Feminism, Femininity, and Laïcité

  • Jennifer A. Selby
Part of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series (CAR)


A small group of middle-aged women gather in a brightly lit community center on a cool and bright Saturday morning in early December 2005. The women are glad for the occasion, greeting one another warmly, removing their coats and scarves, and settling into the space. They are feminists in the Nanterrian branch of Femmes Solidaires (“Women in Solidarity,” hereafter FS). Every third Saturday from 10 A.M . until noon about a dozen members from different neighborhoods in Nanterre gather in this small room, moving chairs into acircle. The number of participants fluctuates depending on the weather and what kind of projects are on the go. Marta, the elected local branch’s petite, energetic president arrived a few minutes earlier to unlock the door and set up a table of books, flyers advertizing feminist-related events or petitions, pamphlets describing special services emphasizing immigrant women, and small gifts they sell to fundraise. She has pulled all of this across the snow in a small metal trolley from the nearby high-rise where she lives with her third husband. She carefully tapes a few new posters publicizing these gatherings called Cause Cafés , a play on words with coffee break (pause café) and a ctivism (cause). Marta’s daughter donates the posters from the printing press where she works.


Immigrant Woman Social Comportment Muslim Woman French Woman International Woman 
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© Jennifer A. Selby 2012

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  • Jennifer A. Selby

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