Femmes dérangées, femmes dérangeantes / Disturbed and Disruptive Women
Women in French UK-Ireland Biennial Conference
7th-9th May 2021, Maynooth University, Ireland
Innu First Nation Writer from Uashat, Québec.
Giovanna Murillo Rincon
Paris-based activist committed to supporting the most vulnerable of QTIPOC subjects (Queer, Transgender and Intersex People of Colour).
The labels ‘dérangées’ and ‘dérangeantes’, which we might loosely translate as ‘disturbed’ and ‘disruptive’, have long been applied to women throughout the course of history. Once a woman does not correspond to the societal expectations and norms that supposedly define ‘proper womanhood’, be that in terms of appearance, behaviour, beliefs or situation, she is cast aside and held in contempt. ‘Good’ women are those who do not disturb and disrupt the patriarchy, but, rather, conform to and uphold systems of male privilege.
On the flipside, disturbance and disruption by women can often allow for the destabilisation of such androcentric systems. Women who have challenged the status quo in extraordinarily productive ways have often been the most ‘disturbed’ or ‘disruptive’, from the suffragettes to Cixous’ laughing Medusa, from Colette the author to Despente’s murderous heroines. Feminist action has literally made waves to see effective change take place. This is particularly apparent in the creative expression of women, typified in the 70s by the theorisation of écriture féminine: women have historically deployed experimental narrative forms to develop a way of writing that they could truly call their own, that was noticeably different from a male-dominated literary tradition. Content as well as form has also been of fundamental importance. By talking about their own, feminine experiences and desires in literature or art, women have been committing a de facto subversive act. ‘Women’s issues’ ̶ be that menstruation, the menopause, or women’s sexual desire ̶ have been historically absent from cultural representation, as demonstrably taboo subject material. This explains in part the popularity of autofiction as a genre across contemporary women’s writing in French.
Disruptive action also involves a dissolution of the singular category of ‘woman’ itself, that all too frequently equates the experience of cis-gendered, white, middle-class women with that of all womxn. This monolithic and binary reading of feminine identity not only silences marginal members of our societies further, but also overlooks the transformative power which they can bring to the feminist cause. Trans women in particular have all too often been deemed ‘disturbed’ by transphobic voices in the media (not least from a certain subsection of the feminist community), yet are arguably the most proactive as a group when it comes to dismantling sexist and misogynist ideology.
Interestingly and distressingly, then, what constitutes a form of disturbance or disruption on the part of women is often defined by other women. Disturbed or disruptive women are frequently policed by ‘good’ women. Some notoriously disruptive women have also caused disruption that has worked both in the favour of feminist action, and against it. We have only to think of Germaine Greer’s controversial comments on trans women, or Catherine Deneuve’s derisory reaction to the #MeToo campaign in Le Monde. A re-evaluation of the selected terms and of their application can thus enable us to identify (and hopefully reduce) the less obvious reaches of patriarchal power.
The theme that we have selected for WIF 2021 is evidently one that is rich in interpretation. We encourage our participants to reflect on the different ways in which women in French and Francophone literature, culture, cinema and politics partake in interrupting traditional definitions of femininity and, furthermore, how such transgressions are received and judged. We are, however, particularly interested in papers that consider one or more of the following sub-headings as well as proposals related to our keynote speakers:
- Women and Mental Health
- ‘Bad’ Mothers/Transgressive Mothering
- Women and Sexual Deviance
- ‘Disgusting’ Women
- Women and Anger
- Female Violence and Crime
- Dangerous Women
- Selfish Women
- Disorderly and Misbehaving Women
- Eco-Feminism and Eco-Feminist Warriors
- Migrant and Marginalised Women
- Women and Ageing
- Female Intellectuals
- Women and Revolt
One Book, One WiF
In partnership with our colleagues in WiF North America, WiF UK is furthering the 'One Book, One WiF' project that began in 2017. The aim of this initiative is to help promote critical interest in less known French and francophone women writers and thus to increase the readership of their corpus. The author for the 2021 conference is Naomi Fontaine and the text is Kuessipan (2011). Proposals for papers or a panel on this book or the author in general are welcomed.
Proposals are welcome in both English and French.
Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words and a brief bio to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
For general queries, please contact Julie Rodgers or Polly Galis.