The Risky Business of French Feminism: Publishing, Politics, and Artistry

Hardback
The Risky Business of French Feminism: Publishing, Politics, and Artistry examines the institutional history of the publishing house Editions des Femmes as well as its relationship to the French Women's Liberation Movement (MLF) from 1972 to the present. The founding and subsequent success of Editions des Femmes in the publishing milieu intensified the ideological divisions within the MLF and highlighted the extent to which that movement failed to adequately reflect on the power inherent in its recourse to print culture as an agent of change. In particular, Editions des Femmes produced several periodical publications and pioneered a woman-centered subculture that attached militant political meanings to the practice of buying and publishing books. While the MLF succeeded in changing legislation detrimental to women, it was not able to create unified cultural politics or construct a long-term media strategy that could preserve the movement's original ideals and unity. Jennifer L. Sweatman explores the long-term dissipation of the MLF as a unified force not only as an outcome of ideological disagreement, but also due to conflicting views on culture, women's creativity as a strategy for empowerment, and the utility of media for creating change. As the MLF fragmented, unable to fully come to terms with its various consumer identities, its need for capital to support creative projects, and its difficult experience with collective decision-making, the Editions des Femmes' project was seen as incredibly controversial. However, Editions des Femmes embodied a broader strategy for cultural transformation that privileged women's creative works rather than feminism, situating it as a successful forerunner of the revitalization of the publishing industry from below as small, independent houses challenged the large, media conglomerate control of the industry.