Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Great diary, Helen. Not to come the old campaigner, but I can remember the phases you mention and saw them on both sides of the Channel. The early movements of the '60s-70s were exciting, inclusive (of men), and fast-moving (though that has to be seen relative to the appalling backcloth of what went before -- it's like high economic growth figures in a country that is moving out of dismal poverty). In France in the early '70s there was a lot of similar spirit (coming after a hard-line Marxist post-'68 phase that underlined devoted activism rather than petit-bourgeois "personal" problems like oppression of women), but the leading French feminists were fairly solidly members of the intellectual establishment and had little idea of how most women lived.

I remember being shocked in the early '80s during visits to London by the exclusiveness of "radical" feminists (the term "radical feminist", ten years before, had meant a gay cross-dresser, which made a difference...) There was a bunch of lesbians at the local pub who were literally torn asunder by conflict over whether any of them had the right to talk to men or not. Some did, and had friendly relations with pretty much whoever was prepared to be friends with them (which of course cut out a whole load of conservative a-holes in those lovely Thatcher years). The others not only refused to exchange a word with anyone outside their group, but got round to considering reprisals on those who did -- see religious sects, splitter groups, etc. Meanwhile, the image of "feminism" in other women's minds was going down the drain.

Ni Putes Ni Soumises has been a great wake-up call in France, both in the way it opposes patriarchal Islamist oppression of women from within, and in calling attention to the realities women live with, while the intellectual approach of historic French feminists has done little to change most women's lives.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 20th, 2006 at 12:57:45 PM EST

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