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France's bearded feminists 'praise' powerful men

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What do fake beards have to do with feminism? Just ask the members of France's La Barbe, who are fighting to change the face of power (labarbelabarbe.org)

A group of French feminists are working to satirize sexism one fake beard at a time.

The women of La Barbe wear beards as a decidedly tacky political prop, according to an in-depth BBC report on the group. With whiskers and wit, they strive to poke fun at patriarchy and sexist attitudes.

Their modus operandi is simple: they sneak into high-level, male-dominated meetings - like the shareholder meetings of major corporations - then slip on their beards and start reading ironic statements congratulating the men on how effectively they wield power and exclude women.

"In the days of the Third Republic, all the great men used to wear big beards," political science student Ilana Eloit told the BBC.

"That was the end of the 19th century but not much has changed in the way many men behave and think in France."

The women have staged versions of their protest roughly 100 times over the past four years.

They are conscious of the wordplay made possible by their moniker. "Oh la barbe!" for instance, means "what a drag!" "La Barbe" on its own is also used colloquially to mean "enough is enough."

The BBC reports that La Barbe's membership includes women of all ages from a variety of backgrounds.

"Our idea is to create a mirror effect to show a male-dominated situation which highlights the invisibility of women," another group member named Colette told the BBC.

On a recent outing, the group held up congratulatory signs at the Cannes Film Festival. None of the 22 films selected for the official competition were directed by women.

Their protests sometimes end in confrontation, as the women have been roughly handled and have had their property confiscated.

Still, they persist and pride themselves on expressing their discontent through humour and lampooning.

What do you think of La Barbe's approach to activism? What are some other creative protests you have seen?
 


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