Why I March: Women’s March Paris

Maya Hendler
Jan 14, 2020 · 4 min read
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Why is Women’s March Paris holding an event in support of Bodily Autonomy?

Bodily autonomy is a crucial issue. Indeed, the right to control our own bodies is the place where most of our intersecting struggles meet. However, in the debate over bodily autonomy in France, certain voices are almost completely ignored: those of people of colour, Muslims, LGBTQI+ people, people with disabilities, fat people, and sex workers… In this context, we also need to take a much harder look at how colonialism affects the right of certain bodies to exist in French society. This year, we wanted to hold a round table instead of a march so that we could sit down with local activists and engage in some in-depth discussions about the current situation in France and how we can concretely advance human rights. Indeed, after the round table, we will write an opinion piece to be submitted to one of the large newspapers in which we will summarize the major points of the conversation and the specific actions we now need to take.

What is happening in your local community? What are the issues you are working to address?

We are a small group, so we try to remain realistic about what we can do. A lot of our work is simply supporting and amplifying local activists, educating ourselves and educating others. For example, some of our key issues are Islamophobia, because there has been a wave of physical and psychological violence directed towards Muslim women over recent years, and LGBTQIAphobia, because recent bioethics legislation in France has shown that lesbophobia and transphobia are still major problems. France is also still routinely violating the human rights of intersex people by mutilating children at birth.

This round table is a big step for us, but it is also very much in line with our principles. We feel very strongly that it is important to empower people to engage in conversations, to encourage them to challenge their comfort when they are faced with racism, Islamophobia, LGBTQIA+ phobias, ableism, fatphobia, and/or whorephobia. Protests and marches are a great way to energize people, but there is a lot of opportunity for change that can come about simply because we are willing to challenge and take action to protect the rights of people in our local and global community.

Details of your event — location, time, what to expect, who are you calling on to attend etc

Our salon will take place at 7 pm (we have posted a starting time of 6:30 pm to give people time to gather). We are thrilled to be partnering with Columbia Global Centers — Paris (4 rue de Chevreuse, 75006 Paris), and we are very grateful for their help in organizing the event. The event is free, but we are asking people to donate a menstrual product to help fight menstrual precarity. In Paris, it can be extremely hard to find spaces that are accessible to people with reduced mobility. The event will be taking place in English and French (the content of the speakers’ texts will be projected behind them in English and French to increase accessibility). We will have five speakers:

, a consultant on migration policies for international organizations and producer of the documentary Regarder le racisme en face (in production); , a black queer non-binary student and activist; , a collective of North African decolonial feminists; who promotes the visibility and representation of LGBTQI+ people of colour who are Afro-Caribbean and Afro-descendants and , a collective that fights for the right to self-determination for intersex people and against the medicalization and mutilation of their bodies.

All the speeches, as well as additional texts from other groups, will be published on our Medium page during the month of January as a type of virtual round table. The speakers will be asked to 1) define how they view bodily autonomy and 2) describe the concrete actions that we can take to better advocate for this human right.

We are also partnering with PAGE in Paris, who will be doing US voter registration. Because we are working both with local activist groups and groups like PAGE and CGC — Paris, we are expecting a diverse crowd of both English speakers and French speakers whose familiarity with feminist issues related to bodily autonomy may vary enormously. We invite anyone who might be interested in learning more about intersecting perspectives on bodily autonomy in French society to attend.

Join Women’s March Paris’ Event here!

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Maya Hendler is the Programmes and Communications Associate at Women’s March Global.

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