In France, women’s rights, feminism and equality have taken on a more prominent role since the election of President Francois Hollande in May, 2012. Half of President Hollande’s cabinet posts are occupied by women, and the president reinstated the government’s Ministry of Women’s Rights as one of his first acts in office, after the cabinet had been abandoned in the 1980s.
In 2012-13, Smith’s Junior Year Abroad program in Paris participated in the government’s ongoing efforts to heighten the importance of women’s rights. Following its successful coordination last year of a Women in Public Service forum in Paris, sponsored by the France Ministry of Women’s Rights, Smith’s JYA Paris program was invited to participate in the ministry’s yearlong campaign, “Every Day is March 8” (Le 8 mars c’est toute l’année), established to celebrate March 8—and every day for a year—as International Women’s Day.
Every day from March 8, 2013, through March 8, 2014, participants in the campaign organize events, such as public rallies, demonstrations or conferences; or contribute creative content, such as books, websites and other creative works, linked to the “Every Day is March 8” website, intended to underscore the struggle for women’s rights and reflect thoughts and experiences around women’s issues.
Thursday, Dec. 5, was the day featuring Smith College’s JYA Paris contribution, a series of video segments in which people from all walks of life discuss their interpretation of the term “feminist,” and reflect on their involvement with feminism.
The Smith contribution was coordinated by Rob Dorit, professor of biological sciences and director of the JYA Paris program in 2012-13, in collaboration with filmmaker and Smith alumna Pauline Pelsy-Johann Am.S.Dipl. ’12.
“There are fascinating differences, as well as important similarities, between American and French conceptions of feminism,” said Dorit. “This felt like an opportunity for Smith to scrutinize those differences, and to re-examine why feminism remains a live issue. We wanted to create a contribution that was visually appealing, and something that was live and dynamic.”
Toward that end, Dorit and Pelsy-Johann (assisted by web designers Rony Turlet and Guillaume Amangoua) constructed an independent website, “Quoi le Féminisme,” (“What’s Up with Feminism?”) on which the video interviews are posted. They hope that students, faculty and others will continue to add their voices to the site via video, fostering an ongoing conversation around women’s issues.
“My hope is that the site will keep evolving,” said Dorit.
Meanwhile, as of December 5, Smith’s creative contribution to women’s rights in France is on display, the featured work of that day.