LES CHRONIQUES MAUVES – Lesbian stories, women’s lives

The graphic novel, Les Chroniques mauves,  took interest in a matter that sometimes causes debate but no real discussion: the relationship between lesbianism and feminism in French society. Even before that marriage was legalized, several generations of lesbians came together, helped each other and loved each other in this comic-strip saga

chronicleLes Chroniques mauves is an episodic comic series, written by an author, but drawn by a group of illustrators (Soizick Jaffre, Carole Maurel, CAB, La Grande Alice et Louise Mars). From the 1950s in Britain to the Gay Pride Parade in Paris in 2011, the graphic novel depicts the life stories and parallel adventures of several generations of lesbian feminists. In search of their sexual identity, in a quest for love or suffering because of social injustice or the ravages of AIDS, those anonymous women finally find a voice to express the desires and troubles of a very discreet community.

Catherine Feunteun, founder of the production company CatPeople Production and writer of the book, was kind enough to answer some of our questions.

Damien Bouhours – Why do you think we talk so little about the French lesbian community?
Catherine Feunteun – For me it’s quite simple: a lesbian is in a double relegation, first she is a woman in a society that still has a long way to go for equality, and then she is a lesbian, which is a status that puts it back into a position where she sometimes has to defend her rights. More than a heterosexual woman, she must “justify” her choices constantly.

dykeLesbians are usually women who have learned “to defend themselves.” I tend to say that women are strong and tough! I say this with a certain tenderness. Though lately the lesbians were at the front on the issues of gay marriage and gay parenting, they were at the heart of the debate, and received honors (the movie which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes this year was based on a lesbian comic Le Bleu est une couleur chaude from Julie Maroh), gay people are still less inhibited and more visible than lesbians. In the fighting on the street … etc. But we often forget that gays are men! They do not have to ask the question of their legitimacy “as a man” in society. To simplify a bit, there is some truth in saying that lesbians prefer their private lives to stay private. Yes, I really think most still follow the old adage which states that living happy means living hidden. That is less true for younger lesbians, who seem to be going very well! They are inventive, sparkling, funny and they look very much happy to live and are well integrated in an environment where they have gay, straight, girls, boys friends… They also seem to have a more harmonious relationship with the social body, and with their parents and family. This is less true for older generations, who usually maintain more divisive relationships with men and the “patriarchal society”. In fact, these women have had to fight constantly, so that the young generations can now enjoy their lives.

purpleWhat do you think of the debate that took place in France on gay marriage?
We released Les Chroniques mauves few months before the debate. In the comics, a couple of lesbians has contracted a civil union, it seems clear that today they would choose marriage because they have a young child. In the comics, the child is called Leo and his father is a gay friend. The choice of course is for me, as a writer, a real position on the subject. I openly chose to give this child a father, a gay father who is the co-educator for little Leo with his two lesbian moms. So I did not make the choice of a MAP (Medically Assisted Procreation,) with an unknown father. I assume it totally! In fact, I have relied on two or three examples of lesbian couples around me who are raising a child. It’s going very well, children are beautiful, bright and happy in their home setting. In short, they live a little as if they had divorced parents, but the big difference is that their parents love and respect each other a lot and have decided of this lifelong project. This changes everything …

And that’s what I wanted to say no matter the configuration, it is essential that a child is loved by loving and caring adults around him. From there, you can even consider it better to be raised by attentive grandparents than by parents who tear each other apart.

lipstickThe debate has often overlooked this parameter: it was too Manichean. One ideal couple: a father and a mother, which is a very good system also, but against all other kinds of “couples” or family configurations. Seeing things like that, it’s to completely forget the essential: a child can grow up in a context “Dad and Mom” harmful and destructive for him …
For years now, I have resolved this issue, and after the debate I have not changed my mind: love and attention of adults remain the essential thing for the well-being of a child.

One last thing though: the French are criticized for extending the debate on marriage and homosexual parenting. Already, I think it was obvious that this debate would be lively! I am surprised that some people among LGBT activists may have had the naivety to think that it would pass easily. Personally I am not afraid of tough debates, and I much prefer that homophobia is expressed, because at least you know what to expect. Then it seems that the delicate issue of this debate (even in its most trashy events) has never been the marriage in fact, but the issue of children. It is around this that fears, tensions, fantasies have crystallized (pedophilia of gay people etc …). Maybe I’ll offend people by saying this, but for me, it had to be said. A national debate is sometimes very rough, but I’m sure it was necessary. The unsaid is always worst in the long run.

What I think is that more and more homosexual couples are raising and will raise children. This will become “normal” . These children will have exactly the same aspirations and values … of all children! And besides, they have really been desired. It just takes a little time. I’m optimistic. Anyway, the most extreme stereotypes and disapprovals will not change.

What do you see as the next fights for feminists and lesbians?
Clearly two things: equality between men and women. Lesbians often push, pull, debate and continuously point out the real issues. Lesbians do not bury the awkward questions.
And as I said: parenthood. These same-sex couples will demonstrate that it is the love, respect and balance of parents which is the most important for a child, not sexuality, gender or tradition. The traditional family system is not often questioned, except by lesbian women with their desire for parenthood.

What are your next projects?
Write more stories with lesbians in it, or not!

Published on lepetitjournal.com

Order a hard copy or subscribe to the digital version of the book on the website (only in French for now): http://www.leschroniquesmauves.com