|Photo: Le Devoir|
"Second Début, Cendres et Renaissance du Feminisme" examines two feminine archtypes that have assumed centre stage in these times: the super-sexy and the ultra-covered.
She notes, "Fashion and porn bring to life the idea that a woman is first a sexual animal. The hypersexualized images are a way of reminding women to fall in line, as are the burka and chador."
We live with a new Iron Curtain, she suggests, "one side in lingerie and the other covered head to toe." To be reduced to a body, Pelletier says, is way of telling women, "Stay girls, even if you want to act like men."
A woman may assert that she is "affirming her sexuality" and "in control of her body", and claim "I'm liberated and empowered and can do what I want". But Pelletier warns that ready participation in a permissive, "cool", soft-porn culture that tells women they have achieved something by overtly sexy display of their bodies is a con job.
She questions the energy spent fighting for women's freedom to go shirtless or to appear in little but our filmiest underwear. (She does acknowledge the sensual pleasure of displaying one's charms.)
Such matters divert attention from the gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women, among other pressing concerns. (There is a belief that we've beaten the gender equality issue; in Canada and the US, the results are an unimpressive 19% gap.)
She links the fundamentalist beliefs that fueled the Charlie Hebdo massacres to another slaughter, that of fourteen women at Montréal's École Polytechnic twenty-five years ago; both massacres, she notes, were aimed at obliterating a specific group who were represented change, and who spoke openly. (Pelletier lobbied for public release of the killer's suicide note, which included names of women he wished to target; her name was included.)
She says women's confidence has been shaken, leading to women, such as those allegedly attacked by Jian Ghomeshi, who are terrified to speak out.
And finally, she reveals her own contradictions, fears and humanity. Recounting her assault within an initially consenting relationship, an incident that she did not report, Francine Pelletier refers to her own "Inner Jello" and calls on every woman to end silent collusion with violence.
(Seconde début is currently available in a French edition.)