Ni Putes Ni Soumises
Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores nor Doormats) is a French feminist movement, founded in 2002, which has secured the recognition of the French press and the National Assembly of France. It is generally dependent on public funding. It is also the name of a book written by Fadela Amara, one of the leaders of the movement, with the help of Le Monde journalist Sylvia Zappi.
Fadela Amara was appointed as junior minister for urban policy in François Fillon's first government in May 2007. She left the government in 2010, and was named France's inspector general for social affairs in January 2011.
NPNS was set up by a group of young French women, including Samira Bellil, in response to the violence being directed at them in the predominantly Muslim immigrant suburbs (banlieues) and public housing (cités) of cities such as Paris, Lyon and Toulouse, where organised gang-rapes are referred to as tournantes, or "pass-arounds").
The movement fights against violence targeting women and it targets gang-rapes as well as social pressures. It has claimed that some Muslim French girls face pressures to wear the hijab, drop out of school, and marry early without being able to choose the husband.
The slogan used by the movement is meant both to shock and mobilise. Members particularly protest against changes of attitudes toward women, claiming there is an increased influence of radical Islam in those French suburbs of large immigrant populations. A particular concern is the treatment of Muslim women. Members claim that they may be pressured into wearing veils, leaving school, and marrying early. However, the movement represents women of all faiths and ethnic origins, all of whom may find themselves trapped by poverty and the ghettoisation of the cités.
A translation of the key points of NPNS's national appeal on its official website:
- No more moralising: our condition has worsened. The media and politics have done nothing, or very little, for us.
- No more wretchedness. We are fed up with people speaking for us, with being treated with contempt.
- No more justifications of our oppression in the name of the right to be different and of respect toward those who force us to bow our heads.
- No more silence in public debates about violence, poverty and discrimination.
Two high-profile cases gave a particular impetus to NPNS during 2003.
Samira Bellil and Sohanne Benziane
The first was that of Samira Bellil, who published a book called Dans l'enfer des tournantes ("In Gang Rape Hell"). In the Muslim immigrant culture of the banlieues, organised gang-rapes are referred to as tournantes, or "pass-arounds").
Within her book, Bellil recounts her life as a girl under la loi des cités (the law of the ghetto) where she was gang raped on more than one occasion, the first time at age 13, afraid to speak out, and ultimately seen only as a sexual object, alienated and shunned by her family and some of her friends.
The second case was that of 17-year-old Sohanne Benziane who was burned alive by an alleged small-time gang leader.
In the wake of these events, members of Ni Putes Ni Soumises staged a march through France, which started in February 2003 and passed through to over 20 cities before culminating in a 30,000-strong demonstration in Paris on 8 March 2003. The march was officially called la Marche des femmes des quartiers contre les ghettos et pour l'égalité (The March of Women from the public housing against ghettoes and for equality).
Representatives of Ni Putes Ni Soumises were received by French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin. Their message was also incorporated into the official celebrations of Bastille Day 2003 in Paris, when 14 giant posters each of a modern woman dressed as Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, were hung on the columns of the Palais Bourbon, the home of the Assemblée nationale (the lower house of the French parliament).
The following five propositions were accepted by the French government:
- The publication of an educational guide dealing with respect, to be distributed in the housing projects and schools.
- The establishment of safe houses away from the housing projects for girls and women in immediate distress, where they can be safe in relative anonymity.
- The creation of six pilot sites where women will be able to have their voices heard.
- The organisation of training seminars for women to develop their particular strengths.
- Special provisions made in police stations for girls and women who have been the victims of violence.
Ni Putes Ni Soumises has been criticized by various French feminists and left-wing authors (Sylvie Tissot, Elsa Dorlin, Étienne Balibar, Houria Bouteldja, etc.), who claimed that it overshadowed the work of other feminist NGOs and that it supported an Islamophobic instrumentalization of feminism by the French Right.
Houria Bouteldja qualified Ni Putes ni Soumises as an Ideological State Apparatus (AIE). The debate among the French Left concerning the 2004 law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools, mainly targeted against the Hijab, is to be seen under this light. They underline that, first, sexism is not specific to immigrant populations, French culture itself not being devoid of sexism, and second, that the focus on mediatic and violent acts passes under silence the precarization of women.
- "Fadela Amara nommée inspectrice générale des affaires sociales". Le Monde (in French). 2011-01-05. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- Ireland, Susan (Winter 2007). "Textualizing Trauma in Samira Bellil's Dans l'enfer des tournantes and Fabrice Génestal's La squale". Dalhousie French Studies. 81: 131–141.
- Hron, Madelaine (2010). Translating Pain: Immigrant Suffering in Literature and Culture. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-1-4426-9324-1.
- Annie Dumeil, William F. Edmiston (23 January 2011). La France Contemporaine.
- Ni Putes Ni Soumises - Le Site Officiel -
- Sylvie Tissot, Bilan d’un féminisme d’État, in Plein Droit n°75, December 2007
- Elsa Dorlin (professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne, member of NextGenderation), « Pas en notre nom ! » - Contre la récupération raciste du féminisme par la droite française (Not in our names! Against the Racist Recuperation of Feminism by the French Right), L'Autre Campagne (French)
- Étienne Balibar, Uprising in the "banlieues", Conference at the University of Chicago, 10 May 2006 (English) (published in French in Lignes, November 2006)
- Houria Bouteldja, De la cérémonie du dévoilement à Alger (1958) à Ni Putes Ni Soumises: l’instrumentalisation coloniale et néo-coloniale de la cause des femmes., Ni putes ni soumises, un appareil idéologique d’État, June 2007 (French)
- Qui est Fadela Amara? (French)
- BELLIL, Samira: Dans l'enfer des tournantes, Gallimard, 2003, ISBN 2-07-042990-3.
- AMARA, Fadela & ZAPPI, Sylvia: Ni putes ni soumises, La Découverte, 2003, ISBN 2-7071-4142-9. Review
- MURRAY, Brittany & PERPICH, Diane: Taking French Feminism to the Streets: Fadela Amara and the Rise of Ni Putes Ni Soumises, University of Illinois Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-252-03548-7.