a tiger shot dead in central Paris, sexism, and other news

So much is happening in the world. When I read my last post about how I drink my coffee, I think how vain and self-absorbed we are on our blogs. I mean, who cares?

Actually, when it comes to the coffee industry, many people do care and that includes exploited women and children working as laborers in Guatemala. I’ve just read a fascinating article in the English version of Germany’s DER SPIEGEL entitled THE BOOMING COFFEE INDUSTRY AND THOSE IT HAS LEFT BEHIND. (link below)

For decades, coffee was about as exciting as washing powder and detergent. But today it has become a lifestyle statement. The bean boom, though, hides the brutal economic realities behind coffee production. By DER SPIEGEL staff

On this chilly Saturday morning, I’ve just read that a tiger on the loose was shot in central Paris yesterday. It was part of a travelling circus show and had escaped not only into the streets of Paris during rush hour, but onto the rails of a tramway. The message that riders on the stalled tram read was – Traffic is interrupted on the whole of the T3 line because of the presence of a tiger, property of a circus located nearby.

But why shoot the beast dead? Couldn’t they have just anesthetized it?

Major headlines dominating the media yesterday was the horrific terrorist attack in a village in the Egyptian Sinai. This is not a war of religion, but a war on humanity. Killing in the name of God? Terrorists have no religion, other than hate, fanatacism and barbarianism.

Harassment towards women: Today, President Emmanuel Macron will deliver a televised speech to the nation to detail measures his government has taken to combat violence against women. All this, of course, has come in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein affair. And from pressure from French women who marched in the streets of Paris this week decrying “the vertiginous silence of our society” and “an intolerable collective denial.”

I would have marched with them, but then decided it was time for French women to do their own protesting. For too long now, I’ve watched the strident feminist voices of opposition coming across the Atlantic from North America, mainly the USA. It’s time now for French women to take to the streets and demand change themselves. They’ve been far too passive. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, there was no sisterhood in this country (and little dissent.) This resulted in aiding and abeting the deeply entrenched sexism here. 

Here’s an anecdote: it was 1999 and I was sick and tired of the sexist advertising campaigns in this country. There was one ad – plastered on the metro station walls all over the city – that particularly irked me. It showed a young woman, buck naked and covered in oil that made her skin glisten, crouched down, her feet in starting blocks, her bum in the air. I can’t remember what the ad was for. Fed up, I contacted the only feminist group that existed at that time, they called themselves Les Chiennes de Garde which is a play on words. It means “watchdogs”, but “chienne” also means “bitch”, as in a female dog.

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These are advertising campaigns displayed on huge posters in bus shelters and other places around the country. Up until a few years ago, nobody complained much. (This woman looks like a plastic mannequin.)

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Notice how the head is cropped, dehumanizing and objectifying the female body.

I introduced myself, saying I was from Canada and I was shocked not only by the sexist advertising, but the seeming absence of any feminist or protest group in France. The women from the Chiennes de Garde were extremely hostile and unwelcoming towards me. In the end, they instructed me to do the following – to go down into the Parisian subway stations at night, around 10 pm when there was less traffic, and plaster the offending posters with stickers that read “NON à l’utilisation du corps de la femme à des fins mercantiles!” (NO to the use of women’s bodies for commercial purposes!)

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“OK,” I said gamely, “How many will we be?”

“You’ll be alone,” was the answer. “Alone?” I replied, “I was hoping this would be a group action.” Apparently not. What happened to their slogan “mener une action collective“? (take collective action). I guess they had more important things to attend to. But I was not discouraged. Fine, I said to myself, I’ll tackle this thing single-handedly. And so I spent a few hours hand-writing with a magic marker ‘NON à l’utilisation du corps de la femme à des fins mercantiles’ onto a hundred stickers and out I went into the night, at around 10 pm.

And I did the action, alone and with no help from Les Chiennes de Garde or anyone else, riding the metro and getting out at the stations where I saw the offending poster and sticking my sticker onto it then waiting for the next train to get back on and continue riding the rails. Later I learned that it’s illegal to deface advertising posters (they hadn’t told me this.) I was also probably filmed by the subway station cameras, but no-one stopped me. The next morning I took the metro to work and in each station I saw my little stickers on the posters. I giggled inwardly and felt good.

Flash-forward to November 2017 and French women marching in the streets of Paris –

“President Macron!,” they exhorted, “You have the power to ensure that sexual violence stops.” They demanded a plan of action with concrete measures. And so the President, no doubt nudged by his dynamic wife, Brigitte, will deliver on those demands.

My next blog post will be on France’s reaction to the Weinstein affair and the exact nature of the new governmental measures. The key words are “protection” and “punishment.” To protect women at home, in the streets and in the workplace, and the disciplinary measures to be enforced against their harassers/tormenters.

Have a great weekend. Here’s that coffee article –

http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/coffee-boom-profits-in-the-west-and-poverty-in-the-south-a-1177097.html

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