French politics

Marianne, Shevchenko: same fight?

François Hollande, French president, unveiling the new Marianne stamp, the 14th of July 2013 at Palais de l'Elysée

François Hollande, French president, unveiling the new Marianne stamp, the 14th of July 2013 at Palais de l’Elysée

Let’s talk about philately (in relation with politics, as usual)

François Hollande unveiled during the Bastille Day, the new Marianne stamp which symbolises his term. The stamp was selected in the framework of a contest in which French students high school have chosen artists and awarded Olivier Ciappa.

This sample, although simple and banal, is controversial. Indeed, Christine Boutin, former Sarkozy’s minister and PCD (Parti chrétien-démocrate, Christian-democrat party) ex-president, denounces that Inna Shevchenko, the FEMEN topless feminist movement leader, was the source of inspiration of the French artist. According to Boutin, choosing Shevchenko is an attack to the dignity of the woman and the independence of France insofar as the new model of the Republic is not a French citizen woman but a Ukrainian one. Thus, the Conservatives wish to boycott the stamp and tackle François Hollande one again, insisting on his choice.

It is needed to remind some points all the more so as, Christine Boutin’s indignation is not relevant and ridiculous especially. This is completely irrelevant insofar as the French President did not choose the Ciappa’s art but some French students as the artist insists on his website and express his indignation about the lack of consideration of some people vis-à-vis the aware and independent choice of these young people. Indeed Olivier Ciappa explained his work to the students and informed them about the reasons of having chosen the FEMEN leader as model. To be clear, nobody was cheated and the French president has just validated the students’ choice.

Inna Shevenchenko, FEMEN feminist movement leader and his avatar

Inna Shevenchenko, FEMEN feminist movement leader and his avatar

What is more, Boutin’s and her friends’ protestation seems ridiculous insofar as Marianne is a symbol of the French Republic but also universal, seen as universal at least. Indeed, Marianne is not only a French woman, she inspired a lot of people throughout the world. The reference to Inna Shevenchenko is not accidental for Olivier Ciappi who considers Marianne enlightens the world and she is, in a certain way, the ancestor of the FEMEN movement, especially if we refer to La Liberté Guidant le peuple, the famous Delacroix’s masterpiece. Marianne as Shevenchenko is a woman struggling for freedoms and human dignity, against all forms of obscurantisms. Her fight, whatever we appreciate or not the FEMEN feminist leader, is similar to the values defended by Marianne and the French Republic and this is the revolutionary aspect of France which is celebrated and paid tribute. To be clear, Marianne is maybe a French woman and she wants to be universal, whatever the nationality or the ethnical belonging of the person who embodies her.

So once again, Christine Boutin’s behaviour is ridiculous, and she wants to tackle the French president trying to question him. Although I’m not so delighted by seeing Inna Shevchenko as the new Marianne – she never lose an opportunity to open her mouth and be provocative, which is very bothering -, the Ciappi’s art is still interesting and audacious. The Republic and its symbols are national values and also essentially universal ones French citizens have defended and spread throughout the world since 1789. On this pont, rather than raising a puerile controversy, Boutin should be glad all the more so as the world has been avoided: Frigide Barjot – the anti-gay marriage leader – as symbol of Marianne stamps.

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