their subjection to god. Yet in the Orthodox Jewish culture, the men are dominant, while the Mennonite women are encouraged to be submissive to men. So clearly, there's nothing inherently oppressive in some particular accessory--a particular accessory not designed to inflict pain, to hobble, or to erase the individual's identity.

On the other hand, neither the yellow star of David which the Nazis forced the Jewish people to wear, nor the pink and black triangles for homosexuals caused physical discomfort and disfiguration like high heels or corsets or foot binding, nor did they erase the identity like a burqa, yet they were clearly a means of identifying individuals for the purpose of oppression, whereas it would seem to me, a westerner, completely oppressive were women not allowed to wear skirts or heels, or even a corset if they so choose.

So it's a mucky, murky situation. I sort if think that people should be allowed to wear what they want, whether it's good for them or not--at the same time, they shouldn't be forced to wear anything they don't want to. But you can't keep the Mennonites or Orthodox from shunning you if you won't wear the little hat.

So--perhaps the best we can expect is that people should be allowed to participate in the subculture they choose, but no one should be forced to participate in a subculture that makes them feel uncomfortable. And just try to negotiate the edge cases as we go along.
posted by cytherea at 11:46 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Perhaps I should have just linked to this since it's much more cute and much more fun.
posted by cytherea at 12:55 AM on November 21, 2007

posted by cytherea at 12:57 AM on November 21, 2007

One of the founders of Ni Putes Ni Soumises was Samira Bellil. I read her book Dans L'enfer Des Tournantes (sadly still not translated from French anywhere) several years back and it was gut wrenching to say the least. RIP.
posted by fire&wings at 3:16 AM on November 21, 2007

Thanks very much for this eye-opening post. What a gutsy woman—I hope her organization prospers.

Well, I'm not sure how much I agree with the contention that she is a hypocrite.

It seems pretty clear to me that the "hypocrite" label is just mudslinging from somebody who doesn't like her secularism. It's one thing to say "I approve of your goals, but have you thought about this possible contradiction?" That's not how it came across at all; it sounded like Fox News talking about a prominent Democrat.
posted by languagehat at 5:19 AM on November 21, 2007

while the Mennonite women are encouraged to be submissive to men... But you can't keep the Mennonites or Orthodox from shunning you if you won't wear the little hat.

Funny, all the Mennonites I grew up around weren't like this at all. Methinks you have misrepresented the progressive Anabaptists of America.
posted by billysumday at 5:55 AM on November 21, 2007

You're right--I'm afraid that I've veered into a cryptic and exaggerated turn of phase in order to be brief.

No, the Mennonites (and I'm guessing, the Orthodox) probably won't shun you for not wearing the little hat, but there really is pressure to conform. How strong that pressure is, and to what degree you can break from it varies from church to church. And I'm not talking about Saudi style repression, it's more the kind you'd find in many conservative american communities. But women really were encouraged to submit to their husbands in the Mennonite church I went to, and it was always the women who cooked and served the food to the men and cleaned up the plates after "dinner".

Don't get me wrong, they're lovely, lovely people and mostly I can't praise them highly enough and I enjoyed growing up in the community tremendously.
posted by cytherea at 2:32 PM on November 21, 2007

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