I have a piece at Daily Life today, about the French feminist group La Barbe and their splashy, humourous protest methods.
Tourists wandering through Paris’s famous Place de la Concorde on Bastille Day weekend were probably somewhat confused by the sight that met them when they gazed up at the eight marble statues that represent France’s eight largest cities. The statues had been adorned with fake beards. Fake beards that were red, blue, and white.
The beards were the work of the French Feminist group La Barbe, which is now an international phenomenon – most recently, Australian barbues showed up at the Melbourne Mining Club. “La barbe” means “a beard” in French, but it’s also a colloquial expression meaning “enough!” La Barbe was formed four years ago to draw attention to the paucity of women in positions of power in France. To be allowed into the upper echelons of power in France, they half-jokingly reason, you need to have a beard. So they put on fake beards and interrupt proceedings in the halls of French power, from the National Assembly (27% women) to the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, where none of the nominated movies this year were directed by women.
France, in the nation’s seemingly endless monuments and in its world-famous art, is always represented by a woman. At Concorde, so too are the country’s largest cities. When it comes to being represented by actual women, though, France hasn’t managed anything close to parity. And so, on Bastille Day, members of La Barbe climbed up onto those statues (wearing beards, of course, since climbing statues is hardly ladylike), and blue, red, and white beards on the statues of Marseille and Brest and Lyon.
You can read the rest here.