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Video: Feminists disrupt Paris music presentations

A group calling itself La Barbe (the beard) heckled the presentation of the new season at the Salle Pleyel,  demanding more women conductors and soloists.

The head of the Orchestre de Paris, Bruno Hamard, replied that one-third of his orchestra’s membership were women, and the same proportion prevailed at the radio philharmonic orchestra.

Public sympathy is said t have run with the protestors. The same group, masked and bearded previously barracked the season launch of the Paris Opéra (below), where they were howled off by chauvinist journalists.

Perhaps La Barbe should be asking why almost all opera houses and orchestra in France are run by men.

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  1. this was two weeks ago … The audience reaction was pretty clear.

  2. “La Barbe” means the beard, of course, but it is also something you can say when you are bored. Not colloquial, but familiar. An online dictionary suggests this translation: “What a pain (in the neck)!”
    Obviously, most of the audience agreed with this.

  3. “Perhaps La Barbe should be asking why almost all opera houses and orchestra in France are run by men.”

    That’s exactly the question they are asking!

    It should be pointed out that in their interventions, they don’t “demand” anything. They ironically present themselves as supporters of the male cause, “congratulating” the programmers on having succeeded, yet again, in keeping the artistic world largely run by men. Raising awareness seems to be their goal first and foremost.

  4. Graf Nugent says:

    …Yawn…this feels like 1969 all over again.

  5. Having been born in 1969 Graf, I hope not!

    On a more serious note, this kind of feminist protest does nothing to further the cause of women.

    Women need to get jobs due to merit rather than ‘diva strops’. By women behaving in such a fashion they also cheapen the role of the stay at home mother. There are those who choose to do this (and do so inspite of being intelligent and well qualified, due to moral convictions, and for the good of their children) and as a result emasculate men who take on the role of stay at home dads.

    No-one, neither a man or a woman can truly have their cake and eat it if they want to have a balanced life relating to those around them. In my experience, men respect a woman if you are nice to them, kind, get jobs done, and show respect back.

    I sing, teach and fit this around my two children (both boys). I have an Upper Second Class honours degree in Music, and a Licenciate Diploma in Singing. When I conduct an orchestra (and I have done in an amateur capacity) I have to have prepared my score in great detail, demonstrate understanding and empathy to the players, give clear rehearsal directions, plan the rehearsal and stick to timings, and keep a cool head throughout the rehearsal. Being prepared to go for a pint with the players afterward tends to go down well too.
    For some reason throwing a wobbly does not cut it. It just annoys the orchestra members.

    To “La Barbe” do you think that the average man wants to work with a stroppy woman? I know they don’t.

    • Stroppy: “Easily offended or annoyed; ill-tempered or belligerent”. Where exactly do the women of La Barbe behave this way? If anything they seem calm and sereen. They’re just making their point. I, as a man, take note.

      Somehow I read from your post that women should conform to a certain image in order to be accepted by men. Why is this? The utterly professional attitude you describe is valid for anybody, women as well as men. Why should women then have to worry in particular about having to be acceptable to men? Oh yeah, because men occupy leading positions just about everywhere. That is the whole point.

      Of course, nobody is suggesting (least of all La Barbe) that women should get jobs based on anything else than merit, or that stay-at-home women are somehow inferior.

      Just to be clear, I am in no way affiliated to this movement.

      • I agree with you completely with one caveat, they are making a protest, which is in its self a belligerent act, when the enjoyment of others is affected however outwardly calm and serene. Men take note, women are cunning. I should know, I am one.

        The standards required need to really be equal and not ‘special’.

        Sensitivity needs to be granted on the basis of need, not gender. La Barbe may not be inferring on this occasions that anything else other than merit should be the criteria for gaining employment, however that is not what I hear and what I see on a day-to-day basis.

        On the issue of being a stay-at-home parent. I freelance around being a stay-at-home parent. There are times I most certainly do feel inferior. This is not due to the job I do, but due to how my family is taxed, and how it affects our standard of living. I’ve heard similar comments from other skilled stay-at-home parents who freelance men and women. I’m lucky I work in something where I can remain at home when I am needed by my children.

        • They are making a protest, true, but do so by “disrupting” the presentation of the new season, not at a performance – which would have been a lot more violent, I agree.

          On the “special” note: I think this is also one of the main points, namely that a woman excelling in art or science has for a long time been regarded (and often still is) as something special, peculiar almost, an exception to the comforting rule that men are “naturally” the original thinkers and leaders of this world. Real equality would be where everyone is judged on his or her merits, not on being the exception to some imaginary rule. The question is, how to get there. Judging from the reactions in the audience, there’s still a long way to go…

  6. Hurray for the women who have the guts and imagination to speak up.Opera in particular has been disgustingly chauvinist since its origins, that is to say in Monteverdi’s own work. The Coronation of Poppea is repulsively, anti-feminist, all about women fighting over men, and a brutal tyrant deciding who will win or lose. Almost all opera texts place a single woman on a pedestal while degrading women per se as a class.
    Bravo to the Paris Opera to allow La Barbe a full 5 minutes to present its case. In New York City, say at the MET, the cops and security guards would have whisked them off in 2 minutes flat. In the US there is a very sharp distinction between the “fantasy world” on the stage, and the puritanicl discipline imposed on the “public world”.

  7. Fabio Fabrici says:

    When I look around, in my world nowhere are competent women stopped or discriminated against. Actually at some places (public employers) they are even preferred. France is not different.

  8. So Poppea was Nero’s wife, and in Opera the Prima Donna has the tendency of ending up mad, dead or both.

    Using another phrase known and applied to and by women. “If you don’t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

    No-one is paying one to see Opera; indeed the ticket price is rather high.
    Chauvinism and Misogynism are both things that us women get accused of throwing at men on our own accords.

    The Zeitgeist of the Baroque,Classical and Romantic periods being historic there is nothing that can be done by any self-serving feminist or feminist sympathiser to change it. Better to accept the spirit of ages past, and concentrate on the here and now.

    Nero was mass murdering Emperor, who to all accounts was vile. Monteverdi’s music however, is sublime. In Berg’s Wozzeck, Wozzeck is a crazy disturbed soul who murders his wife; Berg composed a masterpiece. Does one not perform the work because the subject is challenging? Of course not!

  9. It’s nice to finally see a classical music equivalent of the Gorilla Girls in the visual arts. See:

    • Dr. Marc Villeger says:

      What’s good for the goose will be acceptable for the gander then… So we won’t read the usual posts complaining when some quartet performance gets heckled because of their country of origin. Glad we got that one out of the way. Next? Are quartets predominantly white racists? Let’s heckle the Ebene boys hey?
      La barbe indeed!

  10. Helen Tuckey says:

    Bravo for them!! It’s easy to forget that the vote for women wasn’t won by response to polite requests and reasonableness, but by women who repeatedly risked public humiliation and even gave their lives bringing their protest into the discomfort of the public eye. I applaud these women, and also the Gorilla Girls. If there truly were equal opportunities in all areas and stages, we would be seeing 50/50 happening naturally everywhere, and working conditions reflecting inclusivity rather than male norms. For every hour I’ve worked as a fulltime professional violist in the past 35 years, less than 1 minute would be working under a female manager, conductor, concert master, section principal, all in an organisation allegedly free of overt discrimination. Just the same lame excuses and lack of understanding of attribution theory, weak human resource leadership by successive managements and rule of the jungle in the arts, under the guise of pandering to the mystique of “artistic merit” (= old/new boys club) Encore, encore!!!! let’s open the windows on our stuffy profession …

  11. Mr Lisker, “Almost all opera texts place a single woman on a pedestal whilst degrading women per se as a class” ?? Quite a generalization there…………Having sung many leading roles, as a woman…….it has been a pleasure and a privilege to practically own the evening and in this area, I would say the female/male balance is a good one.

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