French feminists are taking on 'smutty' seaside postcards

Tourists look at postcards at a souvenir shop in the Old Town of Valencia, Spain August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Heino Kalis

Image: REUTERS/Heino Kalis

Jack Hunter
Journalist, Reuters
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Smutty postcards with pictures of women wearing bikinis are a typical if often maligned feature of French seaside resorts. But in the wake of an anti-sexual harassment movement sweeping France, their days may be numbered.

A French feminist organisation has branded the risque cards "sexist and sometimes pornographic" and launched a campaign to have them removed from newsstands, souvenir shops and tabacs.

"These traditional postcards are available to everyone, regardless of age," the group Femmes Solidaires said in a statement posted on social media. "They contribute to a culture of rape, impose a degrading image of women, and help legitimise and trivialise violence against women."

The group is demanding that publishers stop printing and selling the cards and has called for support from Marlene Schiappa, France's gender equality minister, who has been leading a fight against sexual harassment and violence.

Schiappa's office did not respond to a request for comment.

The campaign comes amid efforts to expose and combat sexual harassment in France, where the #BalanceTonPorc, or "rat on your pig" movement, has gained momentum in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the United States.

Last week, CCTV footage of a man hitting a 22-year-old student outside a Paris cafe after she confronted him over sexist comments went viral.

Lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill banning sexual harassment and cat-calling in the street and allowing on-the-spot fines of up to 750 euros ($870) for harassers.

But opponents of the lewd postcards said education was just as important as legislation.

"If we don't work on changing the state of mind of the public then these new laws will not be efficient," said Gwendoline Coipeault of Femmes Solidaires. "Presenting women as objects of consumption ultimately leads to violence."

The campaigners said they would upload examples of the postcards - usually depicting women in bikinis or thongs with a 'double-entendre' message - online each day, accompanied by the hashtag #GenerationNonSexiste.

While many responses have been positive, some male opponents voiced disapproval online, with one saying of the postcards: "So what! They are beautiful and fun. They've been around for ages."

Coipeault said the responses were split.

"People are responding either very positively or very negatively. Some people have called us Nazis."

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