Red-Lipped Flashmobbers Against Rape

What might prompt dozens of red-blooded Frenchmen to don blood-red lipstick and proudly parade shiny bright vermillion smiles on a flashmob website? Rape perhaps?   

Lipstick for men (Credit: My Little Paris)

For according to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister for Women’s Rights there are 250 rapes a day in France — a shocking figure whose disclosure activists hope will shake the country out of a certain amount of complacency towards ongoing violence against women.

Mettez du Rouge as the campaign is known, got going after Facebook launched it. My Little Paris then picked it up with a discreet mention and the Internet has since driven and popularised it, as an ostensibly highly laudable campaign to encourage men to pledge to defend women against rape.

But was the flash mob as announced on Facebook  — with dozens of photographs — ahead of International Woman’s Day on March 8, a real effort to co-opt branche metrosexuals to fight a menace and scourge or was it a clever (and if so manipulative) marketing campaign by two PR/Advertising agencies on behalf of a Woman’s Magazine?

Men, go red , help women says the facebook campaign

As the answer to this question — which French News Online posed to campaign originator Alice Lepers of — remains unanswered at the time of going to press, we are unable to say. But caveat notwithstanding the incidence of violence against woman in France and official government concerns about it, are very clearly palpable.

In the build up then to International Woman’s Day campaigners are rightly horrified by the statistic quoted above, and as the poster below shows, urging men to bloody their lips, join the Mettez du Rouge flashmob and pledge that, going forward, they will help any rape-endangered woman they come across.

Blood red and red blooded effort to stop violence against women

Aufeminin magazine asked Alice Lepers the originator of Mettez du Rouge what lay behind the campaign: “Firstly it was those numbers (250 women raped each day in France –  Ministry of Women’s Rights, November 2012), then the fact that men are almost always absent from debates on violence against women. Finally I wanted to act, and I looked for an opportunity to enable men to express themselves, to take a position on the issue, without necessarily heading out onto the streets in protest. The idea of all these lipsticked men offering us pictures of themselves, aims to get a buzz going to get people to talk and  smile… It works of course, and  ultimately it’s also fun to see what it triggers in women … their approach has been that men are sexy in red! And the first man who agreed to be photographed? That was Jean-Paul Lilienfeld, director of “Skirt Day” and more recently “Stop Me” (currently on cinema screens). So what can others do to help?  If you are a man, click on the flash-mob on the internet and/or send us a lipstick photo! If you’re a woman organize a cocktail at home, invite lots of men, prepare your red lipstick and your camera in advance and start collecting pictures.”

Alice Lepers – the advertising creative behind the idea

The figure quoted above by Alice Lepers has been widely disseminated in reports that can be found on the Internet but official statistics appear less dramatic.

A report on December 5 last year, written by Cécile Dehesdin, suggested the figures were perhaps not as transparent as some have made out. So she set out in search of official confirmation: “The first tool available is the list of registered complaints of rape. In 2011, for example, 4,983 cases of rape were recorded by major police forces and the gendarmerie , plus 5,423 cases of rape of minors (the document does not differentiate between men and women, and includes complaints of attempted rape — a crime subject to the same penalties in the category of ‘rape’) which makes 10,406 rape cases in total. (Editorial note: without in anyway wishing to detract from the campaign to stop the violence, it should be said that this is under a tenth of the daily figure quoted by campaigners above). As with any type of crime however a number of victims make no formal complaints nor do they report to the police or gendarmerie, says l’Observatoire national de la délinquance et des répressions pénales (ONDRP) the national observatory for crime and criminal justice in an introduction to its 2012 report (See the 2012 Criminality in France report as a PDF here). The ONDRP appears to suggest therefore that rape complaints reflect only a fraction of the reality in terms of the crime of rape.”  Earlier figures from ONDRP can be found from links in this report which go back to 2005.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister for Women’s Rights

Nevertheless government is concerned and apparently making considerable progress in dealing with the issue. In a statement released on her website on March 3 2013 Minister Vallaud-Belkacem — who is also the cabinet’s official spokesperson — said: “As we prepare for International Womans Day may I draw attention to the following: the Ministry of Women’s Rights has made the fight against all forms of violence against women a priority. Such violence is part of a continuum, the source of which lies in gender stereotypes and extends to sex crimes and murders among married couples …Our aim is to prevent violence through awareness and education … With regard to domestic violence … day care places for women victims of violence were funded in 62 departments in 2012, at a cost of more than €3mn. Government set up a taskforce in January 2013 and introduced a special phone hotline for women in significant danger… we also passed the Law of 6 August 2012 on sexual harassment … In respect of forced marriages, female genital mutilation and polygamy France will ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women before end-June 2013”.

Earlier France Info reported on a flashmob and other activities in France connected with the One Billion Rising movement in the US and which called for international actions on St Valentines Day (February 14):
In Paris more than 1,000 people gathered at Beaubourg around the Pompidou Centre :

St Valentine’s Day flashmob in Paris via twitter

While in the National Assembly a number of deputies organised an impromptu flash mob in the public gallery:

In the Landes on the South West Coast, a flashmob erupted on the beach:

L’Express was taken to task by some on the left for running a ‘misogynist’ cover story”Women and the weapon of sex” to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Rue 89 which drew attention to the issue noted that L’Express has a reputation for ‘sexist’ covers: “This is not the first time that the weekly’s coverage has been sexist , there was for instance a piece recently about “these women who spoil life” for (President) François Hollande.

Sexist? Some sectors of the media felt it was ‘inappropriate’ so close to International Woman’s Day

Story: Ken Pottinger

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