A mysterious group of "bearded women" hijacked a cultural event organised by left-wing French newspaper Libération last weekend. Their message: contrary to popular opinion, the cultural workplace is just as sexist as that of politics or finance.

 

While their predecessors burned bras in protest over gender inequality, these modern feminists - donned in fake facial-hair - march straight to the top of male-controlled territories; from committee meetings to shareholders' assemblies. They invited themselves to the Libération forum to remind participants that even in the cultural world, the key to success is... being male. Just an example: in 2006, 92% of theatre directors were men (source: French Ministry of Culture).

 

The "bearded women" rally together in central Paris

Posted by Harrietamy, 8 March 08.

"If there’s one area where sexism is not a problem, it’s the cultural domain"

Jean-François de Canchy is the director of cultural affairs in Ile-de-France (the region of which Paris is capital).

 

If there's one area where sexism is not a problem, it's the cultural domain. I work on a day-to-day basis with women who hold key posts in the sector. Think of the female presenter Laurence Ferrari who's about to replace the famous male presenter Poivre d'Arvor on one of our biggest news shows. There are plenty of famous dancers and actresses just as famous as their male counterparts. Maybe the under-representation of women in culture management translates the fact that women don't like to give up their creative notions for more administrative posts higher up."

"I had to fight much harder than a man"

Florence Gamblin, 43, is a dramatist and artistic director at the University of Le Havre.

As soon as my career as a dramatist took off, I was faced with sexism. In the theatre world, women are confined to the logistical side of things. Assistants are always female and to get out of that post I had to fight much harder than a man would. But at the beginning it seemed normal to work in the shadow of someone else.

Even today I don't think I'll ever get the same recognition as my male counterparts. It's normal in the creative environment that the man is the creative force and the woman is the assistant. But I have noticed that more and more women are trying to break this mould by climbing up, even if it's hard to juggle working hours with family life.

Taking action like the "bearded women" do is helping to motivate women to do something about this. We are in need of a big change."