Archives de Tag: Oppression

Les femmes ne sont ni passives ni soumises. La misère, l’oppression, la domination, pour réelles qu’elles soient, ne suffisent pas à dire leur histoire. Elles sont présentes ici et ailleurs. Elles sont différentes. Elles s’affirment par d’autres mots, d’autres gestes. Dans la ville, dans l’usine même, elles ont d’autres pratiques quotidiennes, des formes concrètes de résistance – à la hiérarchie, à la discipline – qui déjouent la rationalité du pouvoir et directement greffées sur leur usage propre de l’espace et du temps. Elles tracent un chemin qu’il faudrait retrouver. Une histoire autre.

PERROT Michelle, « La femme populaire rebelle », WERNER Pascale, l’Histoire sans qualités. Essais, Paris, Galilée, 1979, p. 156


To be clear: I am not arguing that the newly emergent forms of sexual labor that COYOTE sex workers represent are unconnected to individuals’ material conditions or to their structural locations within a social world that is characterized by increasingly profound inequalities. I am suggesting, however, that contemporary sex workers are often situated in highly complex ways vis-à-vis axes of domination and subordination (both economically and sexually) and that the forms of oppression they experience within sex work may be less severe than those they experience elsewhere.
I am also suggesting that the forms and meanings with which they have endowed their labor are connected to a historically specific set of conditions of possibility. These conditions include a postindustrial economy that has rapidly driven up the cost of living in desirable urban centers, while at the same time creating a highly stratified occupational sector (one with a limited number of time-intensive, highly paid, and hard-to-acquire professional positions, but with ample quantities of poorly paid, temporary, and part-time “junk” jobs).52 These economic developments are intricately connected to some of the ways that increasing numbers of young, urban middle-class people are restructuring their intimate lives—either by delaying marriage and childbearing until these are more economically viable options, or by defying the expectations of heterosexual monogamy entirely.

Elizabeth Bernstein, Temporarily Yours, Intimacy, Authenticity and the Commerce of Sex, The University of Chicago, 2007, p. 108

A parallel investigation of the two figures of whores and niqabées reveals the current exclusionary dynamics embedded in the nation-building process as both veiled women and prostitutes function as symbolic signifiers of national difference within the Republic. They are construed as “bodies-boundaries” within the larger new frontiers of the French Republic.50
In doing so, the French state echoes larger European trends. As Jasbir Puar and Judith Butler argue,51 new configurations of sexuality, race, gender, nation, class, and ethnicity are realigning in relation to contemporary forces of nationalism. In this reconfiguration, some feminists and different political factions instrumentalize sexual freedoms to assert Western exceptionalism, to define the preconditions of citizenship, and to shape the image of the ahistorical “other” trapped in barbarian monstrosity and bound to remain untouched by modernity. Those evolutions also reveal what Didier Fassin and Dominique Memmi have described as “the greater and deeper targeting, by policies, of the private relation that an individual holds with his physical destiny, but also the growing concern for issues related to bodies, health, and life [and we could add sexuality] in the government of societies.”52
The analysis of the political handling of these two figures highlights the specific use that is made of French republicanism. Some republican feminists support politicians in asserting that whores and niqabées are oppressed and blind to their own oppression. What is striking is that this coalition of some feminist discourses with the current political views actually re-enacts and re- enforces a virile version of nationalism. As McClintock puts it, “all too often in male nationalisms, gender difference between women and men serves to symbolically define the limits of national difference and power between men. Excluded from direct action as national citizens, women are subsumed symbolically into the national body politics as its boundary and metaphoric limit…. Women are typically construed as the symbolic bearers of the nation, but are denied any direct relation to national agency.”53 In contemporary France, gender differences are again used to define national boundaries: the rhetoric of the oppression of women, supported by the republican values of equality, freedom, and dignity and mobilized by the state with the complicity of some feminists, serve to exclude “other” women from the “imagined community.” In short, this rhetoric of oppression is the moral grammar that justifies the denial of women’s agency and full citizenship, and their exclusion from the public sphere. According to this view the French female citizen has to embody a sexuality that is neither commoditized, nor tightly controlled by an institution like religion or patriarchy. Sexuality, which has become a central component of identity in postmodern societies, is no longer left to individual self-governance: by identifying and excluding two sexualized figures of female citizens, the state also prescribes a new regime of sexual normativities—shaping a sexual citizenship—through a rigid and contradictory injunction to sexual freedom. Those exclusionary processes mark the installation of a gendered regime of visibility that defines and disciplines women’s appearance in the public domain. Like during colonial times, politicians target women’s bodies as national territories whose surface and appearance must be compatible with a set of state-defined recommendations. However, as we have suggested, the complicities of a certain feminist discourse with the political power rhetorically produce “visual victims” only to promote a larger political agenda, enforcing a virile nationalism, prescribing new sexual normativities, and criminalizing immigrants and those living at the social margins.

Billaud, Julie; Castro, Julie, “Whores and Niqabées: The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism”, in:  French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer 2013 p. 97-98

Public interpretations of veiled women and prostitutes as inherently embedded in the sexual sphere, and therefore as bound to remain “private,”hidden in their homes for veiled women or in the bedroom for prostitutes, contradicts the fact that both figures appear in public. Prostitution has a long tradition of being understood ideologically rather than through the lived experiences that compose prostitutes’ social realities.42 The use of legal instru- ments to make prostitutes and veiled women disappear from public view ironically becomes a means to make their bodies conform to the stereotypes on which the state relies to justify their exclusion: it is because they are subservient and oppressed that they should be excluded from the public sphere. Yet, veiled women in France have joined universities and are making their way in public transport and in non sex-segregated swimming pools, wearing burkini. As for prostitutes, their presence in the streets highlights the possibility of making sex a commodity and the sex market a market in which (at least) some of them are able to act as “independent workers.” Arguments used to make them disappear from the public sphere, according to which veiled women and prostitutes would be under the control of men, do not match the social reality exemplified by their public presence.

Billaud, Julie; Castro, Julie, “Whores and Niqabées: The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism”, in:  French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer 2013 p. 93-94

Those debates reveal a convergence in the political agenda of some secular or republican feminists and the current political class in power. At the heart of the discourses legitimizing state intervention in the lives of prostitutes and veiled women lie the issues of “liberté” (freedom) and “dignité” (dignity), in the French republican sense of these terms. Republican discourse considers veiled women to be oppressed by their culture and religion and perceives prostitutes as the victims of patriarchy and capitalism. In both cases, the political class has denied their capacity to be active agents in charge of their own lives. In spite of some attempts at broadening the spectrum of interpretations, their agency is automatically disqualified as “false consciousness” and blindness to their own oppression. The parliamentary report on the practice of full veiling released in January 2010 insists on the “servitude volontaire” (“voluntary enslavement”) of the women adopting such practices. In the same manner, parliamentary debates preceding the vote on the law on “sécurité intérieure” (internal security) of 2002 reaffirmed that prostitutes are to be considered primarily as victims whose activities are incompatible with human dignity.

Billaud, Julie; Castro, Julie, “Whores and Niqabées: The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism”, in:  French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer 2013, p. 91

Comment devons-nous alors comprendre le triple mouvement ? Ce concept présente la crise du capitalisme comme un conflit à trois dimensions : marchandisation, protection sociale et émancipation. Chacun est compris comme irréductible sur le plan conceptuel, normativement ambivalent et inextricablement imbriqué avec les deux autres. Nous avons déjà vu, contre Polanyi, que la protection sociale est souvent ambivalente : elle permet de ne pas subir les effets désintégrateurs de la dérégulation, tout en institutionnalisant une domination. Mais, comme nous le verrons, il en va de même pour les deux autres termes. La dérégulation des marchés produit, à l’évidence, les effets négatifs que Polanyi a soulignés, mais peut également engendrer des effets positifs quand les protections qu’elle désintègre sont sources d’oppression, par exemple par l’introduction du marché dans les pays communistes bureaucratisés, ou en permettant aux anciens esclaves d’accéder au marché du travail. L’émancipation n’est pas non plus exempte d’ambivalences, dans la mesure où elle génère non seulement une libération, mais aussi des ruptures dans le réseau des solidarités existantes. Ainsi, en détruisant la domination, l’émancipation peut aussi détruire les bases de l’éthique solidaire de la protection sociale, et encourager ainsi la marchandisation.
Vu sous cet angle, chaque terme se caractérise à la fois par un telos qui lui est propre et par une ambivalence potentielle qui apparaît dans son interaction avec les deux autres termes. Aucun des trois ne peut être appréhendé correctement s’il est considéré indépendamment des autres. Au même titre que le champ social ne peut être appréhendé correctement dès lors que l’on ne s’intéresse qu’à deux de ces termes. Une vision adéquate de la crise capitaliste ne se profile qu’à partir du moment où les trois sont examinés conjointement.
C’est donc là que se trouve la condition première de ce triple mouvement : la relation entre deux dimensions quelconques de ce conflit tridimensionnel passe obligatoirement par la médiation du troisième. Ainsi, comme je viens de l’indiquer, le conflit entre marchandisation et protection sociale doit passer par la médiation de l’émancipation. De même que, comme je le montrerai par la suite, les conflits entre protection et émancipation doivent passer par la médiation de la marchandisation. Dans ces deux cas, la médiation de la troisième dimension est indispensable à la dyade. Négliger ce tiers revient à fausser la logique de la crise capitaliste et du mouvement social.

FRASER Nancy, « Marchandisation, protection sociale et émancipation » Les ambivalences du féminisme dans la crise du capitalisme,
Revue de l’OFCE, 2010/3 n° 114, p. 21

Les putains sont parmi les plus opprimées des travailleuses; en fait, elles sont criminalisées et ostracisées parce qu’elles vendent la féminité sous une forme directement sexuelle. Historiquement, la réaction féministe et socialiste à la situation critique des putains a été d’appeler à l’abolition de la prostitution; ces militants se sont joints aux réformateurs pour prôner la réadaptation des prostituées, les sanctions contre les souteneurs et l’abstinence des clients. Paradoxalement, ces stratégies envisagent de libérer le travailleur en éliminant le travail. Il est vrai toutefois que les putains en sont pas vues comme des travailleuses. La prostitution est perçue comme l’ultime réification des femmes et l’ultime aliénation du travail. Les putains sont en conséquence considérées comme les victimes prototypiques du patriarcat et du capitalisme. Parler de l’agentivité des femmes à l’intérieur de la prostitution est, pour ce genre d’analyses, une contradiction idéologique dans les termes. D’autres possibilités de travail pour une femme, comme le travail en usine, le travail domestique, le travail de bureau ou le travail social, jouissent d’un statut légitime qui est refusé à la prostitution. Alors que, dans ces domaines, on encourage les travailleuses à s’organiser pour exiger de meilleures conditions de travail, on encourage les putains à quitter la prostitution. Et tandis qu’on presse les femmes mariées de s’assurer à juste titre un revenu indépendant, on presse les putains d’abandonner les négociations économico-sexuelles qui peuvent leur apporter une certaine autonomie. Fondamentalement, nombre de féministes et de socialistes, comme nombre de conservateurs, préconisent que la prostituée s’en sorte et se réforme plutôt qu’elle ne résiste et exige des droits. Les femmes qui prétendent s’auto-déterminer en tant que prostituées perdent leur statut de victimes et la solidarité idéologique. En d’autres termes, une putain est vue soit comme une accidentée du système soit comme une collaboratrice de ce système. On ne la prend pas pour une alliée dans les luttes de survie et de libération

Gail PHETERSON, Le Prisme de la prostitution, L’Harmattan, 2001. p. 89-90