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Ordinary machismo chronicle in Brussels (and anywhere in the world)

Sofie Peeters, “Femme de la rue” Documentary Film-maker

Most of you probably heard about the story of Sofie Peeters, a young Belgian student, who infuriated to be approached by some guys with a non-elegant manner in Brussels (and especially in Anneessens, a popular district near Midi International Railway Station), directed a film, “Femme de la rue”, to denounce the ordinary machismo.

The Sofie Peeters’ misadventure was broadly dealt with in Belgium and also in France where Cécile Duflot, the minister for Housing got wolf-whistles for having worn a dress during a plenary session of the French Parliament, on the last July. Faced with this situation, local authorities seem to react, Philippe Close, Brussels town councillor, announced on the RTBF (the French-speaking Belgian Television) the implementation of sanctions aiming at punishing the street harassment.

The Sofie Peeters’ story got an important impact insofar as a lot of women do not hesitate to point out such behaviours coming from some men anymore. These behaviours testify the place of women within our society and the necessity to deal with the primary and ordinary machismo issue, real political and societal poison.

This story reminds me the fight led by Aliaa Magda el-Mahdy, a young Egyptian woman who did not hesitate to post a picture of her, naked, on her blog to denounce the attacks to women in her country, in full post-Mubarak revolution. These photos provoked a lively debate in Egypt and if the young blogger woman’s action was welcomed by some Human Rights activists, she also was criticized by anti-Mubarak activists fearing the Aliaa’s initiative favour the Islamist movements, enjoying to introduce themselves as good customs defenders.

The Sofie Peeters’ and the young Egyptian blogger woman’s case are very different but share a common point: the common point of attacks to the women’s dignity and the right to use their body as they want vis-à-vis all the fundamentalisms and male chauvinist derivations especially. The objective is to denounce intolerable and non-justifiable behaviours in Egypt as in Brussels, the EU headquarters. In these two cases, women freedom, freedom of expression and the right to be respected whatever his choices are questioned but some radical groups seem not to be accept this point of view in Egypt as in Belgium when the Sharia4Belgium movement considers the young film-maker as a prostitute, walking half-naked in the Brussels streets and she shouldn’t be surprised by such reactions.

As I was writing before, the City of Brussels decided to tackle the issue voting a law sanctioning a big fine any red-handed person. This political act is symbolic but won’t be enough to put an end to this kind of male chauvinism behaviour. Indeed, reaffirming the gender equality and being pedagogic vis-à-vis the current generation to delegitimize some statements and acts (as Sharia4Belgium’s one) is needed. In order words, it is a question of mentality.

PS : here, the “Femme de la Rue” trailer.

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