This year within our program of feminist philanthropy we tried to bring you voices and thoughts of women who inspire and motivate us. From their angles they look at the changes concerning women’s rights. It is a great pleasure that we had in speaking with Brigitte Cirla, actress, singer and founder of association Voix Polyphoniques, which works with polyphonic and a capella singing. With her voice Brigitte moves boundaries and with her words she reminds us about permanent reflection and struggle.
Why is it so important to organize feminist gatherings and festivals?
Because I feel we live in a historical moment of huge regression for women rights. All these basic rights that our mothers obtained through stubborn fights are in danger, there is a fear of loosing them again – the right to abortion, contraception, choosing our lives, our sexuality. This regression is obvious also in the working area: for instance in France, in the field of living arts, Reine Prat made a report in 2004 about the representation of women in jobs with responsibilities and decision power in living arts: directors of conservatoires, national theatre, dance centers, etc… the scores were amazing – more than 90% of men.
My country is so proud of being the country having written and voted human rights! Of course it is a country where there is a democracy, and there is a possibility to work for women’s issues, but the so called «glass ceiling» in living arts and elsewhere is transparent but present and active. For years, in my area, I was considered as the «feminist one» and it had a kind of «amusing» and a bit condescending connotation. I always claimed I was a feminist and that I was not ashamed of it since this movement had no blood on the hands like others movements whose name was ending with «ism», like Stalinism or Fascism… We have to be feminist since the job is not done yet. There is no choice.
Why do you think it is important to invest money in women’s human rights? And into artists?
It’s not important, it is determinant. When you think of all the money invested in weapons, economy and most of all black economy… One of the most profitable incomes is from the trade of human beings and who are they: mostly women.
It is why it is so important to show that one could invest in the creativity of women, and also because in many parts of the world they are not allowed to express themselves, not even to create, and in other countries, our western countries the access to equal rights is still not so evident.
Also historically the few who could create despite the conditions and the difficulties in former times are not recorded in the art history and especially in literature, theatre and music.
And now look at the programmes of theatres, concerts halls, libraries and try this game : how many feminine composers, theatre writers are there? How many works (of music or theatre) written by women are performed or broadcasted… Same applies in the field of movies. You will have an amazingly poor result. The trick is that some specific women are put in the light and specially in movies and in music industry (the ones who make profit). BUT these women have to be beautiful, smiling, fit, sexy, most of the time blond and not aging!!
Women are the only ones who can reverse the preconceived image, and this is why it has to be supported: women working upon different images, provocative women, destroying this false image, showing and proud of different bodies, different ages, and different sexuality. We have to support «the bad women» who crash down this image which we all fight with in our lives.
Do you think it is important to have feminist foundations and do you know them?
As an artist I’m very defiant with the concept of gender in artistic fields. I don’t believe in a feminine creativity which would be different by the fact I’m a woman. Who knows now who is woman or man, is it so clear? I believe we are all influenced by the cultural, political, economic etc…. environment and that determines the way we think, we act, we create… I don’t believe the artistic acts are disconnected from our reality. But I changed my mind in front of what happens in the world and because I know woman rights are again in danger. So yes I do think it is important to have feminist foundation supporting women‘s work. I don’t know many of them.
But being part of the process of creating Magdalena Project was one way. It has been very important in my life to be part of this process, to exchange and think and work with all these women of different nationalities and realities. It gives meaning to the question: why women are always considered a danger, a threat? Why?
What is the concept of solidarity for you?
It is a burning issue at the moment. It becomes obvious for many of us that there is no other alternative than solidarity.
Look at the problem of refugees in Europe. It is not true we cannot welcome them. We had welcomed much more in the past. Migrations have been bigger after the 2nd World War. France is a rich country and part of its richness comes from the diversity of people who belong to the French nation. We can welcome them, we won’t be neither poorer nor in danger. These are lies. What is more threatening is the male childish egoistic behaviour of people «ruling the world» and behaving like excited children in a school yard. They will bring back the wars, they are already doing that.
I do believe our virtue, of us women artists but also of us as women is our ability of supporting, helping each other, and in the knowing that we need to value little, concrete things in our everyday life, in our work. The Magdalena Project is one way, and there are many others.
One of the things I saw most alive and present in all women I have met (artists or not) is the ability to resist. Each of us had to face the discrimination in our life because we were women, and I believe it has reinforced the capacity of resistance. We do have to support each other, there is no other way than solidarity and that will be our most important weapon in the future. It has been and is maybe one of most important aspects of the Magdalena Project.