Feminist collages are a political initiative for the younger generation

The street collage movement, a gateway to activism for many young people, is the subject of a documentary called The Feminist Response, in theaters this week. Its members are now looking for ways to gain more traction in the political landscape.

Asma* froze when she first saw one of the feminist collages that began covering the walls of Paris in 2019. “It was on street number 18e district and “I believe in you” is written. I stood in front of him trembling for a few minutes. » Seven months ago, her older brother’s friend molested her. Like many others, the young woman had spoken about it. And like many others, he was unheard of. Neither his brother nor his father take him seriously. He decides to go and file a complaint at the Saint-Denis police station where he lives. “The first policeman repeatedly implied that I was drunk, although I am a Muslim and do not drink alcohol. And anyway, what would change? » A second police officer takes his complaint more seriously, but after a few months he is dismissed for a misdemeanor. “There was no investigation. angry Asma. The people I spoke to about my rape were not contacted for several hours after the incident. »

So when he found himself face to face with the white sheets plastered on the wall of this 18e He is upset when he is told that someone believes him for the first time in the district. He asks and discovers the Instagram account of the Parisian collective Collages feminicides. “At that time, feminism was another planet for me. I was 20 years old, I grew up in the famous Algerian environment, I didn’t know anything about it, I didn’t even know what feminicide was. » He contacts the Paris group, who invite him to participate in the session. Every week, an eruption accompanies the beginning of the collective, which joins a few dozen new participants, especially those of women who have been killed by their exes or spouses, to paste their names and ages. “I will always remember that first walk on the street, among the girls, in the middle of the night to list the names of dead women. I have never had such an experience. » Asma decides to join the collective so that other women, in turn, can feel supported in their experiences of male violence with words that cover the streets of their cities.

A monument to the victims of patriarchy erected by Collages Feminicides Paris. January 9, 2022, Rue Bouvier in Paris.

Photo by Léa Michaëlis/Inking

Within movement and through encounters, the young woman discovers “father of feminism”bed Second Gender and king kong theory, listen to La Poudre and Les Couilles at the table. “Patriarchy,” “masculinism” or “white privilege”: Asma puts words on the barriers that stand in her way, while also sticking them to the walls. Internal debates and shared resources lead him to become interested in politics: after his first arrest, he was forced to queue for food assistance, which prevented his father, an immigrant warehouse worker, from buying an apartment. 93 in the city of Beneficial or not far from it, in Aubervilliers, which destroyed the places reserved for the Olympic Games. “Collages certainly formed my political training and gave me an ideological and strategic basis to fight. »

As confirmed by Lou*, a 22-year-old graphic design student who joined the Nantes-based group in 2019, the lack of formal structure and hierarchy has played a major role in the collage movement’s popularity among young people: “This is a flexible collective, easy to get for the first experience. For example, I would never join a union or a party, it’s too scary. » Student “feel” she was a feminist, but she did not express her convictions in a political way. “It was the first time I discussed feminism. he remembers. Even though I’m quite withdrawn and uncomfortable in a group, I immediately connected with the other members. I found my place in this team, which allowed me to find my place in Nantes, where I arrived a year ago. The neighborhoods we cling to have somehow become our own places. »

Find a “space to think”.

In Montpellier, the movement was also the gateway to feminism for 24-year-old Giovanna, who was preparing for a competition to become a librarian. He will have a hard time forgetting the night he was first shut down in August 2020 when he broke into small groups and learned that several glues had been targeted by a motorist. The man threatened to rape them while they displayed the words “Victims of violence, call 3919” on the side of the road. The young women aged 19-23 survived with bruises and psychological trauma. “I took it upon myself to remind you of the danger of being active, Giovanna says. Collective euphoria sometimes gives a feeling of invulnerability, but reality catches up with us very quickly. » The event brought together the Montpellier collective fighting together to get justice. The man is now in jail.

Apart from activities, there is a whole collective life to organize within different groups. “I began to participate in the selection of the location, the preparation of meetings, the preparation of newcomers and newcomers”, Giovanna explains. The collage movement is a collection of community and autonomous spaces within which communication, mutual aid, education and information circle develop. Giovanna works on sexist and gender violence management, alternatives to the penal and prison system, antispecies, intersex… “I had no idea that collages would lead me to so many different questions. » A sentiment shared by Lou in Nantes, who found “space for thought” dealing with queer identity, racism, policing or environmental issues with people of diverse backgrounds. “Collages offered me a reading grid to analyze the world around me. I’m more politicized than when I arrived. »

“We have moved beyond gender-based and sexual violence. This year we stuck to abortion rights, the extreme right, Afghan women and Iranian women…”

Over the course of three years, various collage collectives have evolved both in terms of their form and the content of their activities. Many first changed their names: initially launched under the label “Femicide Collages”, they often became “Feminist Collages” to broaden the range of their subject matter. “We have gone far beyond gender-based and sexual violence to respond to these reports. comments Lou. This year, for example, we took on abortion rights, the far right, Afghan women and Iranian women…” His group is now called “Colleurses nantais es”. The inclusive spelling was chosen to mark a break with former Femen Marguerite Stern, who popularized the collage movements in Paris in 2019 and has since campaigned against the recognition and exclusion of transgender women from the movement. Also demonstrating the group’s internal politics: activism “in the selected mix, without cisgender men”, details include Lowe, ie transgender and non-binary people. In Montpellier, the “Women of Collages” became the “Collective queer feministe anticapitaliste decolonial +”, a sign of the desire to go beyond feminism.

Members of Collages Feminicides Paris are mobilizing to remind the importance of the right to abortion.  May 14, 2022, Paris.

Members of Collages Feminicides Paris are mobilizing to remind the importance of the right to abortion. May 14, 2022, Paris.

Photo by Léa Michaëlis/Inking

The glues are now wondering if it will go any further. “We are a little short of breath, Giovanna admits, and we think we can strike more powerfully by coordinating with other warrior collectives. » With about a hundred members, twenty of whom are very active, it has already established political ties with other feminist and LGBTQI structures at the local level, as well as with some far-left organizations. “Feminist coordination is being established in Montpellier to create a local, cross-cutting and strong militant network. Collages are not an end in themselves, but a means. Once you’ve made the struggles visible, maybe it’s time to engage in them. » The feeling that the original purpose of the collages had come to an end prompted Asma, an activist from Saint-Saint-Denis, to leave the movement to explore other political avenues. “In a more concrete way, I also felt the need to fight against people who are going through the same thing as me, who are racists, lesbians and Muslim women. » She approached the Muslim feminists Lallab, the working-class women’s collective Les Dionysiennes, and the migrant aid organization La Chapelle Debout.

“We are not only feminists, but also students, workers…”

In Nantes, about thirty members of Les Colleuxses are also concerned about their future. “The messages we want to convey with collages are now neglected, Lou says. We hesitate between continuing, diversifying or completely changing our way of doing things. » The spontaneous movement across the country to express outrage at the systemic violence against women is now at a critical juncture, based on the power of its dazzling success and the ideas that fuel its militant base. . “From something very informal, our collage collective has turned into a political organizing platform, Sums up Giovanna in Montpellier. We are not only feminists, but also students, workers… We are also interested in other questions, but we cannot face them alone. » Should the movement maintain its independence, even if it means isolating itself, or should it coordinate with unions or parties at the risk of seeing its ideas diluted? “I think we still lack some confidence and legitimacy. Giovanna concludes. Facing questions of political strategy at the age of 20 is not easy, but that is what makes this movement unique. »

* The names have been changed at the request of the interlocutors.

Our anger is on your wallsCollective text illustrated with photographs by Tay Calenda and Léa Michaëlis, 224 pages, €24.90, Denoel publications, 2021.
Leaf through the extract
there is
r feminist response, French documentary by Simon Depardon (1h27). With the voice of Marina Fois. In theaters.

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