‘the Veiler and the Rapist': Muslim Masculinity and the ‘Feminist' French Republic

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:22 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Kiran GREWAL , University of Sydney, University of Sydney, Australia
In the early 2000s in France an intense and highly emotive public debate took place around a phenomenon called ‘les tournantes’ – a slang term for gang rapes that were allegedly widespread in banlieues (poor housing estates) around Paris. What started as a well-publicised march by women of the banlieues under the banner of Ni Putes Ni Soumises(‘Neither Sluts nor Submissives’) protesting sexism and violence soon became entwined with debates about Islam, immigration and the future of the French Republic. This was further aided by another round of ‘hijab’ laws (first introduced in the late 1980s) in 2004 banning girls from wearing hijabs in French schools and various panics around an increase in radical Islam in the banlieues. The image of the young Muslim man as a deviant ‘veiler and rapist’ became ubiquitous in the French popular imaginary.

France is not the only country to have experienced this problematisation and pathologisation of Muslim masculinities but its particular brand of Republican political rhetoric has affected the ways in which this discourse has been constructed. This paper examines a range of texts (media, cinematic, autobiographical/testimonial literature), which sought to represent and reflect on les tournantes. In doing this, this paper seeks to contextualise the popular debate in France against the backdrop of discourses of French Republican values and the colonial legacies, which continue to haunt France’s relationship with its Muslim population.