No Women Allowed in the Cafés of Creil!

The following video contains excerpts from a “Dossier Tabou” documentary from October of 2017, showing the way women are de facto banned from streets and cafés in a neighborhood of Creil (a town 70km [45mi] north of Paris). The source was this video; Vlad and I simply converted the close-captioned version to full subtitles, so I am unable to credit a translator:

(For a previous documentary about the woman-free cafés of the banlieues, see this 2016 video.)

Video transcript:

00:00   Fatima, a mother of five, is a member of a collective of angry women
00:05   who started opposing oppressive men.
00:08   She would like to be able to come and go freely in her neighborhood,
00:12   go to the café, and simply live without being harassed.
00:18   Here in the Plateau [area of Creil, 70km (45mi) north of Paris] you’ll never see a girl enter
00:21   a café to drink a cup of coffee. The cafés are for men, not for women.
00:25   It has happened to me before, that I’ve been called a…
00:28   … I can’t say the word, it is vulgar…
00:31   Called a prostitute? —Er… not prostitute…
00:34   … more like whore, slut… —Whore? —Yes
00:37   You, a mother, are called a whore if you go to a café in your neighborhood?
00:41   Yes, in this area. Because women are made for cooking, not for going to the café.
00:47   Women are made for cleaning, [minding] kids…not for going out.
00:53   Well we can go grocery shopping, but not… …not to go out drink a coffee, that would be a problem.
00:58   Today, Fatima and her collective are going to carry a high-profile operation,
01:03   even if it makes the men from the area angry at them.
01:06   Hey, don’t forget your jacket.
01:09   She came here from Morocco 30 years ago.
01:13   She has seen the neighborhood change and had to give up the freedom
01:18   that was so attractive when she came to France.
01:25   I remember, we arrived here in 1989, and here it was different.
01:28   It was not the same mentality, not the same…
01:31   Seeing how people were living here, I thought
01:34   “That’s so great, now I too can do what I want!”
01:37   [Then] I was dressed casually, actually
01:40   Jeans, a little jacket, I had no veil…
01:46   At this time you did not wear a veil in public? —No, not at all.
01:50   I started wearing the veil when it all began, say around 2005.
01:56   So that… well, nobody bothers a ‘mother’… So that nobody…
02:02   From the early 2000s, Fatima watched as women of the area began to cover their heads
02:07   one after another. So she too adopted the dress code,
02:11   to escape men’s remarks. —The ideal city is freedom…
02:16   …[a place] where you find diversity and freedom.
02:19   and where you can be outside without fear,
02:22   without having to hide, where you can live freely, in fact.
02:32   The group of women with whom she will attempt to regain freedom is here.
02:42   Now that we’re here I can get comfortable.
02:50   Hello… —There are about 10 mothers who would like to regain access
02:54   to the streets and cafés of the neighborhood,
02:57   to be able to take a walk without being hassled by men.
03:02   …so here… Their leader is Rachida, of an Algerian background.
03:08   Like Fatima, she arrived here 30 years ago.
03:11   I think there are several places where action should be taken…
03:17   We want to be able to be in the streets, to be able to dress the way we want — there is that too,
03:25   also not having to keep our heads down, when we’re outside, but to hold them high,
03:31   also being able to take care of ourselves; that is important, too,
03:36   that is, before maybe I wouldn’t have dared to put on some lipstick.
03:42   That’s what is important to us. Let’s go.
03:46   They’re targeting the main street of the area to engage with men,
03:50   and ask them why they do not accept the presence of women on the street.
03:53   As a group, they feel stronger to confront them.
03:58   So as not impair their operations, we shoot discreetly with hidden cameras.
04:05   So this is it, rue Henri Dunant, a commercial road with lots of shops,
04:12   and we’ll head towards places where there are more and more men.
04:18   We women, we go as fast as we can, we do what we have to and then we go home…
04:25   This is not a place where I can have a break, breathe a little and stay; no,
04:32   it’s always rushing, there is a pressure.
04:35   Very quickly the group attracts the men’s attention.
04:40   yes, they are puzzled. We’re not doing anything wrong, hello…
04:47   Here it is the same, in the little teahouse, only men.
04:53   We’d like it too, having a little cafeteria or something like it,
04:56   to have a chat, have a break between us, that would be good.
05:01   The mere presence of these women is disturbing. On the sidewalks,
05:06   men gather and start following them.
05:11   …better keep going… yeah, let’s keep going.
05:14   We are monitored and super-spied on. We are being followed…
05:20   Do you want to take part? —We are explaining that
05:25   there are not as many women in the street as there used to be…
05:30   Don’t you agree?
05:33   Few women in the streets, and none in the cafés.
05:36   A café is not made for women unless she goes in a… on holiday.
05:40   On holiday, it happened that I went with my mother and we had a break in a restaurant,
05:44   that’s not too bad. —But here, in the neighborhood?
05:47   Here we are at the Plateau Rouher, the upper part of Creil. Here the community
05:51   is more of a Muslim community, believers.
05:54   It’s not people who drink beers when they like, or cocktails, like in Paris.
05:58   The women prefer to stay with their kids, in parks.
06:01   OK… safe places, where then can chat with other women, have fun, etc.
06:05   But in cafés, in the Islamic religion men and women cannot mix.
06:10   Women have a particular modesty, so they cannot do so.
06:14   How so!? —They cannot, that’s the way. That’s been the way for millennia.
06:18   Another man goes further… According to him, the issue comes from the women themselves.
06:23   No place is forbidden to women here. We haven’t said it was forbidden.
06:26   So maybe it is they who impose that ban on themselves,
06:29   and it is they who build that “shield” themselves.
06:32   It is forbidden for someone who respects her faith to enter such a place,
06:36   so it is not an issue due to men, from the start. See…
06:40   So it would be a cultural issue?
06:43   Exactly; that’s woman’s culture! —Will her husband accept her going to a café?
06:47   Herself, she won’t accept it because it is in contradiction with her religious morals.
06:52   Only one man comes to the defense of women.
06:56   It’s a misunderstanding. I am Muslim. I am practising; if I see a woman
06:59   entering a café, drinking coffee, there is nothing wrong.
07:02   Yup. —So why would I see that straight away as something wrong, or as a provocation on the part of
07:06   the woman, because there are men around? She can just be there to drink her coffee and then leave.
07:10   One shouldn’t have this misunderstanding, one should keep an open spirit,
07:15   and that guy who was talking, he was talking rubbish about this neighborhood, rubbish…
07:20   What does it mean? Women on one side, men on the other? No!
07:23   But in practice, there are indeed no women in the cafés around here.
07:29   And here again, men in the café there. Only lads.
07:35   Several years ago, I was shopping there, at the grocery shop over there, without any issue.
07:39   Now I don’t go.
07:42   For ten years I haven’t gone over there anymore.
07:45   Maybe you could go, as a group?
07:48   Maybe, but… we risk getting in troubles.
07:54   Being told “What are you doing here?”, “You shouldn’t be here.”
07:59   Yes… Especially at that place… oh, yes.
08:05   Suddenly, a man loses his temper.
08:08   Hey, the photographer! Who are you shooting, you? Go shoot elsewhere. What are you doing in here?
08:13   We’re going around on the street… —…the “submissive women” or something there…
08:16   No, no, we’re part of an association —What association,
08:19   what do you… —They are locals, from Creil…
08:22   —Do you want our mothers to start drinking coffee with men? Is that your “association”?!
08:25   That’s what people are saying. You want our mothers to start sitting with the men?
08:29   They are not “submissive”, our mothers… No, it’s these ladies here… And stop bringing
08:33   your French mentality here, because here all is going well, all is well. Our mothers live well!
08:37   Alhamdulillah [praise be to God], we respect our mothers, everybody respects… Do you want
08:41   our mothers to sit with old men drinking coffee?
08:44   That’s not the way we are educated; don’t bring your education here!
08:47   Here all is well, like it always has been.
08:51   And here we are, that gives you a glimpse…
08:54   According to some, not the majority, but it’s more and more like this.
08:58   “How dare you impose European ways on us!”
09:02   French ways, Dutch ways, Italian ways.
09:05   “How dare you inflict them on us, when we have our own culture!”
09:08   What they have not understood is that you can have your culture,
09:11   but you have to adjust to the rules of the country where you live!
 

9 thoughts on “No Women Allowed in the Cafés of Creil!

  1. I am wondering: what is Fatima’s husband’s position on all this?
    And have they thought of moving to a French suburb or town?

  2. I am not sure I see the point of what they did. They didn’t confront. They didn’t defy the rules. Only the one guy was confrontational. They did not illustrate to me that there is a real threat. They have “complied” for 10 years. The problem is that first step of complying. what were they thinking then? what made them become submissive? Why did all of them not take off their headgear? They may have illustrated a point for the video. But they did nothing to advance their cause. I think they are waiting for someone to do it for them.

  3. There are many contradictory reasons offered by these men as to why women can’t sit in a café with men: women are “safe” only when they associate only with other women; “in the Islamic religion men and women cannot mix”; women’s “modesty”—of course; women impose this ban on themselves; it’s cultural.

    And, my favourite: “a café is not made for women.” If that’s true, then why did Allah perversely give women a taste for coffee?

    These men choose whichever excuse they think will suit the circumstances, while proclaiming that, of course, they are not in any way excluding women from visiting cafés—it’s entirely out of their hands.

    Refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions is also a cultural trait.

  4. These women are beat before they start. As a group, they gather in secret to complain and build interest, but the moment they go out on the street, they capitulate. Most of them immediately put their headscarf on again.

    Their internal conflict defeats them. They insist that they want to be Muzzies (which means that they accept all the associated foolishness), but they want freedom as well. It is not possible to have it both ways.

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