Yellow-Vest Women Stake Their Claim to the Movement

Women gathered in Paris to confirm their commitment to the populist movement and women’s place in the country’s revolutionary history, reports Léa Bouchoucha from Paris for Consortium News. 

By Léa Bouchoucha
in Paris

Special to Consortium News

I‘m your wife.” “I’m your mother.” “I’m your colleague.” “My child matters.” “Stop violence.” “I am your Grandma.”

Those were some of the signs carried Jan. 6 in Paris by women in the first all-female demonstration of the Yellow Vest movement. 

Following some outbreaks of violence in larger-scale demonstrations on Saturday, the women’s protest was cast in some social media posts, as well as this AP accountas a bid to restore peace to the movement. However, the all-female protest was not responding to Saturday’s events.  It had been planned in advance, since Dec. 20, via a Facebook page that registered 15,000 people expressing interest and 2,000 committing to protest. The Paris demonstration on Sunday attracted several hundred, according to press accounts.

However, some women carried signs that said “stop violence,” reflecting on the violence that has marked many demonstrations and by some estimates hurt the movement’s popularity.  

Women protesting in Paris, Jan. 6. (Léa Bouchoucha)

Although the festive mood contrasted with the often-angry demonstrations on Saturday, women at the Paris protest reiterated the same basic frustrations about everyday life becoming more of a struggle.  

Framboise Clausse, a mother of five who demonstrates every weekend with her daughters at their home in the northwestern Bretagne region, made a trip of 437 kilometers, about four hours by car, to join the Yellow Vest women in Paris.

No Real Revolution Without Women  

“Mirabeau used to say that as long as women are not involved, there is no real revolution,” said the mother of five, referring to Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, the count of Mirabeau, an  early leader of the French Revolution.

Clausse said she came to Paris to protest things she hears about during her work as a consultant in a job-placement center.

“People are broken because of their working environment,” she said. “The world is very difficult and violent and what we need is to have a sharing, a true sharing.”

Clauss earns 1,500 euros, or about $1700 a month and her husband is currently drawing unemployment benefits of about $900. She said she is anxious about her dwindling purchasing power.

Clausse: “People are broken.” (Léa Bouchoucha )

“As the years go by, I noticed how we are eating less meat because we cannot afford it,” she said “Basic products are more expensive. Let’s not even speak about the high cost of rents, which are expensive, even in the rural area where I live. Getting to the end of the month is very, very difficult. One of my daughters, who is doing professional training, had to come back to live with us because she can’t afford living by her own.”

As with all those quoted, Clausse spoke in French and the interview was translated.

Clausse said she left her ballot blank during the second round of the 2017 presidential election that delivered President Emmanuel Macron to office.  “Today, we need a revolution. Not a revolution from war and violence but a revolution from heart and love and it is why we are here,” she said.

For many detractors, Macron symbolizes the European Union and a capital-markets approach to transforming an economy that has long provided generous social services that are undergoing cutbacks and austerities.

Anaë Piat in women’s Yellow Vest protest, Jan. 6, Paris. (Léa Bouchoucha )

Anaë Piat, 45, spoke with Consortium News during the protests. “We organized as women because women are the one who give births, hoping that the future of our children would be the best as it could possibly be.”

Wearing a conical Phrygian, or liberty, cap with the tricolor, Piat said she was not protesting as a feminist, but as a Yellow Vest. “I’m here for all the Yellow Vests: men, women, children, retired. For all the people who are currently struggling.” 

The protests began in November and just completed their eighth week.

An AP story described the movement as “losing wind with repeated violence at weekly demonstrations.” By contrast, The Wall Street Journal cast the large-scale demonstration on Jan. 5 as a sign of “staying power.”

Last week, a 33-year-old truck driver who was one of the first to call for nationwide protests was arrested, sparking outrage from leaders on different ends of the political spectrum about an abuse of power.  The French daily Le Figaro says the arrest may have reactivated the movement.

Paris Yellow Vest female protesters Jan 6 : More festive, but same concerns. (Léa Bouchoucha )

Agence France Presse reports that an online poll conducted Jan. 2-3 by Odoxa Dentsu consulting found 55 percent of those surveyed wanted the protest movement to continue.

Poverty in Female Heads of Household 

As has been noted since the start of the demonstrations, households headed by single women are among those having the hardest time meeting their living costs. Young people under 30 and single-parent families are the most affected by poverty, finds a 2018 report by L’observatoire des inegalités, an independent monitor of social conditions in France. About 35 percent of one-parent families live under the poverty line and 80 percent of that group are single mothers with children.

“Life is becoming more and more difficult, we can’t take children on a vacation and products covering basic needs are already too expensive,” said Piat, who is married and has three children.

The female protesters of all ages sang the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” and chanted anti-Macron slogans. They gathered Sunday morning on the steps of the Opera Bastille, which overlooks the symbolic Place de la Bastille, site of the Batille prison that was stormed by revolutionaries between 1789 and 1790. 

In a phone interview before the demonstration, Magali Della Sudda, a political science researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, the largest governmental research organization in France, reflected on French women’s role in the country’s revolutionary history. “During the French revolution, women were here among the revolutionaries. They have been there throughout the 19thCentury, such as the Commune of Paris in 1871 and later on in the different social struggles of the inter-war period.”

Sudda said the women are more visible today in the Yellow Vest movement. “Because of the strong social dimension of the conflict and because the movement is outside all political structures and union organizations, people are forced to turn their attention to the ‘ordinary’ participants, including women.”

Sudda said women in the Yellow Vest movement span the social and economic strata. “We find nurses, care givers, women who work in schools with children,” she said.

Sudda points to the symbolic significance of the songs and chants heard during the women’s Yellow Vests protest on Sunday. “Women have always sung and vocalized with spirit in the demonstrations,” she said. “Their chants insist on solidarity, fraternity and what is done in common.”

Léa Bouchoucha is a multimedia journalist currently based in Paris. Her work has appeared in Vogue U.S, the Huffington Post, NPR, CNN International, Women’s eNews, Euronews, Elle, Le Figaro. She has reported from Turkey on Syrian refugees and LGBT rights and from Israel, where she was working as a news editor and reporter at the international news channel I24 News.

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18 comments for “Yellow-Vest Women Stake Their Claim to the Movement

  1. Nevermind
    January 13, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    When you have women joining you have a real revolution.

  2. Lea-Anne Zinke
    January 11, 2019 at 10:14 am

    The support for this movement is much higher than 51% and the numbers continue to grow.

  3. ababush
    January 9, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    violence that “by some estimates hurt the movement’s popularity.”
    Which estimates?
    The support has never been so strong for the movement, according to the latest available polls.
    https://www.sby some estimates hurt the movement’s popularity.udradio.fr/politique/sondage-le-soutien-des-francais-aux-gilets-jaunes-na-jamais-ete-aussi-fort

    “Agence France Presse reports that an online poll conducted Jan. 2-3 by Odoxa Dentsu consulting found 55 percent of those surveyed wanted the protest movement to continue”.
    Wrong, 55% percent (54% beginning of December) want “the demonstrations” to continue, not “the movement”, which is now supported at 72%.

    • Lea-Anne Zinke
      January 11, 2019 at 10:16 am

      This author writes for the MSM and so is not reporting independently.

  4. Maxwell Quest
    January 8, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Just when Les Gilets Jaunes were starting to run out of steam, Macron goes and arrests one of their leaders. Globalists can be so stupid! Is it vanity and pride that loosens their moorings from reality? And does their wealth insulate them, like Ebenezer, from the daily struggles of the common man?

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was once again the French that lead the way in burning down a decrepit and corrupt system that is well past its expiration date? Maybe I was wrong; maybe there are still large reservoirs of frustration that are only waiting for the right catalyst to give them expression. Maybe Madame Defarge is at this very moment polishing her knitting needles in anticipation.

    • Chucky LeRoi
      January 9, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      I think what insulates them from the daily struggles of the common man is their warped psychology: they are sociopaths or psychopaths who simply do not give a hoot in Hades about “the common man”. We are here to be used to support their lifestyles to which they are obviously entitled, and the sooner we acquiesce to that reality (or as was said in the Old South, “know our place”), the sooner we can get back to business.

      The Leetchi account – like a GoFundMe account – set up to help with the legal and other expenses for the “Boxer on the Bridge” Christophe Dettinger has been closed even though Leetchi says there is no limit to the amount a “cagnotte” (cash box) can have and the funds can be used as the person named sees fit. They claim they take no stand politically or morally in a BBC report, and then say they want to be sure the money is only used for legal fees. Bowing to political pressure? Common hypocrisy or simple liars? Who knows. But the plolice are saying they are planning on having 80,000 bodies in the streets this weekend. Why is this necessary when the news reports are so full of a movement losing steam and “only 20 or 30 thousand gilet jaunes are active”?

  5. Jeff Harrison
    January 8, 2019 at 11:21 am

    Anybody who would think that the French women wouldn’t be involved doesn’t know French women. My mother was one and she didn’t sit around watching whilst things happened of which she disapproved. While that tended to be things that I was doing; was also true in the larger sense. The word I would use to describe the relationship between French men and women is independent weather the guys like it or not.

    • Lea-Anne Zinke
      January 11, 2019 at 10:20 am

      Absolutely agree with you Jeff. This journalist writes for MSM and therefore must protect their interests by placing a different spin on the movement. She is being less than honest about the whole movement and I’m quite surprised that she appears in Consortium news. Although she has been less than honest about the important parts, she has expressed small truths in other parts……just like MSM does. She is learning her craft of deceptions quite well.

  6. Alois Mueller
    January 8, 2019 at 5:20 am

    Macrons police!
    Yesterday, organizers of the protest movement against the French government – the yellow vests – organized a women’s march. Several hundred women marched together against the policy of French President Emmanuel Macron through the French capital from the Bastille to the opera.

    Many wore the distinctive yellow warning vests, sang the French national anthem and danced. By the time the police dispersed the crowd in the late afternoon, the protest was peaceful. Then there were clashes with the police, which also used tear gas against the demonstrators.
    One woman`s comment:
    “Now it’s the financial mafia that has bought the big media, buys the candidates that bring them to power, we’re in a dictatorship of the financial mafia that rules in Europe.”

  7. Anne Jaclard
    January 8, 2019 at 2:56 am

    Macron should be careful! Things are continuing to heat up in Paris… the next protestors won’t be as peaceful. Since the beginning of the protests, the petty bourgeois and right-wing elements have diminished while anarchists and the poor continue to grow. Let’s just say the next group of women will be more radical. In the 19th century, radical women on the French barricades – the Pétroleuses – were present and burned much of the city while horrifying the rich and elite class and inspiring the people. If there isn’t a resolution, there will be a much-needed revolution. If Macron tries to strike that revolution down – all bets are off as to how the citizenry will react.

  8. mike k
    January 7, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    Sad to see the probable defeat of the disorganized public against the organized violence of the State.

    • Anne Jaclard
      January 8, 2019 at 3:00 am

      Fair point Mike,
      But what do you call a defeat? They’ve already gotten their initial demands and quite more besides. They have wounded Macron’s image so much he may never recover among his Euro Atlantic finance paymasters. Investors have sent out letters to their clients- they aren’t too pleased. (http://research-center.amundi.com/research_center_en_uk/page/Article/Amundi-Views/2018/12/Why-investors-should-care-about-French-yellow-vests-protest)

    • James Whitney
      January 8, 2019 at 9:52 am

      “organized violence of the State,” yes indeed.

      “probable defeat of the disorganized public,” not true.

      The gilet jaune (yellow vest) has been well organized, and quite inventive. In a sense the original organizer has been Macron and his government, its brutal program of cutting public services (health, transport, education, etc.) while giving huge tax breaks to the rich (reminds me of Trump).

      I am quite sure that the movement will grow in spite of the increased governmental oppression, and as a dual citizen of the land of Trumpl and the land of Macron I shall continue to participate to the extent that I can. Allez les gilets !

      • mike k
        January 8, 2019 at 11:49 am

        The yellow clad ones seek merely material benefits, and have no plan to slay the real dragon – capitalism. Their attempt at revolt is fundamentally superficial.

        Mort aux vaches!

        • rosemerry
          January 8, 2019 at 4:21 pm

          Luckily the French women and men are not defeatist like you.

          • James Whitney
            January 9, 2019 at 8:50 am

            Well spoken rosemerry.

            Looks like a big clampdown on “unauthorized” demonstrations is planned with full support from the authorized French MSM media (at least 80% of the media is owned by 9 billionaires), and will be implemented before official authorization by a law.

            In France Macron puts on an impressive royalist show, like marching down a great hall of the Palais de Versailles between two rows of military types, swords extended, just like Louis XIV (Trump adores). In fact he is just a little clerk put in place to implement the austerity program (austerity for all but the banks and oligarchs) of the European Commission.

            rosemerry, you will be welcomed by the women and men of France who are the gilet jaunes, and not defeatist!

  9. Tom Kath
    January 7, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    I always find it somewhat degrading or insulting when anyone finds it necessary or appropriate to have to point out that women are a part of society or humanity. When it comes to the part that they play, it is necessarily different, but no less important than that played by men. Think once again in terms of head and body, or arms and arsehole – Both essential parts of one organism.

Comments are closed.