Feminist Travels… Chapter 1: Paris

As we get well into the Summer, holidays are on everyone’s mind and for a long time I have been thinking about ways of making my travels more feminist. Recently, thinking about my upcoming trip to Paris, I decided to put this into action. Here’s my feminist guide to Paris – or an attempt at it before I go at least! So do send me any suggestions you might have and I might have missed.

The idea of feminist Paris first started germinating in my mind when I heard about the scare to the Marguerite Durand library a couple of years ago – the collection was at risk of being lost, around the same time that the Feminist Library in London was, and that’s how I found out about it, as we signed the letter of support joining in our struggle to save women’s histories (or herstories). Thanks to international sisterhood and solidarity, both resources were saved in the end! And now that I’m going back to Paris – for my first ever feminist visit! – their feminist library is top of my list of things to do.

While I was exploring what else to put on my list of feminist Paris, I found feminist guided tours around the city – and I will be signing up to one of them! And a feminist Paris guide book (not in English yet, but I hope it will be when I’m there!). Most of them, however, focus on great women of Paris – which is great and, after some digging, does help with my project of trying to find more feminist spaces in Paris. I think it is worth just listing the ones here for any other feminists planning a trip to the city and interested in women’s history:

Women of Paris is run in English, so it will likely be my choice of these, and it also has a new ‘Sugar & Spice’ version – focusing on women writers and pastry shops! 🙂 Run by a Londoner, Heidi Evans, I expect it will be full of fascinating fun facts – and we can exchange tips about feminist London at the end of it! I have just checked their website again and it appears they have a new tour added – a wine tasting tour! I know what I’m booking myself onto. If you’re still not convinced, read this one woman’s entertaining account of the tour in the Independent to get more a feel for it.

On the back of this article, I have found out about Espace des Femmes – a gallery and bookstore started back in 1972, in the early days of the Women’s Liberation Movement, by one Antoinette Fouque, as Bibliotheque des Voix – the first collection of audiobooks in France.

There are some other feminist tours to pick from – on themes from street art to matrimony! You can check them out on the Feminists of Paris pages – they seem to be the group responsible for most, if not all, of the others.*

If you prefer to explore Paris, from a feminist perspective, by yourself, I have also found out about: Musee Curie – a museum based around the lab and office that Marie Curie worked and made her discoveries in. I have also found out about another French feminist bookshop – Violette & Co.

And, last but not least, coming to Paris soon, is COVEN – a feminist (English language!) bookshop and café. I hope it starts by the time I’m there! I’m messaging them now to find out!

I have written this guide for myself, as much as for all of you, to help me get my head around all of my research into feminist Paris and to plan my trip. I’d love it if you got in touch if you wanted to add something, or tell me about any other fabulous feminist spaces to put on my radar!

*I have since been and come back from Paris. The Feminists of Paris tour I went to was the rebellious women one, and I can definitely recommend it – I have never been at a tour where so much engaging discussion was had, and it culminated in a very welcome and unexpected surprise – we visited 59 Rivoli: Aftersquat, an art space in the centre of Paris occupied by small, independent, activist artists, including – the reason for our visit – Vic-Oh, an artist inspired by women’s bodies and the vulva in particular.

We have also visited Espace des Femmes – the bookshop was all French language, so I couldn’t get reading, but the space itself was worth seeing (the shop is spacious and full of info about what’s going on in Parisian feminism), and I left with a gorgeous new tote to add to my collection 🙂 The gallery space in the back was through a really lovely small garden and in it we found an exhibition inspired by matriarchal totems – what’s not to love! On the way there, we also discovered it was based in a district that was absolutely full of small, independent art galleries, so well worth having a stroll around there if you’re into art.

I will be writing more on the theme of feminist travels, and other places, here soon. Watch this space.

In the meantime, I just found this blog also talking about feminist travel, with a focus on feminist libraries and archives around the world. Also, check out my post on feminist London and the Glorious Return of Feminist Spaces. While blogging, I am also creating an online archive on feminist spaces – please be in touch if you have something interesting to share.

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