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Feminist TroubleIntersectional Politics in Post-Secular Times$

Éléonore Lépinard

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190077150

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190077150.001.0001

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Race, Religion, and Gender

Race, Religion, and Gender

Feminist Intersectional Politics in “Postsecular” Times

(p.45) 3 Race, Religion, and Gender
Feminist Trouble

Éléonore Lépinard

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter retraces the Islamic veiling debates in France and Quebec, and how feminist organizations engaged in them in both contexts. It explains why intersectional coalitions in the context of heated debates over secularism and the hijab proved possible in Quebec, while they vastly failed in France. In particular, it underlines the specificity of intersectional politics over Islam that uses feminist discourses on female autonomy and emancipation to exclude “improper” subjects from the feminist project. Documenting the feminist debates over Islamic veiling in France and Quebec, the chapter shows that the strength of racialized women’s self-organizing plays a crucial role in the possibility of forging and sustaining coalitions that remain inclusive and critical of femonationalist discourses. Feminist coalitions’ previous history with antiracism also matters when it comes to their capacity to resist femonationalist discourses.

Keywords:   feminism in Quebec, French feminism, Islamic veiling debate, feminist coalition, femonationalism, racism within feminism, radical Left

Feminism is a project concerned with differences: differences between women and differences between feminists. However, what differences will be the objects of theorizing and political conflicts or alliances depends on the context in which feminist activism and thought are deployed. The salience of differences, their potential to disrupt hegemonic feminist discourses and to shape feminist political subjectivations, therefore varies, and for each historical and social context we must analyze which differences are made to matter for feminist praxis, while others are ignored or sidelined, and with what consequences for the feminist project. The intersection of racialization, migration status, religion, and gender in contemporary Europe has created a specific political configuration for feminist movements, marked by the instrumentalization and co-optation of gender equality in the implementation of anti-immigrant policies,1 but also marked by a resurgence of older political and moral questions about women’s emancipation and the proper feminist subject. While race matters deeply in understanding the dynamics of feminist praxis and coalitions, it is intimately tied up with postcolonialism, immigration, and religion, more precisely Islam. How does this specific configuration, which characterizes many European democracies, shape the feminist politics of intersectionality in these contexts? And what can a careful analysis of this complex dynamics bring to our understanding of intersectionality?

This chapter analyzes the intersectional politics of contemporary feminism in France and Quebec, two contexts that share similarities—notwithstanding differences—and that reveal processes that are also unfolding in other European countries. To do so I explore a set of public debates rearticulating issues of gender equality and secularism—which, following Joan W. Scott’s neologism, I will call “sexularism” debates2—that occurred in both contexts, tracing the elaboration of specific articulations between racialization, religion, migration/national identity, and gender; and I map how feminists from (p.46) various strands participated in them. I expose the variety of positions and arguments that diverse women’s rights organizations elaborated during these debates, insisting on how the voices and interests located at the intersection of gender and racial/postcolonial/migrant/religious identities have been silenced or misrepresented, while also emphasizing the plurality of voices that emerged despite the dichotomous dominant framings of the debates. While sexularism debates have produced profound divides within the French feminist movement and the sharp decline of one of its main umbrella organizations, in Quebec the main women’s rights coalition has moved forward despite important tensions. The fact that in Quebec a feminist coalition was sustainable and that dominantly white feminist grassroots organizations took positions against femonationalism, while this was not the case in France, suggests that we must examine what makes some contexts more conducive to inclusive and critical intersectional feminist politics. I highlight in particular in this chapter how the strength of racialized women’s self-organizing, the history of women’s organizations (especially the history of their relationships with other radical social movements), and the history of their institutional involvement in addressing racism and racial differences shape the political responses that feminist coalitions can elaborate in troubled times.

Finally, I also interrogate the specificity of the current postsecular context regarding intersectional politics within feminism. As discourses about Islam play an increasingly political role in Europe through political debates on women’s rights, we must try to understand the dynamics that they create for intersectional groups and for feminist politics. I argue that the renewed focus on Islam, rather than race or migration, produces a twofold process, in the public sphere in general but in particular for feminist public discourses and praxis. First, the religious dimension of these debates (rather than the focus on immigration that characterized the 1980s and early 1990s) shapes feminist engagements with intersectionality in specific ways because it revives the question of who is a “good” feminist subject and what feminist emancipation and agency should mean. Second, the tight articulation between secularism and national identity in both contexts, which is the product of more than two decades of public debates about religious accommodation and the “integration” of Islam in the national body politic,3 means that discourses about gender and secularism contribute to defining the boundaries of national identity. Hence, while there is a process of “racing religion”4 that is surely taking place with regards to Islam in the postcolonial West, we must remain attentive to the specificity that comes with the religious dimension (p.47) of Muslims’ identities as they are socially constructed in the West, which inflects racialization. The fact that those debates and the intersectional politics they trigger concern an identity also perceived as religious means that nationalism is reasserted not through “culture” but through secularism, thereby bolstering a set of moral and political discourses about female emancipation that influence feminists’ discourses.

Racialization, Religion, and National Identity: The New Face of Women’s Rights

Questions today addressed under the label of intersectionality are not new to feminist theory or feminist praxis.5 While the concept of intersectionality has contributed in unique ways to make visible structural relations of power, especially within feminist movements, its predecessors—terms such as “triple oppression” or “double jeopardy,” also coined by feminists of color—similarly highlighted differences, inequalities, and oppression within women’s movements. These terms challenged white privilege, racism, misrepresentation of racialized women’s identities and interests,6 and false universalism within the women’s movements, and they also fostered a sense of identity and specific ways to organize and to think feminist praxis among women of color, postcolonial / Third World women, and migrant women.7 In that perspective, questions now raised thanks to the concept of intersectionality are intrinsic and inherent to feminist theory, and certainly not new or marginal.8 However, each historical, social, and political context raises new intersectional issues and questions—and old issues in new ways—for feminist movements. Identifying what is new and what is not, and what are the specific configurations that intersectional issues and struggles take at a certain moment in time in a certain context, helps us understand how dynamics of inclusion and exclusion evolve within feminist movements, and how feminist activists frame and respond to these processes. It also matters for the study of social movements, which is only beginning to explore how intersectionality shapes social movement dynamics of identity, separatism, and coalition.9

In this vein, I use in this chapter an intersectional approach to analyze how structures of power have shaped the dominant framings of policy debates on race, migration, and religion as well as the positions taken by a diversity of feminist organizations in these public controversies, in two contexts, France and Quebec, since the beginning of the 2000s. Muslim (p.48) and racialized women have occupied center stage in the debates about secularism and Islam, the accommodation of religious differences linked to Islam, and the “integration” of immigrants and their children into national hegemonic cultural values. Indeed, in the past two decades a distinctive nexus articulating immigration, ethnicity, religion, and class has formed in many European countries. The racialization of Muslim religious identities, which overlaps with the racialization of migrants and their children,10 has occurred in part through a series of public debates on Muslim and immigrant women: veiling, arranged and forced marriages, and female genital mutilations have been discussed in the European public spheres,11 with policy or judicial outcomes detrimental to migrant/Muslim women’s rights and concrete lives.12 In these two contexts, dominant framings of the public debates on veiling and religious accommodation have invisibilized and marginalized racialized women, especially Muslim women, as political and feminist subjects, while hypervisibilizing them as objects of public policies—a process typical of the contemporary intersectional politics targeting women of color in Europe.13 The ways in which gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and nationality intersect varies depending on each national context, but at the European level, these debates on Islamic veils have contributed to a shared perception by many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and political actors of the European public sphere that there is an incompatibility between gender and diversity, which demands either the abandonment of diversity or the end of gender equality claims.14

Islam in Europe today is a cultural product intimately shaped by postcolonialism, racism, restrictive migratory policies, the “civic” turn in immigrant integration policy,15 right-wing populist nationalism, and what Fatima El-Tayeb has named the “European narrative of racelessness.”16 It is therefore tightly articulated with processes of racialization and the politics of race in Europe. This is evident in the cross-fertilization of policy debates on immigrant integration, the regulation of Islam, citizenship and racial discrimination, and the multiple slippages in legal discourses from one domain to the next. However, it is also important to underline that religion cannot completely be subsumed under race as an analytical category and as a source of discrimination and social marginalization.

How are we to make sense of the specific religious dimension of these debates in an intersectional framework of analysis? Indeed, the focalization on religious beliefs and behaviors, especially those of Muslim women, can lend itself to a form of culturalism17 that invisibilizes how race, class and (p.49) migration status shape the politics of secularism and religion. Hence it is important to specify how the politics of religious difference is both different from and articulated by the politics of race and migration.

Critical scholarship on secularism has pointed to the association of secularism with Western modernity and sexual freedom, and its intimate link with colonial discourses on Muslim men.18 Hence the configuration of secularism, Islam, and gender politics is a historical formation specific to Western and European contexts that provides legitimate tropes in the public space. In particular, the discourse of secularism provides specific legal tools to regulate behavior deemed improper. With these legal tools—banning forms of Islamic veiling and religious practices—secularism can destabilize human rights discourses and erode antiracist and anti-Islamophobia efforts. In particular, it can divide traditional antiracist movements by operating a distinction between racism based on illegitimate racial categorizations, and secularism, what sociologist Nacira Guénif-Souilamas has termed a “virtuous racism,”19 which supposedly fosters the integration of religious minorities. The political will to regulate Islam and its perceived “difference” thus leads to new discourses about secularism20 that allow a continuing marginalization of racialized groups from migrant descent despite their formal belonging to the nation-state.

The historical connection of secularism with nation-building also allows for the expansion of femonationalism by associating gender equality not only with the West and modernity, but also with national identity. Indeed, secularism is historically closely linked with the state and organizes the boundaries of citizenship and inclusion in the national community. It is therefore no surprise that religion, especially the religion of colonial and postcolonial subjects in the case of France, should activate discourses and policies that enact the policing of national identity boundaries,21 and that headscarf debates perform the exclusion of veiled Muslim women from European national imaginaries.22 The legislations banning Islamic religious symbols in several European countries have operated a resignification of secularism that excludes European Muslims from citizenship, at the cost of bending and curtailing fundamental rights and the existing legal framework organizing the regulation of religious beliefs and practices.23 This is especially true in France, admittedly the liberal democracy that has gone the furthest in the attempt to restrict the public expression of Islamic faith, equating state neutrality with the invisibility of religion (especially Islam), and thus organizing its disappearance from public spaces. In that sense, race and Muslimness (p.50) are categories of difference that are, in contemporary Europe, heavily coconstructed, but which do not totally overlap.

What is more, for a majority of white, nonimmigrant feminists, and also for some racialized feminists in both France and beyond in Europe and in Quebec, religion, contrary to race, raises the issue of faith—that is, a form of submission to a religious authority—and therefore also the issue of women’s agency and emancipation in potent ways.24 Religion, contrary to race, therefore lends itself to moral discourses and boundary work that police the frontiers of good and bad feminist subjects, emancipated agents and oppressed women. This boundary work does not neatly follow the lines of racial categorizations. French Muslim women and girls from migration descent who adhere to secularism and modernity discourses may receive benefits from their conformity to majority norms.25 More largely, debates over Islamic religious symbols raise the question of the relationship between the state and organized religions, and therefore, in countries such as France and in Quebec with a long history of struggle between the state and the Catholic Church for social hegemony, the question of who should emancipate/protect individuals from religious influence.26 This history of virtuous feminist struggle against the Catholic Church bolsters feminists’ moral claims and righteousness in their opposition to Islamic religious practice.27

If there is a denial of racism in many corners of white women’s movements in many contexts both in the United States and elsewhere, there is also a historic commitment by most white feminist movements to fight against racism, and there is historical evidence of coalitions to support immigrant women’s rights in the 1980s and 1990s in many countries (more on this below). Hence, race does not elicit from white (and racialized) feminists the exact public emotions and political responses as religion does. Of course, reactions to religious Islamic practices are heavily shaped by racism and, in Europe at least, by colonial history and discourses. However, I argue that we must also be attentive to these other factors, such as feminists’ understanding of emancipation and religious agency, which have contributed to frame specific debates and political responses within feminist organizations on both sides of the Atlantic. In order to grasp how racialized Muslim women’s voices, identities, and interests were silenced and misrepresented, or on the contrary reclaimed and championed, by a variety of white and nonwhite feminists in these debates, I thus argue that we must take seriously the fact that these debates are shaped by racism and Islamophobia and by secularism, understood as a (p.51) set of political and moral discourses defining oppressed and emancipated female subjects, and tied to exclusionary visions of national identity.

My aim in the next sections is not to expose in detail the various sexularism debates that have occurred since the beginning of the twenty-first century in France and Quebec. Many scholars have told most of these stories, explored the different framings mobilized by various sets of actors, and showed how historical racial and postcolonial formations pervaded the debates (despite the “neutral” focus on religion) and how the boundaries of secularism and of the national community have been contracted through a constant recourse to the value of sex equality, now culturally assigned to the liberal (Christian and white) West and opposed to barbaric orientalized others.28 For instance, scholars have focused on the legal and political meaning of secularism,29 and of national models of integration30 in the two countries, with different interpretations of fundamental rights,31 and different relationships between national and supranational courts.32 France and Quebec also differ in the local spread of right-wing populism and its electoral effects on other political parties, and in the relative powerlessness of antidiscrimination agencies—to cite just a few other important elements determining the policy outcomes of these debates. Furthermore, these two national contexts display different “immigrant integration models”: that is, distinct politics of race and different regulations to accommodate cultural and religious difference.33 While Quebec remains in the ambit of Canadian multiculturalism and therefore promotes the visibility of ethnic and immigrant communities through public policy tools, France has sustained a color-blind approach to public policies34 and a “civic” approach to immigrant integration. Nor do France and Quebec have similar histories of colonization. Quebec was founded on colonial settlement, which seized indigenous lands and oppressed indigenous peoples living where Quebec established its territory.35 At the same time, its francophone population was also dominated culturally until the 1970s by their Anglophone compatriots, intimidating them into “speaking white,” that is, English. Hence, the burst of debates on Islamic religious practices and the development of Islamophobia in the two contexts do not have similar historical roots, even if the French discourse on secularism has found profound echoes in the Quebecois public sphere.36

The goal of this chapter is not to survey all the factors that explain how these debates have unfolded differently for feminists in the two contexts. Rather, it is, more modestly, to chart the terrain of intersectionality politics, discursive and political, that women’s rights organizations in France and (p.52) Quebec have had to navigate, and to the formation of which they have also contributed in important ways. These two countries have feminist traditions that share important commonalities and ties, but very different histories of institutionalization and coalitions among the various strands of the movement. Here I identify actors, arguments, and chronologies that have altered the landscape of women’s rights activism since the 2000s, fueling or resisting the rise of femonationalism in both countries. As I explore in more depth the factors that have led to contrasting strategies and alliances of major feminist players in response to these sexularism policy initiatives in both contexts—that is, a profound division within French feminist national coalitions, and a protracted but still workable coalition in Quebec despite important tensions—we gain insights into how feminists have articulated the moral and political issues that legislating veiling practices has triggered for them. This is the background against which the feminist political subjectivations that I explore in the next chapters must be contextualized and understood.

Feminist Tensions in Quebec

I start with the less notorious case of Quebec, which has witnessed, since the mid-2000s, a continuous string of public debates about religious accommodation, secularism, and the place of gender equality among the values that Quebec should promote as a nation, culminating in 2017 with a law (Bill 62) on religious neutrality aimed at preventing forms of face and head covering, mostly for users and agents of public services.37 To get a sense of how the political terrain has shifted in the past decades, it is useful to remember first that Quebec, while a Canadian province, conceives itself more as a nation. This conception is of course contested, inside and outside Quebec, but the Quebecois state has often been ruled by one of Quebec’s most important political forces, the Quebecois Party, which openly favors Quebec’s sovereignty and independence from Canada. During these periods of nationalist rule, Quebec has adopted laws that favor the French language, and has fought to gain federal political competences, for example on immigration, that no other Canadian province has. What is more, because of its distinctive relation to the rest of Canada, Quebec also opposed early on the development of Canadian multiculturalist policies, proposing its own version of immigrant integration and ethnocultural communities policies under the label interculturalism.38 Hence Quebecois nationalism, in opposition to Canadian (p.53) federalism and multiculturalism, is an important component of Quebecois political life, and a dynamic that has influenced the way in which secularism and Islam have been debated.

Like many liberal states with an immigrant population, Quebec was faced early on with political debates and legal discussion over the accommodation of religious difference, including the Islamic veil. In 1995, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Provincial Human Rights Commission) convened to reflect on religious pluralism in Quebec made recommendations on the wearing of Islamic veils in public schools, a clear reference to the debate burgeoning in France.39 While no case had been publicized or brought to court, the commission examined the issue and stated unambiguously that prohibiting the hijab in public schools would amount to direct discrimination on the basis of religion if the prohibition targeted the hijab only, or to indirect discrimination if the rule was to forbid in neutral terms specific types of garment that would include the hijab. The commission added that such a prohibition would also be contrary to the religious freedom protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and contrary to Canada’s international commitment to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Finally, the commission also pointed out that the Canadian Supreme Court’s jurisprudence had developed the obligation of reasonable accommodation as an important addition to formal equality—that is, a positive duty to accommodate difference—and that the hijab in public schools met the desired criteria for such a positive accommodation. All in all, this public recommendation did not raise objections, and Quebec seemed firmly anchored on the liberal side of secularism, protecting religious freedom and the right to education. However, this political consensus proved fragile as it was tested by a succession of debates in the following decade.

Sexularism controversies first appeared in 2004 at the margins of the Quebecois public space, in Ontario, when some key players in the Canadian feminist movements engaged in a legal battle against procedures of alternative dispute resolution using religious principles for family issues. Despite an independent review process on religious arbitration that recognized the necessity of accommodating and monitoring religious arbitration practices rather than prohibiting them, Ontario’s premier took a position against “sharia courts” in the fall of 2005. The Ontario Arbitration Act of 1991 was revised in February 2006 in order to ban the use of any religious principle when arbitrating family matters, and Ontarian family law was revised to introduce legal safeguards for alternative dispute resolution procedures.40 (p.54) While some feminist voices clearly stated their opposition to this framing of the debate and the resulting policy outcome, they were marginalized in the public sphere.41 Also to be noted is that among the opposition to religious arbitration were several important organizations of Muslim women that, despite internal dissent over the issue, favored a ban, which seemed, in their view, to better protect devout and nondevout Muslim women.42

Echoes of the Ontarian debate filtered to Quebec, in particular with a point of debate introduced at the Quebecois Parliament by MP Fatima Houda-Pépin to forbid the establishment of religious tribunals in Quebec and Canada. The point was debated and adopted symbolically by the Quebecois National Assembly.43 Many Quebecois women’s rights activists and the provincial women’s rights federation, the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ), followed the debate in Ontario and identified religious arbitration as a typical excess of Canadian multiculturalist policies that had to be circumvented, and lent their support to the No Religious Arbitration Coalition. However, this was only the prequel to a wider public storm debating reasonable accommodations, which would contribute to redefining Quebec’s conception of nationhood and secularism.44

Indeed, in February 2007, Quebec’s premier, Jean Charest, nominated two important Quebecois public figures, Gérard Bouchard, francophone sociologist, and Charles Taylor, anglophone philosopher, to constitute a consultative commission (the Bouchard-Taylor Commission) that would deliver to the Quebecois government a series of recommendations on accommodation practices related to cultural differences in Quebec. The creation of this commission was meant to assuage anxieties about the supposed proliferation of religious accommodation claims in the province.45 While sex equality did not figure as an issue in the controversial court cases regarding religious accommodation that originated in Quebec,46 things changed rapidly as women’s rights organizations voiced their concern that sex equality should figure more centrally as a national value to be fostered.47 This point of view was backed up by Quebec’s premier when he stated, as he announced the creation of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, that the “Québécois Nation has values, solid values, that is: equality between women and men, primacy of the French language and the separation between Church and State.”48 Important provincial women’s rights institutions, such as the Conseil du statut de la femme (the provincial women’s policy agency), pressed for the inclusion of gender equality issues in the discussion, as did intersectional groups such as No One Is Illegal–Montréal—although in opposition, as they criticized as (p.55) racist and sexist the dominant feminist framing of the debate pitting women’s rights against ethnic and religious communities.49 The centering of women’s rights in the public debate about reasonable accommodation led Quebecois MPs to propose and adopt Bill 63, amending the Quebecois Charter of Rights to include a sex equality clause on June 10, 2008.50

This act was more than anything a symbolic gesture, as gender equality was already entrenched in the Quebecois Charter.51 But it was also the public legitimation of a dominant framing of the debate, one in which women’s rights and gender equality should be given a prominent place in the legal order, above the right to religious freedom. The attempt to organize a hierarchy of rights, which is contrary to the nature and aim of the Quebecois Charter, displays the typical feature of sexularism debates: a dichotomous understanding of women’s rights as opposed to minority/religious rights, a belief that secularism is inherently propitious to gender equality, and a framing of migrants and Muslims as adhering to backward values incompatible with the democratic nature and values of the national community.

However, enshrining sex equality in the Quebecois Charter of Rights did not put an end to the debate. Quite the contrary, the Bouchard-Taylor report, made public in 2008, was vividly contested from all corners of Quebecois society, including in some feminist ranks. Here again, what started as a question of punctual religious accommodation became, quite consciously—since the mission of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission was framed in these terms—a province-wide debate on national identity, immigrant integration, and the limits of tolerance. The liberal government, trying not to lose too much electoral ground to an emerging right-wing populist party52 and to the nationalist Quebecois Party, decided to legislate on religious accommodation with the project Bill 94, introduced by Minister of Justice Kathleen Veil, which, among other measures, introduced in ambiguous terms the requirement for public service employees, and potentially for clients, to have their faces uncovered.53 The occasion to introduce the bill was found with a concrete case, that of Naima Atef Ahmed, who had been expelled from French language classes in Montreal on the grounds of wearing a niqab and who lodged a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission in March 2010.54 During the lengthy consultation process in the provincial parliament, many feminist organizations were called and voiced different concerns and positions on the bill, as I detail below. The parliamentary debate was finally closed in the fall of 2011 with no vote, since the Liberal Party feared that the Canadian Supreme Court might overrule the bill.

(p.56) This absence of definite closure to the debate left the door open for the nationalist Quebecois Party to take on the issue for electoral purposes in 2012 and to campaign on a project of a Charte de la laïcité (Secularism Charter). Its victory in the fall 2012 legislative elections led to the opening of parliamentary debate on Bill 60, introduced in 2013 by the nationalist government, proposing the Charte des valeurs (Charter of Quebecois Values), a name deemed more proper for the project at hand of redefining the boundaries of the Quebecois political community around core values, including secularism and gender equality. Hence, the debate on the Charte des valeurs was, as in many European countries, a debate about the boundaries of national identity.55 Religious difference was heavily racialized, focusing on Muslims and attributed to migrants that had failed to interiorize the values of the province. The Quebecois Party’s severe defeat in the general elections of spring 2014 put an end to these legislative attempts. The Liberal Party, back in power, was aware of the complex nature of any claim to redefine the legal grounds of Quebec’s secularism in the context of Canadian federalism and the liberal jurisprudence of the Canadian Supreme Court with respect to religious freedom.56 It therefore proceeded with more caution and at a slower pace. A bill was introduced in June 2015, with debates and public consultations beginning only in the fall of 2016. With the Quebecois Party agitating nationalist issues in the public sphere, and a vast majority of the public opinion in favor of what it perceived as an act to finally regulate and put a limit on reasonable accommodations for religious minorities,57 the conditions were met for the Quebecois National Assembly to act. Although the debates lasted for more than a year, and although the vote was not an overwhelming one (with sixty-six deputies in favor of the ban and fifty-five against), the law was passed on October 18, 2017. It states that public servants and many employees working in parapublic institutions and publicly funded bodies—such as day care centers—must work with their face visible, and that users of public services (which include public transportation) must also unveil for identification or service provision (an interpretation of the law concerning users of public service is so far wanting). The law preserves the possibility of reasonable accommodation if the accommodation that is requested “respects the right to women and men’s equality.”58 In a typical double-standard rationale about minority and majority religion, the law states that Christian religious symbols, such as the cross still hanging in the Quebecois National Assembly “blue room,” are not susceptible to being forbidden in the name of state neutrality.

(p.57) It took longer in Quebec to redefine legally the nature and scope of secularism, and the law finally adopted is less stringent than those in France (and is still on hold as it faces judicial review); however, these public debates and legal regulations have not been without consequences for women’s rights organizations. Quite the contrary, they have contributed to the surfacing and development of tensions and of reconfigurations of the movements. In particular, a chasm emerged starting in 2008 between on the one hand the Quebecois women’s policy agency, the Conseil du statut de la femme (CSF)—a nominally independent body but a close ally of the Quebecois government (and funded as a governmental agency)—and on the other hand the largest umbrella organization of women’s rights centers and organizations in Quebec, the FFQ, as well as organizations self-identified as run by and for women from ethnic minorities, such as the South-Asian Women’s Center of Montreal (SAWC).59 SAWC insisted that women’s rights implied their right to wear a headscarf and practice their religion and that diversity should be nurtured in Quebec. At the opposite of the spectrum of positions on the issue of veiling in public institutions, the CSF opted for a framing opposing in radical terms religious accommodation and women’s rights, and promoted a muscular version of secularism—as opposed to the “open secularism” encouraged by the Bouchard-Taylor report. While the CSF started with a middle-ground position—interrogating the question of women’s rights in a context of diversity of faiths—with a conference organized in 2006, the same year, the nomination of its new head, Christiane Pelchat, a former MP from the Liberal Party, legal scholar, and strong advocate in favor of secularism, led to a hardening of the CSF line.60 It interpreted the role of religion and of ostentatious religious symbols such as full veils as vehicles for patriarchy and women’s oppression in unambiguous ways, arguing that a naked face is, in Quebec, a protection against patriarchal religious traditions and the best way to protect women’s rights.61 The position of the CSF displays all the tropes familiar to sexularism debates. Veiling is understood as a sign of oppression and secularism identified as the natural ally of women’s rights under attack by Islamic religious fundamentalism. The CSF calls for the state to protect public order, which means that it

cannot tolerate that some individuals renounce to their right to human dignity. In our opinion the argument of a willful consent must be rejected for all act that is opposed to human dignity, including those accomplished in the name of a religious belief.62

(p.58) As early as 2007, and clearly borrowing from the new French secularist vocabulary, the CSF demanded that the Quebecois state prohibit the wearing of any ostentatious religious symbols63 by civil servants and representatives of the state. While the CSF declared all religions as women’s potential enemy, using examples of far-right Christians and evangelists in Canada along with examples of Muslims in its 2011 opinion on secularism, its lengthy discussion on the history and nature of secularism interestingly ends with a development on interculturalism, the Quebecois model of immigrant integration, thereby shifting the grounds of discussion from the relationship between the state and religions to the issue of migrant integration and (excessive) cultural difference.64 In a typical cross-fertilization of public debates, in 2008 Quebec adopted a declaration that immigrants must sign a statement upon arrival in which they affirm their adhesion to Quebecois values, including a recognition that “political and religious powers are separated in Quebec . . . women and men have the same rights.”65

In the case of Quebec, numerous references to Quebec’s Catholic past and the identification of the struggle for women’s rights with the Révolution tranquille (the Quiet Revolution, which led to the secularization of Quebecois society and the rise of Quebec nationalism) are meant to assert that women’s rights are strongly tied to what is perceived as a Quebecois model of secularism that has pushed the church out of the public sphere and out of political institutions.66 This narrative is all the more evocative in that Quebec’s identity as a nation, not as a province, is based on its long-lasting opposition to anglophone Canada, not only as a territory with a linguistic difference but as a nation with different views on nationhood and immigrant integration. Quebec’s rejection of the Canadian Charter of Rights, which enshrined in its section 27 the value of multiculturalism, indicated its opposition to a certain model of race relations and immigrant integration. In this context, Quebecois secularism has been defined during the reasonable accommodation debate as a model opposed to Canadian multiculturalism, one in which multiculturalism’s excesses of tolerance are limited by state power through the refusal to accommodate religion’s visibility in public spaces and religious practices in public institutions.67

While the CSF adhered to a nationalist narrative of secularism as freeing women and implying that Islamic veiling practices should be forbidden in public institutions, the FFQ tried to articulate a position that would not pit women’s rights against religious freedom—a position that would not alienate those of its members who strongly adhered to the Quebecois (p.59) nationalist project, and that would not fuel rampant Islamophobia. As the FFQ’s 2007 position paper for the Bouchard-Taylor consultations argued in its introduction:

The defense of the principle of equality between women and men should not and cannot be used to elaborate a racist discourse against immigrants belonging to specific religious communities (such as Muslim and Jewish communities). In other words, the instrumentalization of feminism cannot cover up racism.68

The FFQ’s position advocated an inclusive feminism that does not presuppose that religious freedom is the enemy of women’s rights.69 This position was a complex move for the FFQ, given the proximity it had developed during the 1990s to the nationalist Quebecois Party, a party that now claimed a muscular version of secularism and flirted with a populist antimigrant discourse.70 The FFQ also pointed to the implicit link between racism, migration, and religion, used by the CSF and many Quebecois politicians to argue against multiculturalism. Instead, for example, in a document to its membership in 2009 the FFQ remarked that the CSF’s proposal to ban ostentatious religious symbols would disparately impact Muslim women wearing the veil and added: “This question is being asked in a context in which migrant and racialized women and non-veiled Muslim women . . . are already underrepresented in our public administration. Shouldn’t we fight for the improvement of their integration and their representation?”71 In its public statements the FFQ always clearly linked its discourse on secularism with the Quebecois social context marked by racism and systemic discrimination against immigrant women.

As many of the FFQ’s publications claim, its implication during the 1990s with the organization of the World March of Women and its establishment of an internal committee representing women from cultural communities in 2003 had contributed to an increased awareness of differences among women and of discrimination against racialized women among the FFQ members.72 The framing that the FFQ developed was therefore oriented toward the idea of a “feminist secularism” (laïcité feministe) that takes into consideration intersectionality. However, the FFQ distinguished between accommodating religious symbols in public service, such as clients wearing a niqab, and the wearing of the niqab by public service employees, which it rejected (a point criticized by organizations such as (p.60) SAWC). Not surprisingly, the FFQ position—summarized by “no obligation (to wear the veil) no prohibition”—which aimed at critiquing religious fundamentalism’s treatment of women’s rights and, at the same time, at supporting women’s right to choose their faith and the degree to which they want to practice it, was not easy to reach among the constituency of the organization and proved constantly contested during the following decade.73 Some members left the FFQ, accusing it of being infiltrated by Islamists, and interpreted the FFQ’s position on religious accommodation as a betrayal of the nationalist secular project that the FFQ had supposedly historically endorsed for Quebecois society. They expressed their grievances in vivid terms, lamenting the silencing of their secular voices inside the organization and contesting the accusations of racism that targeted them. A typical narrative of the tensions that characterized the 2013 Estate Generals of the FFQ, published by an ex-member of the FFQ, opposes the historical commitment of the FFQ to defend “all women” and a common project for Quebecois society with particular divisive religious claims aiming at leveling differences at the expense of gender and the fight against patriarchy.74 Interestingly, in this narrative the author regards the term “intersectionality” as akin to the Marxist claim in the 1970s Quebecois feminist movement that class should be taken into account—that is, as a dangerous, divisive difference. Use of the term “racialized” instead of “women from migrant and cultural communities” in the official vocabulary of the organization is interpreted as a form of propaganda to “guilt white women.” The obvious moral overtones of this discourse display well-known features of white feminists’ resistance to antiracist discourse: claiming the need to universalize the feminist subject and interpreting identity politics by women of color as divisive, and refusing to acknowledge responsibility for white privilege.75

Hence, in Quebec, while sexularism debates gave rise to clear tensions among feminists, the umbrella organization representing the leadership of the movement opted for accommodation and articulated an analysis that placed Muslim women at the center of the policy issue—rather than the “protection” of the supposedly Quebecois value of gender equality. The FFQ’s reaction to the 2017 ban in public service illustrates its ability to denounce the racism and Islamophobia inherent to the law, and to articulate the fight against racism as a primary feminist concern. The vice president of the FFQ at the time, Marlihan Lopez, reacted to the law in the following terms:


While only a very small number of women wear the niqab or the burqa here in Quebec, this law affects all women. It is a feminist issue because this “religious neutrality” law, which pretends to have as its overt goal ensuring women’s security and promoting their liberation, in fact only produces the exclusion of a specific group of women from the public space, and therefore their marginalization. Law 62 victimizes some women and makes them vulnerable to gendered violence.76

Hence, in the end, the FFQ managed to articulate a critical position against femonationalism and denounce the instrumentalization of women’s rights while also pointing to the harm done to pious Muslim women by the law. This is not to suggest that the feminist movement in Quebec is homogeneous and deprived of tensions. Quite the contrary, racialized women’s organizations have their own organizations, and created their own umbrella committee, the “committee of women from diverse origins,” in 2002. However, this separate committee was not spurred by debates over veiling or religious accommodation. Rather, it arose from the desire to self-represent as a component of the Quebecois feminist movement, and it has not meant a break in the collaboration with the FFQ. While, as I will detail in chapter 5, many self-identified intersectional and racialized Quebecois feminists were not satisfied with how the FFQ handled the debate, it is nonetheless notable, especially when one compares the situation in France, as I do below, that the FFQ did distance itself from the national narrative of secularism implying the invisibility of (minority) religious symbols, and from the discourse using the fight against sexism to legitimize anti-Muslim and racist policies. What can account for the FFQ’s ability to keep a critical distance from femonationalist discourses?

Remaining Critical

How can a “mainstream” and mostly white women’s rights coalition such as the FFQ maintain a critical distance from femonationalist discourses in the context of increased Islamophobia in the public sphere? What type of feminist practice and legacy leads a majority of nonracialized feminist organizations to adopt an intersectional perspective and discourse? The literature on feminist movements and intersectional coalitions delineates various factors that foster the adoption of intersectionality, as well as various strategies that minority women’s organizations or “mainstream” women’s organizations (p.62) deploy to achieve their political goals, strategies that can foster or impede coalition politics across differences.77 Among the factors that might foster coalition politics, a central one is the acknowledgment of power relationships among participants in the coalitions. Such acknowledgment may take various institutional forms, such as separate commissions, veto power, commitment to descriptive representation of marginalized groups,78 and antiracism work inside feminist organizations. While the acknowledgment of power relations leading to the institutionalization of dissent, separatism, or descriptive representation inside a coalition is certainly necessary for it to maintain itself in an inclusive way without suppressing conflicts or excluding differences, one may wonder what factors explain the adoption of these practices in the first place. What makes feminist organizations aware that they should acknowledge power relations along lines of race, religion, or migration status? A first answer that the Quebecois case highlights is the strength of racialized women’s self-organizing. The power relations between racialized/immigrant women’s organizations and white women’s organizations will determine in great part the ability and willingness of feminist coalitions among these actors to adopt inclusive practices. Indeed, the ability of racialized/immigrant feminists to self-organize in Quebec since the 1980s has provided them with an institutional support structure, funding, and a public voice in Quebecois feminism that has put them in the position of deciding their own terms for their collaboration with white feminists. This has not been the case in France, for example, and I develop in more detail the consequences of this ability to self-organize, or not, for racialized feminists’ political subjectivations in chapter 5.

I propose to analyze more closely two other and interrelated historical legacies that, I argue, influence the FFQ’s ability to remain critical during sexularism debates. The first one is the historical legacy of the FFQ’s position in the broader field of radical left protest politics—that is, the history of intermovement relations. A feminist coalition’s relation to other segments of the protest arena and formal politics shapes its organizational capacity to include differences.79 The second historical process that shapes a feminist coalition’s ability to adopt intersectionality is its history and memory of organizational relationships across racial differences. How were race and ethnic diversity historically articulated and addressed within white feminist organizations in Quebec such as the FFQ? To answer this question we must retrace the history of the politicization of race within white and racialized feminists’ discourses. Of course, this history is also dependent on the strength of (p.63) racialized/immigrant women’s self-organizing in each context, but it should not be reduced to it.

The FFQ is almost fifty years old, with historical roots in a reformist-liberal approach to feminism and, during the last decade has had on average a five-person permanent staff, important funding from the federal and the provincial governments,80 and numerous individual (an average of three hundred) and organizational members (around two hundred during my fieldwork). FFQ members are, for the most part, grassroots women’s rights organizations, and the FFQ does not accept membership from political parties (or their women’s groups) but does accept union’s women’s committees. To understand the FFQ’s positions on the Islamic veil it is important to go back to its historical roots as a feminist organization, and to its relationship with other important actors in the field of protest politics.

The FFQ was founded by Thérèse Casgrain in 1966 to push for more women in Quebecois politics: twenty-five years after Quebecois women had been granted the right to vote, their absence in elected bodies called for more action. Initially a reformist, apolitical, and moderate organization with ties to the main Quebecois union, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the FFQ has lobbied for the creation of state feminist institutions in Quebec and issued numerous memoirs and reports on women’s condition in Quebec over the years. The FFQ evolved in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming more radical and more clearly in favor of Quebec’s independence. While during the Quiet Revolution the FFQ did not have ties with the radical Left and was closer to the Liberal Party (despite its formal commitment not to be politically identifiable with a specific party), in the 1980s, a crisis in the leadership and the continuing social mobilization around the constitutional status of Quebec within the Canadian federation altered the FFQ’s initial DNA.81 The ties of some of the members of the FFQ with the nationalist Parti Québécois contributed to changing the position of the FFQ, which, without pledging allegiance to any party, decided to affirm itself, in the name of Quebecois women’s interests, in favor of Quebec’s sovereignty.

Despite intense political involvement in the debates on Quebec’s political future, the economic crisis and the budget cuts initiated by the right-wing government in the first half of the 1990s negatively impacted the FFQ’s membership, then at one of the lowest points of its history. To remobilize feminists across the province, then FFQ president Françoise David organized a large Bread and Roses March in 1995, which drew media attention and mobilized feminists around concrete demands directed toward the government, (p.64) especially alleviation of poverty. This provincial mobilization would morph, five years later, into the World March of Women, coordinated from Quebec with a team originating from the Bread and Roses March.82 This decade of intense activism drew more members to the FFQ and increased its public profile. In 2009, an anglophone self-identified lesbian and mother, Alexa Conradi, took over the leadership of the FFQ and therefore headed the organization through the turmoil of the charter debate.83 One of few anglophone leaders of the FFQ and with an immigrant background (from Britain), as well as the first out lesbian to be president, she embodied the politicization and radicalization of the FFQ in the 2000s.84

The weakness of the radical Left in the 1970s in Quebec meant that the FFQ was not really challenged by a radical fringe. The more radical Québécois Front de Libération des Femmes, (Women’s Liberation Front, FLF, founded in 1969 and close to the Quebec nationalist party) sought alliances with the FFQ.85 The FLF and the FFQ shared analyses about women’s oppression but diverged on the means to be used, without expressing antagonism toward each other. Moreover, the FFQ was founded in the 1960s, before radical-left politics really emerged on the Quebecois political scene. This heritage gave the FFQ anteriority and exteriority vis-à-vis leftist and nationalist political parties. Today, left-wing parties on the Quebecois political stage are headed by former FFQ members (rather than the reverse), and the FFQ therefore appears as an autonomous actor that can ally with the radical Left but has organizational and political autonomy. Hence, the FFQ reflects the history of the Quebecois feminist movement: although often allied with leftist/nationalist movements, it did not depend on or compete with them to exist, and did not have to struggle against them, as was the case for second-wave movements in many other Western countries, France and the United States included. This specificity is important because, as Benita Roth has argued for the United States, the competition of the women’s liberation movement with radical-left politics during the second wave encouraged white feminists to frame their claims as universal in order to resist the tendency in radical-left politics to sideline gender issues.86 Not facing such a strong pressure from radical-left allies, the FFQ did not have to universalize gender equality issues and could remain more attentive to differences between women. However, the ties of the FFQ to the Parti Québécois, which strengthened during the 1990s, have had an impact on some of its members’ ability to remain critical toward Quebecois nationalism. With important ties to nationalist leaders and a history of adhesion to Quebecois nationalist discourses, several white (p.65) feminists from the FFQ decided to leave the organization, in the name of their adhesion to secularism but also because of their refusal to critically reflect on Quebecois nationalist claims.87

The second important historical process that has shaped the FFQ’s ability to remain critical about femonationalism, and to elaborate a critical feminist discourse on female religious agency, secularism, and nationhood, is its legacy of addressing racial differences and power asymmetries at an institutional level. Indeed, the FFQ was confronted early in its history with the question of the inclusion of what was then conceived as ethnic difference. Its foundational charter from 1966 states that the FFQ’s mission is to assemble “without distinctions based on race, ethnic origin, color or belief, women and organizations willing to coordinate their activities in the domain of social action.” This commitment reflects the specific Quebecois situation of the 1960s, marked by the emergence of indigenous claims and the historical segregation between anglophones and francophones (considered as “races” or ethnic groups at the time). As early as the mid-1960s, the FFQ defined itself as a “bridge between three solitudes,” mainly francophone, anglophone, and Jewish communities, while maintaining its religious neutrality.88 While many Jewish women in Quebec were arriving as immigrants from Morocco or Hungary, the FFQ was keenly aware of the need to integrate them in the organization. As Amanda Ricci notes about the period from the 1960s to the 1980s, the FFQ was well aware of the importance of being inclusive, while admitting difficulties in implementing this priority, especially with respect to actually recruiting non-Catholics and non-Protestants. The election in 1977 of the first Jewish president of the FFQ, Sheila Finestone, marked an important step in this process.

In 1973, the FFQ held a joint meeting with Canadian Black women’s organizations. It reflected on the opportunity of organizing, inside the FFQ, a specific conference on women doubly discriminated against as indigenous, immigrants, or Black. However, here again, there was no concrete outcome of this symbolic statement.89 Things began to change in the early 1980s, when under the auspices of the Quebecois ministry of immigration and cultural communities, the FFQ organized a conference titled “Immigrant Women, Our Turn to Speak.”90 It led to heightened networking and visibility of migrant women’s organizations, which helped them articulate in a more forceful way their critique of the invisibility of their issues and concerns in “mainstream” Quebecois women’s rights organizations such as the FFQ. Simultaneously, in the 1980s the FFQ was forced to consider its relationship (p.66) with the Fédération des Femmes Autochtones du Québec (Federation of Indigenous Women from Québec, FAQ).91 In 1991, the FAQ decided to leave the FFQ, stating that it did not recognize itself in the cultural Quebecois identity promoted by the FFQ. This breakup encouraged the FFQ to critically reflect on the question of colonial domination and to include in its 1994 political platform the idea that Quebec’s sovereignty (openly promoted since the mid-1980s by the FFQ) should have constitutional bases “just and equitable for women, for cultural minorities and for indigenous nations,” thereby breaking with traditional sovereigntist discourses.92 In 2004, a mutual solidarity protocol was signed between the two organizations. This relationship with indigenous women paved the way for critical reflection inside the FFQ about other forms of oppression than gender that the FFQ could not simply dismiss from its analysis.

In line with its work to establish a relationship with indigenous women that was free of domination or racism, and reacting to the pressure exerted by the Coordination of Migrant Women, founded in 1983, the FFQ began to reflect on its own practices with respect to racism and inclusion of immigrant women in the early 1990s. Many activists argue that the first official commitment of the FFQ to represent minority women goes back to the 1992 presidential declaration: “The [feminist] movement will no longer ignore the issue of cultural pluralism. We must achieve a real articulation between the feminist movement and women from ethnocultural communities.” However, this commitment was put into practice only in January 2000, when the FFQ created the Comité des femmes des communautés culturelles (Committee of Women from Cultural Communities, CFCC). This committee, which was composed mostly of immigrant and racialized women, had a mandate to

defend the rights and interests of women from ethnocultural communities as a marginalized group, by fostering the openness of the women’s movement to cultural diversity and national and international solidarity and reinforcing the relationship between women from cultural communities and visible minorities and women from the majority.93

Following this commitment, in 2004 the FFQ launched a three-year-long process to develop “an inclusive perspective and a shared leadership with cultural communities’ organizations . . . a strategy to fight racism and ethnic and religious discrimination.”94 The CCFC surveyed minority women’s status inside member organizations of the FFQ and the distribution of resources (p.67) among member organizations to conclude that a rebalancing of resources toward migrant women’s organizations was in order, as well as an increase in their descriptive representation inside the FFQ structures.95 What is more, the fact that the FFQ initiated the World March of Women at the end of the 1990s is also important to explain why the abstract commitment to cultural diversity enshrined in 1992 became a concrete policy in 2000. Indeed, organizing a worldwide event with women from different nationalities and with pressing concerns regarding imperialism or poverty meant acknowledging other types of oppression than gender alone. As an FFQ activist notes:

This march is an important moment in our reflection process. We have decided to widen our perspective to consider multiple discriminations and also to think in terms of and to apply intersectional analysis. . . . We wanted this fight against discriminations to be totally integrated into the federation’s work.96

In March 2015, the FFQ held a general assembly to orient its future actions and proposed to its members adopting the fight for the elimination of all forms of oppression (including racism and colonialism) in its charter, as well as intersectionality as an analytical tool shaping the FFQ’s position in the public sphere.97 This adoption was not smooth—far from it— and left marks for many racialized Quebecois feminists, as I examine in chapter 5. However, it does appear to be the result of a decades-long history of partial, and then more sustained, attention to the question of race. The various institutional forms that have been devised by the FFQ to address the question of race also show an increasing politicization of this issue. The institutional vocabulary evolved from the promotion of “plurality” among women in 1992, to the establishment of a special committee of “women from immigrant and cultural communities” in the early 2000s with a mandate to investigate the presence of immigrant women in the organization’s membership, to the institutionalization of the descriptive representation of “racialized women” on the board of the organization and the hiring of an officer in charge of “intersectionality.” While the FFQ’s efforts to institutionalize and politicize race may still appear insufficient or devoid of concrete effects on its mainly white constituency,98 they denote a capacity to articulate a critical discourse on race that not only provides a social critique of racism in Quebecois society but also reflects on racism within the Quebecois feminist movement and aims at revising its practices.99 This legacy of being accountable on the issue of racial privileges (p.68) and racism certainly provided the grounds for the organization to elaborate a feminist analysis critical—to some extant—of the rampant femonationalism championed by the Quebecois government. Of course, a gap remains, as in many other organizations, between the rhetorical commitment to intersectionality and actual intersectional practices, a gap that attest to what Sara Ahmed has termed the “nonperformativity” of antiracism.100 However, critical public discourses against femonationalist projects, and the election at the head of the FFQ in 2018 of a trans* woman, also attest of the capacity of the organization to critically reflect on the privileges of white cis-women in its ranks, and to enlarge its definition of who can embody the good feminist subject. The unfolding of sexularism debates within the French public sphere and within the French women’s movements since the beginning of the 2000s provides a strikingly different, and darker, picture.

Feminists’ Divides in France

The veil(s) debates in France have been well documented, and the conflicts and crises they precipitated within feminism have also been analyzed, although only punctually.101 Indeed, while the first law prohibiting veiling in public school shattered the feminist movement to the ground, subsequent laws and debates (in 2010 with the legal ban on face-veiling in public space and in 2016 with the public debate on the burkini) revealed the long-term consequences of these conflicts on women’s rights organizations and their relations with each other, which have been less scrutinized. I retrace here the most important fractures that have delineated the grounds upon which women’s rights are discussed and implemented in the French public sphere today.

The story of the 2004 law banning Islamic veiling in public school has been told often.102 Its consequences for the French conception of secularism (and of immigrant integration) have also been analyzed. Among the effects of this piece of legislation and the vast public debate it occasioned, the conflicts it raised among feminists (but also within labor unions, human rights organizations, and the radical Left in general)103 are noticeable but much less investigated. However, they are crucial to understanding the rise of femonationalism in France: with the 2004 debate, the issue of postcolonialism finally emerged with force within the French feminist movements, and (p.69) revealed many women’s rights activists’ adhesion to the French republican universalism and its color-blind, secularist narrative.104

While feminists did not initiate the 2004 law, they took part in the public debate and defended opposing views on the legitimacy of a ban on headscarves in public schools. Their contribution to the debate started when, in the spring of 2003, the controversy over headscarves emerged through a passing mention by then minister of the interior, Nicolas Sarkozy—despite a historic low number of girls wearing headscarves in public schools that year—and was rapidly instrumentalized by several political actors, leading to both a parliamentary commission (Commission Debré) and a presidentially mandated commission, appointed by President Jacques Chirac and headed by Bernard Stasi, to provide the government with recommendations on the implementation of secularism in France.105 Leaders of the wider national umbrella organization for women’s rights in France, the Collectif national pour les droits des femmes (CNDF) stated in January 2004106 that their organization was divided on this issue, and that personaly they opposed both the wearing of the Islamic headscarf and the right-wing government’s intention to legislate against the headscarf in public schools. While they acknowledged discriminations against Muslims and migrants in France, they interpreted the choice made by “some young people of Muslim faith, inspired or not by fundamentalist imams, to fight for the right of young girls to wear their headscarves in school, or in public service as employees” as the “wrong struggle,” a strategic error in their fight against humiliations.107 In a typical leftist vein, the heads of the CNDF denounced the focus on religious symbols at a time when socioeconomic questions, poverty, and austerity should have occupied center stage and could have united feminist movements and the Left around a common agenda. Furthermore, in their view:

Whatever the meaning that a minority of young women give, at a personal level, to the wearing of the veil (and we know this meaning is plural), the wearing of the veil takes on the same meaning in all monotheist religion when it is presented as a compulsory religious requirement. It is not at all a symbol of emancipation.108

Interestingly, the acknowledgment of the multiple meanings that a headscarf can be invested with is quickly made irrelevant by the claim that the veil as a religious symbol cannot be emancipatory. This authoritative argument (p.70) simultaneously erases the agency of this “small minority of young women” previously mentioned by the authors.

The CNDF leaders’ position, while representative of the positions of many members from the “class struggle” trend inherited from the second wave of the French feminist movement,109 did not manage to build consensus among women’s rights organizations, despite the CNDF’s status as the umbrella organization and main network for women’s rights in France. Indeed, on one side a novel alignment emerged, grouping together feminists who often had participated in the second-wave movement’s “autonomist” trend (meaning autonomous from radical-left organizations or from the Communist Party), such as Anne Zélensky, Anne Vigerie, and Liliane Kandel, and who started to define themselves as secularist feminists (féministes laïcardes),110 feminist members of women’s rights organizations close to the Communist Party,111 and a rising women’s rights NGO, Ni putes ni soumises (NPNS), founded by Fadela Amara to represent young girls from the ghetto who wish to be emancipated from religious and ethnic communities.112 While the vast majority of the individual and institutional members of this formation were not representatives of racialized/immigrant groups, some of them, like Fadela Amara and her organization, specifically defined themselves as such.113 Prominent figures presented as witnesses of the horrors of religious fundamentalism, like Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, activist Zazi Sadou (at the time president of Algerian Democratic Women), and Algerian activist Wassyla Tamzali,114 joined these secularist voices. All these components identified the defense of republicanism and secularism as the most important battle to be fought, and the Islamic headscarf as a dangerous sign of religious proselytism and of the dismantlement of republican values. In an op-ed published in May 2003, Anne Vigerie and Anne Zélensky wrote:

The question of the veil . . . has been a source of anxiety for feminists for a long time. Young women or girls wear it in the name of the freedom to practice their religion. But the wearing of the veil is not a sign of religious belief. It symbolizes women’s place as defined by Islamism. This place is in the shadow, the relegation, the submission to man. That women claim this right does not change anything about the meaning of the veil. It is well known that the oppressed are the most fervent advocates of their own oppression.115

(p.71) They further identified a public space devoid of any religious symbols as the only way to preserve women’s rights and the Republic’s heritage and denounced a “postcolonial guilt” that encouraged leftist activists to accept encroachment on women’s rights in the name of cultural tolerance. NPNS as well presented the veil as a regression in women’s rights and a strategy of young girls in urban ghettos to protect themselves from the violence of their male counterparts.116 After having accused the CNDF of being infiltrated by “Islamists,” and in order to voice disapproval of the CNDF’s opposition to the law, in NPNS decided to organize a demonstration for women’s rights on March 6, 2005, so as not to demonstrate side by side with the CNDF’s demonstration on March 8.

On the other side of the feminist spectrum, op-eds were published in May and in December 2003117 by prominent intellectuals and politicians associated with the Left118 stressing the context of discrimination and racism against Muslims and the colonialist overtones of the debate. Cautious not to appear as proponents of veiling, they did not insist on religious freedom or women’s agency but on the emancipatory nature of public schools and the importance of including Muslim girls:

How can feminists support a law that excludes these young women from school, often the only place where they can emancipate themselves, to send them back into their families that supposedly oppressed them?119

These public appeals coalesced with the creation of a new network, Une école pour tou-te-s, contre les lois d’exclusion,120 and a new organization, the Collectif feministe pour l’égalité (CFPE), in which prominent radical second-wave feminist Christine Delphy participated. Members represented a heterogeneous mix that never managed to form an effective political coalition.121 However, with respect to the transformation of the feminist movements, this network marked the emergence of a new discourse and identity, which denounced a misinterpretation of secularism and, more than anything else, the rampant Islamophobia122 and postcolonial aphasia123 present in the debate. In feminist terms, they denounced the implicit paternalism that the ban fueled toward Muslim women as well as the idea that the Islamic headscarf could have only one meaning, that of women’s oppression. Here again the coalition was a mix of feminists who identified as postcolonial subjects or indigènes, such as Houria Bouteldja, who participated in the creation of the (p.72) CFPE,124 and nonracialized feminists coming from human rights organizations or women’s rights organizations. Of importance, this coalition for the first time addressed the issue of racism and of the colonial continuum within French feminism itself. They presented the necessity of jointly addressing feminism and racism as a precondition for any true feminist project. The divide with the CNDF (as well as with NPNS)125 crystallized for the celebration of international women’s day on March 8, 2004, as the CNDF refused to include the CFPE in its call for demonstrations. This scission would lead, slowly but surely, some years later to parallel demonstrations in Paris on March 8, one organized by the CNDF,126 and marching toward the Place de la République, and the other organized by the CFPE, Afro-feminists, feminist organizations from the Parisian suburbs, LGBT organizations, and the union of sex workers in Belleville, a neighborhood with an important migrant population.

The debate on Islamic veiling continued beyond the 2004 law, as the conservative right-wing party of Nicolas Sarkozy tried to preserve its electoral gain against a populist far-right National Front in constant progression during the 2000s. Attempts to enlarge the prohibition to other spaces than public schools surfaced first with a discrete jurisprudence by the highest administrative court (the Conseil d’État) in which it refused to grant French citizenship to a woman wearing a niqab in 2008,127 and later with a public debate and subsequent legislative ban on full veiling in public spaces in 2010.128 The scope of the prohibition of Islamic veils in public schools broadened with the “Circulaire Chatel,” a regulation by the minister of education that forbade mothers wearing a hijab from accompanying pupils during excursions organized by schools, as well as with an ongoing judicial battle over the wearing of Islamic headscarves by an educator in a publicly subsidized private day care center, the crèche Baby-Loup.129 This constant widening of the scope of prohibition led Socialist president François Hollande to suggest, on March 24, 2013, the possibility of regulating/prohibiting Islamic veiling and religious symbols in private workplaces in France. Feminists were not indifferent to this evolution and expansion of the legislation against Islamic veiling. Indeed, on the one hand, organizations such as NPNS were instrumental in the birth of the 2010 law. They contributed largely to the publicity around the debate on full veiling and made dramatic calls to the legislature to take action.130 NPNS argued that the French state could not leave women in deprived neighborhoods at the hands of their oppressive husbands and brothers and that republican values had to be extended to these French (p.73) citizens and these remote territories. NPNS described the banlieues as a war zone for women, using usual feminist tropes about one’s right to control her body and sexuality.131

While feminist organizations were divided over the 2004 law, a majority was in favor of the 2010 ban on full veiling in public spaces—with the exception of the CFPE and some feminists from the former “class struggle” trend.132 At the other end of the spectrum, new petitions appeared in 2013 to counter Hollande’s proposal to legislate veiling practices in the workplace, especially regarding jobs where one interacts with children. They declared, “We are all veiled women” and argued that

such a new law would be racist for it would, under the guise of protecting children from some sort of imagined contamination, subject women to domination by proponents of national purification and reduce their conditions to unemployment or invisibility.133

While the signatories used “we women” rather than “we feminists,” they also used the feminist trope of control over one’s body: “The imposition of any dress code whatsoever, whether it involves prohibiting the veil or making wearing it mandatory, is a form of violence and we condemn it as such. Our bodies belong to us and our choice of clothing too.” In 2016, feminist figures mobilized again to oppose the multiplication of municipal bans on burkinis.134 Their open letter clearly articulated the chasm among French feminists, firmly criticizing what they called the “feminist” argument from which women wearing burkinis are alienated:

We should liberate them from men’s oppression by unveiling them. But what do the persons concerned think about this? And where does this idea that a woman must undress to be free come from? This is, alas, an argument used by many “feminists” that has trouble hiding a conception of “emancipation” that is totally dependent on Western ethnocentrism.135

While both initiatives gathered support from prestigious feminist scholars in France and abroad, the absence of any major women’s rights organization among those who signed the petitions is telling. The CFPE, which introduced the 2013 petition, was the only feminist organization to sign it. This isolation highlights its marginalization within the landscape of women’s rights organizations, as well as the weakness of Muslim women’s mobilization in such (p.74) an adversarial context.136 Conversely, the high number of signatories who belong to academia suggest a growing divide between grassroots women’s rights organizations and feminist academics over this issue. This is certainly not to say that feminist academics agree on the subject. Quite the contrary, the controversy over feminist colonial aphasia erupted in academia as well, in particular with the publication in 2012 of a book/pamphlet Les féministes blanches et l’empire by Félix Boggio Éwanjé-Épée and Stella Magliani-Belkacem, which traced, albeit sometimes with historical partiality, white French feminists’ attitudes toward the veil debates back to colonial times and the complicity of the Third Republic feminists in the colonial campaigns.137

Both in France and in Quebec, sexularism debates reconfigured the relationship between secularism, national identity, citizenship, gender equality, and the nexus race/religion/migration/Islam. Because of the heterogeneity of women’s rights organizations in both contexts, it is difficult to evaluate if public discourses voiced by prominent feminist organizations or feminist figures reflect the dominant opinions among grassroots feminist activists. In chapters 4 and 5 I document the wide variety of opinions among white and racialized feminists in both contexts. However, without reifying the complexity of the French and Quebecois feminist landscape, the comparative analysis of feminists’ public participation in the name of women’s rights in both contexts shows that French and Quebecois feminists did not elaborate similar discourses. The desire to protect women’s rights and the feminist project led to different articulations of the issues at stake. In both contexts, some white feminists used a feminist discourse about women’s emancipation, the memory of women’s struggle against the Catholic Church, and a secularist discourse to promote restrictive policies with Islamophobic implications. However, the impact and visibility of this discourse was not comparable in France and Quebec. While a majority of Quebecois feminist organizations—white and nonwhite—maintained a critical distance toward the instrumental use of secularism, nationalism, and gender equality as vectors of anti-immigrant and racist policies, a majority of French feminist organizations adopted a republican and nationalist discourse in which laïcité and universalism were heralded as the best safeguards of women’s rights in France. They were unable to develop a critical discourse about the successful political attempts to redefine the boundaries of secularism and nationhood with racist overtones.138 While attempts to legislate veiling did spur debates and tensions within the Quebecois feminist movements, it (p.75) literally shattered any feeling of unity and of common identity within the French feminist movement.

Perpetuating Ignorance, Participating in Femonationalism

How can we account for the way in which important French feminist organizations have adhered to femonationalism with a discourse that associates Muslim women’s religiosity with patriarchy, resorting to state power to regulate the practices and subjectivities of pious Muslim women? Notwithstanding the fact that these feminist organizations have demonstrated historical commitment to antiracism and activism against restrictive immigration policies, how can we make sense of their lack of intersectional critical reflexivity when it comes to assessing the concrete needs of pious Muslim women and girls, and their responsibility as feminists in representing, and caring for, these needs? To explore further this issue, I detail the history of an important feminist organization in the French women’s rights landscape, the CNDF, focusing on its ties to radical-left politics and its institutional legacy of addressing racism in its midst, as important factors in explaining its inability to resist femonationalist discourses.

The CNDF is a coalition-type organization with no legal status, no permanent staff, and no budget of its own (because it is not a legal entity). The list of its members varies depending on the actions it launches and is not recorded anywhere (but is in sharp decline, in contrast with the late nineties). CNDF members represent political entities (the Green Party’s women’s group, unions’ women’s committees) and women’s rights organizations. In contrast to the reformist-turned-radical history of the FFQ, the CNDF has direct roots in the radical/class struggle of the second-wave feminist movement as well as in the broad social movement protest that destabilized the French public sphere and the right-wing government over pension reform in 1995.139 In the beginning of the 1990s, new, spectacular forms of opposition to abortion rights emerged in France (with pro-life activists chaining themselves to clinics’ gates, interrupting medical operations, etc.). This attack on women’s rights alerted the already existing coalition for abortion and contraception rights (CADAC),140 and in 1995, in response to a proposed legal amnesty for persons convicted of this offense,141 the CADAC called for a broad national demonstration on November 25, 1995. The date was unknowingly (p.76) scheduled for what would turn out to be the biggest French social movement since 1968. This timing enabled a large feminist mobilization (forty thousand people at the demonstration on November 25), and the CADAC was able to create strong solidarity links with unions and political parties, which led to the creation of a stable, although informal, coalition in January 1996: the CNDF. Very active at the turn of the century, with congresses in 1997 and 2002, and active participation in the debate on the 2006 law against violence against women,142 the CNDF lost some of its initial steam late in the decade.143

From its creation up to 2016, the leadership of the CNDF has not changed: it was co-presided over by two historical figures of the second wave, who self-identify with the “class struggle” trend of the movement, and who were involved in radical-left politics in the 1970s. This leadership testifies to the strong historical links and legacy of the class struggle trend of the feminist second wave that the CNDF harbors within its ranks and in its modus operandi. While radical-autonomous French feminists decided to break with leftist organizations during the 1970s in order to organize on their own and prioritize the struggle against patriarchy,144 class struggle feminists chose to address the two forms of oppression jointly, a strategy that put them in constant relation to leftist politics, trying to convince leftist organizations and unions to include a gender perspective while attempting to also exist on their own and to forge coalitions with the radical feminists during the 1980s. Leaders from the CNDF were socialized in revolutionary groups (the Cercle Dimitriev and Revolution) and continued to have very strong links throughout the 1990s and 2000s with the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (Communist Revolutionary League), and the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (New Anticapitalist Party). The situation of the CNDF vis-à-vis the French field of radical/leftist protest has had important consequences with respect to its positioning on the Islamic veil issue. While the FFQ in Quebec could provide its own analysis without fear of upsetting political allies, the CNDF, and in particular its leadership, could not ignore the positions taken by other leftist organizations. The fact that the CNDF comprises representatives of political parties and unions, and the fact that these organizations were internally divided over the issue, meant that it was very difficult for the CNDF to reach a common position on the 2004 proposed bill, or to impose its analysis on its political allies.

Another important feature that explains the CNDF’s inability to critically reflect on femonationalism and its participation in it relates to the CNDF’s (p.77) historical lack of institutionalization of antiracism. The class struggle trend of the second wave has always had punctual, and sometimes more permanent, relationships with migrant women’s movements.145 While the current organizational landscape does not show many traces of the joint actions between feminists and migrant women that occurred during the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, those relationships existed, and punctual solidarity and support was the norm. For example, one of the migrant women’s organizations created in 1985 (the Nanas Beurs) was founded at a meeting that took place at the Parisian “Maison des femmes,” a place run by radical and class struggle feminists.146 However, the issues faced by migrant women and women of migrant descent were always quite marginal on the agenda of the class struggle second-wave feminist organizations and, subsequently, at the CNDF.

In 1997, the CNDF organized its first national convention on women’s rights, with over two thousand women participating in roundtables, workshops, and plenary talks. While supposedly the ambition of the two-day conference was to address all the concerns and needs of women, from work and family to politics, violence, and international solidarity, the CNDF did not plan any specific workshop or roundtable for migrant and racialized women. Racialized women and migrant women were represented in the program only in the context of panels on female genital mutilation and international issues—for example, solidarity with women in Algeria and other African countries. While the proceedings addressed issues relating to work, family, and health, these themes were not analyzed with an intersectional lens. Women from migrant descent claimed, during the convention, the right for some space to discuss their concerns, which was granted in the roundtable dedicated to economic precariousness. Retrospectively the organizers simply stated that migrant women, “who had not participated in the preparatory work for the convention, claimed and obtained a space to meet [un espace de parole]. . . . Was it not necessary that it would explode like this? That the unpredictable would happen? Beyond emotions and tensions, these voices [paroles] were heard.”147 This explosion, however, did not lead to any new items on the CNDF’s future agenda. The needs and priorities of migrant women were always left to a few specific organizations, mobilizing a very limited number of activists, and were not brought from the margins to the center of the CNDF’s attention.

Similarly, five years later, the proceedings from the 2002 forum “New Challenges for Feminism” organized by the CNDF148 also show little (p.78) inclusion of racialized women’s concerns (despite their symbolic presence on the cover of the book). Indeed, the CNDF this time chose three topics to discuss: freedom of choice in a globalized era, women’s unity in an age of increased inequalities, and the marketization of bodies. Of the more than three hundred pages of proceedings from the two days of debate, only five are dedicated to racism and discrimination experienced by migrant women in France (designated as such; whether they are indeed migrants or French citizens remains unaddressed).149 The question of racism within the French feminist movement’s structures and institutions is not addressed.150

Hence, despite relationships between CNDF’s members and migrant women’s organizations, despite punctual solidarity actions and regular discussions of migrant women’s issues, French organizations followed separate roads. While the fight against racism and imperialism might appear in the CNDF’s political statements in the public debate, the fight against capitalism is much more prominent, and the CNDF has not launched actions or a working group to address racism specifically. This lapse is in part due to its organizational structure: very limited funding, no permanent staff, and networking activities only. However, the material conditions of the CNDF’s political activities is only part of the answer. When confronted with the issue of Islamophobia and the first debate on veils in public schools, the CNDF was caught unprepared, caught in the webs of its own ignorance based on its unspoken privileges as a mainly white women’s organization. It had not developed a vocabulary or political grammar to reflect on these issues and used old leftist frames—that other problems such as poverty and unemployment matter more for women, even for those who are Muslim—to address what was in fact a new political configuration. While the “explosion” of migrant women’s voices was at least rhetorically welcomed by the CNDF, the punctual presence and voice of veiled women in its organization was met with suspicion and hostility. In the absence of any collective effort to address racism and intersectionality inside the coalition, the presence of veiled women at the CNDF meetings in preparation for the 2004 International Women’s Day march, in the midst of the legislative debate over prohibiting the veil in public schools, provoked violent reactions from CNDF members. As one of the veiled participants recalled:

“Feminists” asked us, those who were wearing the veil, if we were for or against the right to abortion, if we were for or against equality between men and women, our position on homosexuality, and so on. We had to prove we (p.79) were feminists, but whatever our response, the piece of cloth on our head disqualified us.151

Nor did the CNDF anticipate tensions that occurred during the International Women’s Day marches of 2004 and 2005 between some feminist organizations and veiled women marching, and the subsequent alternate feminist march.152 Nor did it engage in a reflection on the descriptive representation of racialized women in these instances. The CNDF coordination meetings were deemed always “open” to whoever wanted to participate, and the issue of who was in fact represented was never addressed. Hence, despite a political commitment to addressing the intersection of class and gender, inherited from the second wave, the intersection of gender and race or migration has remained a low priority, and there has been no particular institutional effort to address racism inside the organization. The CNDF’s participation in femonationalist discourses in France, its mild criticism of the 2004 law, and its support for the 2010 ban can thus be understood as the result of its privileged position of ignorance—not that the CNDF has not been active in fighting against racism, but it has been reluctant to perceive the instrumentalization of secularism in fueling Islamophobia. The absence of strong, organized, and recognized racialized women’s organizations during this period also meant that counterdiscourses that resist femonationalism were rarely publicly articulated in feminist events and discourses. The two cases scrutinized here, Quebec and France, thus suggest that the strength of minority-feminist organizing is a crucial element in countering femonationalism.

These tensions and conflicts that arose within feminist movements in the context of policy regulations on Muslim women’s religious attire are not unique to France and Quebec. They have also characterized women’s movements in other European countries153 and penetrated the European public sphere in a time of rising populism. While not all women’s rights organizations have participated in this exclusionary discourse and process, it has been a major—and often dominant—feature of the new face of women’s rights in the European public sphere in “postsecular” times.

Still, we must explore feminist reactions and contributions to the contemporary politics of intersectionality in Europe beyond the simple dichotomy between inclusion and exclusion. Indeed, these debates have also revived, transformed, and challenged women’s rights organizations. The period (p.80) I scrutinize has been a time of intense activism and debates that, as I showed in this chapter, prompted new forms of alliance and transformed existing coalitions. I have suggested in my analysis of Islamic veiling debates that the postcolonial, secular, nationalist, and racial issues that permeated and shaped the political conflicts they triggered within feminism were articulated with the defense or activation of moral boundaries to define who can be the “good” subject of feminism and about what values feminist emancipation should uphold. These moral concerns were of course intimately articulated with hierarchies of power based on race, immigration, religion, class, and citizenship among feminist activists, but not reducible to them. In the next two chapters, I propose to deepen the analysis of the articulation between hierarchies of power and moral boundaries by examining more closely how the veiling debates reconfigured feminist political subjectivities. Shifting the gaze from organizations and coalitions to feminist activists themselves, I explore how exclusion is performed—and contested—and with what feminist values, identities, and emotions it may be articulated.


(1.) On France, see Scott, The Politics of the Veil. On France, Italy and the Netherlands see Farris, In the Name of Women’s Rights. Farris argues that the phenomenon is a convergence rather than an instrumentalization. She also discusses the concept “sexualization of racism,” which has a long tradition of scholarship that predates the convergence between populism and women’s rights. On northern Europe see Meret and Siim, “Gender, Populism and Politics of Belonging.”

(2.) Scott, “Sexularism.”

(3.) Lépinard, “From Immigrants to Muslims”; Hajjat, Les frontières de l’identité nationale.

(5.) Cho, Crenshaw, and McCall, “Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies.” I follow these authors and their reminder that intersectionality is not a grand theory, nor a static analysis of identity categories. It is a concept, a theoretical tool aiming at social transformation, used to capture dynamic processes and power relations. I also follow Ange-Marie Hancock’s proposal that for this concept to produce the political effects it was crafted for, we need to be attentive to the way we use it; that is, we should aim to make visible categories and groups who are marginalized, especially because of racism, and to reshape “the ontological relationships between categories of difference.” Hancock, Intersectionality, 20.

(8.) The discrepancy between the historical archives and studies on the US context and the French one is wide on this subject. The question was raised in writings about the US second wave that have become canonical in the English-speaking world; see, for example, Lorde, Sister Outsider. Historians have also shown that women of color have organized, written texts, and been part of the movement through multiracial coalitions since its inception, and in its many occurrences; see Roth, Separate Roads to Feminism; Springer, Living for the Revolution; Baxandall, “Re-visioning the Women’s Liberation Movement’s Narrative”; Carroll, “Unlikely Allies”; Cobble, The Other Women’s Movement; Townsend-Bell, “Writing the Way to Feminism.” In (p.269) French and on France, there is much less historical work available so far: Bacchetta, “Co-formations”; Moujoud, “Femmes sans-papiers et exilées dans les mobilisations féministes”; Paris, “Un féminisme anti-colonial.”

(9.) This statement of course does not apply to the literature specifically on racialized women’s movement cited above, which has precisely investigated the dynamics of intersectionality on racialized women’s organizing. On how intersectionality reconfigures a nonracialized women’s movement, see Strolovitch, Affirmative Advocacy; Predelli and Halsaa, Majority-Minority Relations in Contemporary Women’s Movements; Agustín, Gender Equality, Intersectionality, and Diversity in Europe; Laperrière and Lépinard, “Intersectionality as a Tool for Social Movements.”

(11.) Rosenberger and Sauer, Politics, Religion and Gender; Siim and Mokre, Negotiating Gender and Diversity.

(14.) Siim and Mokre, Negotiating Gender and Diversity.

(16.) El-Tayeb, European Others, 2011. See also Guénif-Souilamas, “The Other French Exception”; Nordmann, Le foulard islamique en questions; Delphy et al., “Sexisme et racisme”; Delphy et al., “Sexisme, racisme et postcolonialisme”; Barras and Guillaume, “The Safety of Authenticity”; Keaton, Muslim Girls and the Other France; Scott, The Politics of the Veil. On the denial of race in the French public imaginary, see Keaton, Sharpley-Whiting, and Stovall, Black France / France Noire.

(17.) Bangstad, “Saba Mahmood and Anthropological Feminism.”

(19.) Guénif-Souilamas, “The Other French Exception.”

(20.) It is important to underscore that in France the laws enacting prohibition of veiling practices are not so much the result of the legal organization of secularism as they are an opportunity to radically alter this framework and to create a new legal understanding of secularism; see Vauchez and Valentin, L’affaire Baby Loup ou la nouvelle laïcité; Lépinard, “Writing the Law.”

(22.) Andreassen and Lettinga, “Veiled Debates.”

(23.) For critical legal analyses of these regulations see McGoldrick, Human Rights and Religion; De Galembert, “La fabrique du droit”; Lépinard, “Writing the Law”; Bowen, “How the French State Justifies Controlling Muslim Bodies”; Corral, “Some Constitutional Thoughts”; Rorive, “Religious Symbols in the Public Space”; Malik, “Complex Equality”; Vakulenko, Islamic Veiling in Legal Discourse; Hennette-Vauchez, “Derrière la burqa.”

(24.) On the historical convergence between promoters of secularism and feminists who equate religion and women’s submission in France, see Rochefort, “Foulard, genre et (p.270) laïcité en 1989.” On the contemporary situation, see Chetcuti-Osorovitz, “Féminismes contemporains et controverse du pacte laïque en France.”

(25.) Guénif-Souilamas, “The Other French Exception.”

(26.) Cécile Laborde retraces the republican historical roots and philosophical tenets that irrigate the discourse of veil ban promoters as well as feminists in the French context; see Laborde, Critical Republicanism.

(27.) In France, for example, Camille Masclet’s research on feminists who were active in the second-wave movement in Lyon and Grenoble shows that their adhesion to prohibitive laws against Islamic veiling are rooted in their previous political involvement against the Catholic Church in the seventies and eighties; see Masclet, “Sociologie des féministes des années 1970.”

(28.) For a general perspective, see Abu-Lughod, “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?” For Quebec and Canada, see Razack, Casting Out; Bassel, Refugee Women; Lépinard, “In the Name of Equality?”; Bakht, “In Your Face”; Bakht, “Were Muslim Barbarians Really Knocking on the Gates of Ontario”; Baines, “Must Feminists Support Entrenchment of Sex Equality?”; Selby, “Un/veiling Women’s Bodies.” For France, see Tevanian, Le voile médiatique; Scott, The Politics of the Veil; Kian, “Le voile islamique”; Guénif-Souilamas, “The Other French Exception”; Fernando, The Republic Unsettled. On Europe, see Rosenberger and Sauer, Politics, Religion and Gender; Korteweg and Yurdakul, The Headscarf Debates; Kılıç, Saharso, and Sauer, “Introduction”; Ferrari and Pastorelli, The Burqa Affair across Europe; Brems, The Experiences of Face Veil Wearers in Europe and the Law.

(29.) Hennette-Vauchez, “Derrière la burqa”; Bowen, “How the French State Justifies Controlling Muslim Bodies”; Siim, “How Institutional Context Shapes Headscarf Debates across Scandinavia”; Koussens, “Sous l’affaire de la burqa”; Baubérot, Une laïcité interculturelle. For a comparison, see Lépinard, “Writing the Law”; Amiraux and Gaudreault-Desbiens, “Libertés fondamentales et visibilité des signes religieux en France et au Québec.”

(31.) Rorive, “Religious Symbols in the Public Space”; Vauchez and Valentin, L’affaire Baby Loup ou la nouvelle laïcité; Baines, “Must Feminists Identify as Secular Citizens?”; Fornerod, “The Burqa Affair in France.”

(33.) On the articulation between race and citizenship in France, see Chapman and Frader, Race in France; Mazouz, La République et ses autres; Larcher, L’autre citoyen; Thomas, “Keeping Identity at a Distance.” On French secularism and its links with citizenship and republicanism, see Fernando, The Republic Unsettled. For a comparison of religious accommodation in both contexts see Wayland, “Religious Expression in Public Schools”; Lépinard, “Writing the Law.” I have explored the impact of the different models of immigrant integration and secularism on feminist organizations in both countries in Lépinard, “Doing Intersectionality.” See also Laperrière and Lépinard, “Intersectionality as a Tool for Social Movements.”

(35.) As a settler nation, Canada/Quebec of course enforced colonial law on indigenous men and women; see Stark, “Criminal Empire.”

(36.) Baubérot, Une laïcité interculturelle.

(37.) “Loi favorisant le respect de la neutralité religieuse de l’État et visant notamment à encadrer les demandes d’accommodements pour un motif religieux dans certains organismes” (An act to foster respect for state religious neutrality and promoting and regulating religious accommodations requests in certain bodies) adopted on October 18, 2017. Despite its intent to clarify what is allowed and what is prohibited, and to propose clear limits to religious accommodation, the law was criticized as soon as it was adopted for its need of interpretation. Contradictory statements from various Quebecois government members on when and where the law would apply added to the confusion. Finally, the law will be subjected to judicial review following the complaint lodged by Muslim citizens. Dominique Scali, “La loi 62 sera contestée en Cour supérieure,” Journaldemontreal.com, November 7, 2017, http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2017/11/07/la-loi-62-sera-contestee-en-cour-superieure-1, accessed November 8, 2017. Unsurprisingly, the law is currently under judicial review, and therefore on hold: https://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/514479/la-cour-superieure-suspend-l-article-10-de-la-loi-sur-la-neutralite-religieuse, accessed May 28, 2018.

(39.) Commission des droits de la personne et des droits la jeunesse, “Le pluralisme religieux au Québec, un défi d’éthique sociale.”

(40.) Bill 27, The Family Statute Law Amendment Act passed on February 14, 2006.

(42.) Lépinard, “In the Name of Equality?”

(43.) Assemblée nationale du Québec, “S’opposer à l’implantation de tribunaux dits islamiques au Québec et au Canada.”

(44.) See Laxer, Carson, and Korteweg, “Articulating Minority Nationhood”; Eid et al., Appartenances religieuses, appartenance citoyenne.

(45.) The story of the “crisis” of religious accommodation in Quebec is told in Baubérot, Une laïcité interculturelle.

(46.) Two cases were judged by the Quebec appellate court and then reversed by the Canadian Supreme Court, one involving the right of orthodox Jews to build succahs on their balconies (Syndicat Northcrest v. Anselem, 2004 SCC47), and one involving the wearing of a ceremonial Sikh dagger on public school premises (Multani v. Commission Scolaire Margueritte-Bourgeoys, 2006 SCC 6). See Bosset, “Les fondements juridiques et l’évolution de l’obligation d’accommodement raisonnable.” See also Koussens, “Neutrality of the State and Regulation of Religious Symbols in Schools in Québec and France.”

(47.) Baines, “Must Feminists Support Entrenchment of Sex Equality?”

(48.) Déclaration du Premier Ministre, February 8, 2007.

(49.) No One Is Illegal–Montréal, “Statement on the Racist Quebec Debate about ‘Reasonable Accommodation.’ ” See also the critique of Quebecois sexual nationalism made by Sirma Bilge, in “Mapping Quebecois Sexual Nationalism” and in “Alors que nous, Québécois, nos femmes sont égales à nous et nous les aimons ainsi.”

(50.) “An Act to amend the Charter of human rights and freedoms,” S.Q. 2008, c. 15.

(51.) For the details of this history and a legal analysis of its consequences, see Baines, “Must Feminists Support Entrenchment of Sex Equality?”

(52.) The Action Démocratique du Québec funded by ex-nationalist and péquiste Mario Dumont.

(53.) Projet de loi no 94, “Loi établissant les balises encadrant les demandes d’accommodement dans l’Administration gouvernementale et dans certains établissements,” Chap. II, sec. 5, 2010.

(55.) Dalpé and Koussens, “Les discours sur la laïcité pendant le débat sur la ‘Charte des valeurs de la laïcité.’ ”

(56.) Lépinard, “Writing the Law.”

(57.) An October 2017 public opinion survey indicated that 76 percent of Quebecois were in favor of a law. Agence QMI, “Une majorité de Canadiens voudraient de la loi 62,” Journaldemontreal.com, October 27, 2017, http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2017/10/27/une-majorite-de-canadiens-voudraient-de-la-loi-62, accessed November 8, 2017.

(58.) Projet de loi no 62, Chap. 19, p. 10, 2017.

(59.) SAWC sent a memo to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission and was interviewed during the consultation process. See Bouchard and Taylor, “Building the Future.”

(61.) Conseil du statut de la femme, Avis. This framing dominated the majority of the contributions made by politicians and collective actors during the legislative debates on the Charte des valeurs. See Beaman and Smith, “Dans leur propre intérêt.”

(62.) Conseil du statut de la femme, Affirmer la laïcité, 100. Translation to English is mine for all quotes from documents originally in French.

(63.) While the French 2004 law designated the forbidden signs as ostensibles (conspicuous), meaning clearly visible, in the debate the term was largely and rapidly replaced by the phonetically similar word ostentatoires (ostentatious), which suggests in French an excess of visibility for the wrong reasons. The term ostentatoire was used in France in 1994 in a ministerial decree trying to prohibit headscarves in public schools. It is therefore interesting that the CSF chose to use a term that was not legally approved in France.

(64.) Conseil du statut de la femme, Affirmer la laïcité.

(65.) Ministère de l’immigration et des communautés culturelles, Pour enrichir le Québec, 12.

(66.) The CSF presents women’s “march” toward equality as intimately linked to Quebec’s secularization in Conseil du statut de la femme, Affirmer La Laïcité, 100–103. On the way in which secularism is used as a proxy for national identity in Quebec, see (p.273) Koussens, “Une mise en scène nationaliste de la laïcité.” On how the memory of the Catholic past bears upon current debates about Islam in Quebec, see Rousseau, “Le travail obscur de la mémoire identitaire.”

(67.) Of course, the limits placed on religious visibility are in fact placed on minority religions (mostly Islamic, Sikh, and Jewish religious practices) rather than on the majority religion, as the debate on the presence of the Catholic cross on the wall of the Quebecois parliament attests. Koussens, “Symboles et rituels catholiques.”

(68.) Fédération des femmes du Québec, “Mémoire présenté par la Fédération des femmes du Québec à la Commission de consultation sur les pratiques d’accommodements reliées aux différences culturelle,” 3.

(69.) Fédération des femmes du Québec, 5.

(70.) On the relationship between the FFQ and the nationalist Quebecois Party, especially under the tenure of Françoise David, see Trudel, “L’engagement des femmes en politique au Québec.”

(71.) Fédération des femmes du Québec, Débat sur la laïcité et le port de signes religieux ostentatoires dans la fonction et les services publics québécois. Proposal from the Board for the Special General Assembly of May 9th 2009.

(72.) Giraud and Dufour, Dix ans de solidarité planétaire.

(73.) See the FFQ leaflet, Fédération des femmes du Québec, “La laïcité.”

(74.) See the testimony of Gagnon, “Ma rupture avec la Fédération des femmes du Québec.”

(75.) Frye, The Politics of Reality; Srivastava, “ ‘You’re Calling Me a Racist?’ ”

(76.) “CONTRE LA LOI 62: Contingent féministe de la FFQ à la grande manifestation contre la haine et le racisme le 12 novembre,” Fédération des femmes du Québec, October 30, 2017, http://www.ffq.qc.ca/2017/10/contre-la-loi-62-contingent-feministe-de-la/, accessed November 8, 2017.

(77.) An answer often provided by activists themselves about the failure to build a coalition across differences linked to race, ethnicity, or religion is that they don’t agree politically. This is the case when French feminists from the CNDF explain the impossibility of allying with those who oppose the ban on veiling in the name of opposed conceptions of feminism. However, to take this explanation at face value is to obscure the social processes that have led to these opposing political positions and to endorse the idea that political dissent prevents coalition, while one could argue that coalition or solidarity presupposes dissent and difference.

(78.) Laurel S. Weldon, for example, shows that norms of inclusivity in the successful transnational coalition against violence against women she studied included a commitment to descriptive representation and separate organizations for disadvantaged groups. Weldon, “Inclusion, Solidarity, and Social Movements.” Isabelle Giraud also shows that the representation of young women in the World March of Women was ensured, in line with Weldon’s analysis, by separate organizing and formal descriptive representation. Giraud, “Intégrer la diversité des oppressions dans la Marche mondiale des femmes.” Elizabeth Cole also addresses a similar issue when she argues from empirical evidence that power differentials need to be addressed directly for a coalition to sustain collaborative work. See Cole, “Coalitions as a Model for Intersectionality.”

(79.) For a similar argument that stresses the importance of intermovement relations, see Ferree and Roth, “Gender, Class, and the Interaction between Social Movements.”

(80.) In 2003 the FFQ budget was around one million Canadian dollars; see Trudel, “L’engagement des femmes en politique au Québec.”

(81.) Trudel, “L’engagement des femmes en politique au Québec.”

(82.) Giraud and Dufour, Dix ans de solidarité planétaire.

(84.) The leadership since the mid-1990s has reflected this change in its political ties: Françoise David left the FFQ to create a radical left-wing political party, Québec Solidaire. The FFQ therefore has strong links (in terms of ideological affinity and membership) with this radical-left party.

(85.) Trudel, “L’engagement des femmes en politique au Québec,” 118.

(86.) I have argued that a similar dynamics characterized the French second-wave movement; see Lépinard, “The Contentious Subject of Feminism.”

(87.) Nationalist Quebecois feminists consider that the historical oppression of francophones by anglophones makes them victims, and tend to refuse that identity to nonwhite feminists; see Pagé, “ ‘Est-ce qu’on peut être racisées nous aussi?’ ”

(88.) Ricci, “Un féminisme inclusif?”

(89.) Ricci, “Un féminisme inclusif?,” 109.

(90.) In June 1982; for a detailed analysis, see Ricci, “Un Féminisme Inclusif?”

(91.) On Mohawk women’s activism in Quebec, see Ricci, “Contesting the Nation(s).”

(92.) “Le referendum s’en vient.” Cited in Trudel, “L’engagement des femmes en politique au Québec,” 372.

(93.) Fédération des femmes du Québec, “Débat sur la laïcité,” 7.

(94.) Fédération des femmes du Québec, “Débat sur la laïcité,” 5. This process included education and training for unions and women’s organizations to promote migrant women’s contribution to Quebecois society.

(95.) For several years, the FFQ hired a former representative of the Association des aides familiales du Québec (Quebec Caregivers Association), a Quebecois Black woman, as an officer in charge of intersectionality. Trainings were proposed to member organizations on intersectionality with role-play sessions in order to address unconscious racism.

(96.) Interview with the officer in charge of intersectionality at the FFQ, June 2012. Translation is mine for all interviews originally conducted in French and quoted in this book.

(97.) See Fédération des femmes du Québec, “Résister construire transformer. Congrès d’orientation, 27 Au 29 Mars 2015.”

(98.) See in chapter 4 the critique proposed by racialized Quebecois feminists.

(99.) On this issue, see Hamrouni and Maillé, Le sujet du féminisme est-il blanc?

(100.) Ahmed, “The Nonperformativity of Antiracism.” For empirical evidence of this phenomenon in white feminist organizations regarding the adoption of intersectionality, see Reger, Everywhere and Nowhere; Evans, “Intersectionality as Feminist Praxis”; Schuster, “Intersectional Expectations.”

(101.) Many academic and nonacademic feminists commented, while taking a position on the issue, upon the consequences of the 2004 debate on the movement, as is evident, for example, on the website Les mots sont importants, which has more than eighty pages of comments on the veil debate; see “Le voile et ce qu’il dévoile.” See also Guénif-Souilamas and Macé, Les féministes et le garçon arabe; Guénif-Souilamas, “The Other French Exception”; and the conclusion in Ali, Féminismes islamiques. Fewer sociological studies provide a social movement analysis of what happened. See, for example, Dot-Pouillard, “Les recompositions politiques du mouvement féministe français au regard du hijab.” But Dot-Pouillard’s analysis is focused on 2004–2006 and uses only texts produced by feminists during the debate. See also Garcia, “Des féminismes aux prises avec l’‘intersectionnalité’ ”; Asal, “Au nom de l’égalité!” Jennifer Selby in Questioning French Secularism devotes one chapter to a feminist organization in a Parisian suburb and its relationship to secularism. See also Selby, “French Secularism as a ‘Guarantor’ of Women’s Rights?”

(102.) Among the numerous accounts of these events, see the thorough analyses of Lorcerie, La politisation du voile; Lorcerie, “La ‘loi sur le voile’ ”; Scott, The Politics of the Veil; Bowen, Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves.

(103.) On the extreme-left relationship with secularism see Pereira, Les grammaires de la contestation.

(104.) Dot-Pouillard, “Les recompositions politiques du mouvement féministe français au regard du hijab.” See also Lépinard, “Doing Intersectionality.”

(105.) Lorcerie, “La ‘loi Sur Le Voile.’ ”

(106.) The op-ed was signed by three prominent members, and not by the CNDF as an organization, because it remained divided over the issue—which is also why it did not manage to take a position earlier; see “En France, des femmes et des hommes dénoncent ‘toutes les violences’ envers les femmes,” Sisyphe.org, December 2003, https://sisyphe.org/spip.php?breve64, accessed November 8, 2017. A similar tiptoeing position characterized another feminist network, Ruptures, at the time; see “Sur le foulard / 6 octobre,” Collectif & réseau féministe “Ruptures,” November 9, 2011, http://www.reseau-feministe-ruptures.org/spip.php?article225, accessed November 8, 2017.

(107.) Rojtman, Surduts, and Trat, “On ne peut taire les critiques à l’égard du voile au nom de la solidarité avec les jeunes des quartiers populaires.”

(108.) Rojtman, Surduts, and Trat, “On ne peut taire les critiques à l’égard du voile au nom de la solidarité avec les jeunes des quartiers populaires.”

(109.) Usually three trends are identified within the second-wave French feminist movement: the “class struggle” trend, emanating from extreme-left Trotskyist or Lambertist organizations such as the political group Révolution and the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire; the “autonomous” trend, ideologically close to the class struggle trend but in favor of a feminist movement independent from political organizations and critiquing their sexism; and finally the “difference” trend, animated by figures close to Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, such as Antoinette Fouque, Luce Irigaray, and Hélène Cixous. See Picq, Libération des femmes; Stetson and McBride, Women’s Rights in France; Delphy, “The Invention of French Feminism.”

(110.) Organizations such as the Cercle d’études de réformes féministes, the Ligue des droits des femmes, and the Coordination féministe laïque exemplify this trend, as does the journal Pro-choix and its editors at the time, Fiammetta Venner and Caroline Fourest. Many members of the Collectif contre le viol also adopted a secularist position. The Coordination féministe laïque was also very active, in France, in the movement against sharia arbitral courts in Ontario.

(111.) Such as the NGO Femmes solidaires; see, for example, its press release of October 12, 2003.

(112.) It is important to note that when it was created, NPNS did not identify as a feminist organization, and later on defined its feminism as opposed to the mainstream movement described as intellectualizing and removed from the reality of life in urban ghettos. See Garcia, “Des féminismes aux prises avec l’‘intersectionnalité.’ ” However, it was clearly identified as a feminist organization by the media, and fueled this identification with its vocal participation in the March 8 demonstration.

(113.) Including NGOs such as Mouvement des Maghrébins laïques de France and D’ailleurs ou d’ici mais ensemble.

(114.) See her op-ed in Libération, Tamzali, “Féministes, je vous écris d’Alger,” reprinted in the Pro-choix issue of spring 2004. On Muslim women critiquin secular discourses in the Western public sphere as a new form of orientalism, see Mahmood, “Feminism, Democracy, and Empire.”

(115.) Vigerie and Zelensky, “ ‘Laïcardes,’ puisque féministes.”

(117.) Boumediene-Thiery et al., “Un voile sur la discrimination.” Here again, prominent feminist figures, including Françoise Gaspard and Christine Delphy, signed the op-ed. See also Tevanian, “Une loi antilaïque, antiféministe et antisociale,” 8.

(118.) Balibar et al., “Oui au foulard à l’école laïque.”

(119.) Boumediene-Thiery et al., “Un voile sur la discrimination.”

(120.) In January 2004 the collective issued a press release, Collectif Une école pour tou-te-s, “Communiqué du collectif Une école pour tou-te-s.” http://lmsi.net/Communique-du-Collectif-Une-ecole.

(121.) See Françoise Lorcerie’s analysis in Lorcerie, La politisation du voile. Among the signatories of a first petition against the law, one finds Muslim organizations such as the Collectif des Musulmans de France, Jeunes Musulmans de France, Conseil des imams de France, Etudiants musulmans de France, personalities and NGOs representing the “ghettos” and migrant integration issues such as Divercité (an NGO from Lyon led by Saïda Kada), Dounia Bouzar, MIB (Mouvement de l’immigration et des banlieues), human rights and antiracist NGOs such as the Human Rights League and the MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples), labor unions like SUD (Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques), and political parties (the Greens and the Communist Revolutionary League).

(122.) Tevanian, Le voile médiatique; Bouteldja, “De la cérémonie du dévoilement à Alger (1958) à Ni putes ni soumises.” See also the video documentary by Host, Un racisme à peine voilé.

(123.) I borrow the term from Stoler, “Colonial Aphasia.” The degree to which the prism of the colonial continuum is mobilized depends on the organization, as does the degree to which a “white feminism” is accused of complicity with neocolonial policies targeting young racialized men. See Garcia, “Des féminismes aux prises avec l’‘intersectionnalité.’ ”

(124.) Houria Bouteldja also founded the Mouvement des indigènes de la République, later transformed into a Parti des indigènes de la République, and led the Indigenous Feminists, a collective that existed in the first years of the movement (2005–2008) and issued a press release in January 2007. See Garcia, “Des féminismes aux prises avec l’‘intersectionnalité’ ”; Grewal, “ ‘Va t’faire intégrer.’ ”

(125.) See, for example, Houria Bouteldja’s criticism of NPNS as promoting forms of colonial politics in “De la cérémonie du dévoilement à Alger (1958) à Ni putes ni soumises.”

(126.) Or alternatively by the World March of Women French section

(127.) Koussens, “Sous l’affaire de la burqa”; Hennette-Vauchez, “Derrière la burqa.”

(129.) See Vauchez and Valentin, L’affaire Baby Loup ou la nouvelle laïcité.

(130.) In 2009, NPNS president Sihem Habchi was interviewed by the Commission Gérin on the burqa with a performance that impressed the commission (see Tissot, “Excluding Muslim Women”), and in January 2010, NPNS demonstrated wearing burqas in front of the headquarters of the Socialist Party, denouncing its unwillingness to legislate on the matter. See Equy, “Ni putes ni soumises manifeste en burqa devant le siège du PS.”

(132.) See Trat, “Non à une loi contre le voile intégral.”

(133.) “Pétition: Nous sommes toutes des femmes voilées.” The online petition was signed by 3,195 individuals.

(134.) Les invités de Mediapart, “Lettre ouverte.” Veiled women also voiced their concerns after the minister in charge of women’s rights made derogatory comments about Islam and veiling in a media interview in April 2016. Les invités de Mediapart, “Pour en finir avec le contrôle politique du corps des femmes.” This statement constitutes one of the first public statements made by veiled women in their own names that invokes feminist values to criticize the femonationalist discourse of public authorities.

(135.) Les invités de Mediapart, “Lettre ouverte.”

(136.) Kassir and Reitz, “Protesting Headscarf Ban.”

(137.) Feminist union activist Josette Trat responded to what she considered false and phantom accusations, in Trat, “Les féministes blanches et l’empire ou le récit d’un complot féministe fantasmé.” For a criticism of the underlying essentialism that characterizes the arguments set forth in the book, see Perreau, Queer Theory.

(138.) Lépinard, “Doing Intersectionality.” Because the majority of French feminist organizations are run by white women, this means that a majority of white feminists (p.278) had trouble elaborating a critical discourse on the way secularism was being transformed in the name of women’s rights. However, as I document in chapter 5, opinions among racialized feminists were not uniform, with some in favor of the bans and others strongly opposed.

(139.) This social protest remains the longest (almost a month) and biggest (two million participants are estimated to have attended the December 12 demonstration) workers’ strike in recent French history.

(140.) Created in 1993, it broadly mobilized political parties and unions to lobby the government to create a new offense, délit d’entrave à l’avortement (crime of interference with abortion procedures)

(141.) Each new president of the Republic can provide amnesty for certain types of offenses. In 1995, newly elected president Jacques Chirac proposed to amnesty persons convicted of having interfered with abortion procedures.

(142.) But, in contrast, less active in the debate over gender parity in politics that took place at the same time (1998–2000)

(143.) The CNDF deplores the lack of involvement of participants, and its difficulties in recruiting new members as a side effect of the ebb in protest and social movement politics that characterizes the current austerity period.

(144.) In a similar way as radical feminists in the United States described by Roth, Separate Roads to Feminism. See Picq, Libération des femmes. In previous work on the French feminist movements I showed that inherited conceptions of gender oppression that left little place for intersectionality were tied to the structural place of the feminist movements of the second wave vis-à-vis the extreme Left and to the internal division (between radicals and “class struggle” trends of the movement). See Lépinard, “The Contentious Subject of Feminism.”

(146.) Oral communication in Benani, “Faire et écrire l’histoire.”

(147.) Collectif national pour les droits des femmes, En avant toutes!

(148.) Collectif national pour les droits des femmes, De nouveaux défis pour le féminisme, forum du Collectif national pour les droits des femmes.

(149.) To be noted, among these five pages dedicated to “Racism, xenophobia and discrimination against migrant women,” two are dedicated to Tunisian women discriminated against in Tunisia. As often in CNDF events, issues related to women in formerly colonized countries are bundled up with issues related to migrant/racialized women in France and articulated with concerns about American imperialism, the global rise of neoliberalism and neoconservatism, the alliance of religions at the global level against women, the Algerian civil war, radical political Islam and terrorism, etc. This tendency is also visible in Trat, “Les féministes blanches et l’empire ou le récit d’un complot féministe fantasmé.” See chapter 4 for details on how this international solidarity invisibilizes racial discrimination in France. For similar reflections about the French feminist movement in the 1970s and 1980s, see Vergès, Le ventre des femmes.

(150.) Collectif national pour les droits des femmes, De nouveaux défis pour le féminisme, forum du Collectif national pour les droits des femmes.

(151.) Paye, “Stop!”

(152.) During the 2004 march itself tensions were palpable between the official organizations, which were in favor of the law banning religious symbols in public schools, and veiled women who came to march; see the narrative given by one participant in Java, “La marche de toutes les femmes ?” A year later, similar events of violence against veiled women participating in the World March of Women in Marseilles were related; see Collectif des féministes pour l’égalité, “Pour les droits des femmes, contre les exclusions, pour un monde plus solidaire.”