Inspiring Thursday: Caroline De Haas
Founder of the French collective #NousToutes, Caroline De Haas is a feminist activist who focuses on ending gender-based and sexual violence by raising public awareness and challenging the country’s political leaders through actions on social media, and with the largest march against gender-based violence in France for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Caroline De Haas studied contemporary history at the University of Lyon 2 and obtained her master’s degree at the University of Paris-Nanterre. However, it is not her studies that are relevant here but her extensive experience in the field of voluntary work. As soon as she entered the university, Caroline was involved in Amnesty International, the Petits Frères de Pauvres, the Scouts Unitaires and the French Students National Union where she was elected to the Lyon regional office. She then became more interested in feminism and joined the association Osez le féminisme ! (Dare to be a feminist!) where she will be the spokesperson for 3 years. Finally, in reaction to the #MeToo movement that exploded in France in October 2017, the activist will found the #NousToutes collective to fight against sexist and sexual violence in the country. She becomes one of the main French feminist faces and will lead two marches against sexist violence in 2018 and 2019 which bring together 150,000 people. These are the largest gatherings ever seen for this cause.
At the same time, Caroline is very active in the political field. She started as an activist in the Young Socialist Movement before joining the Socialist Party as press officer for Benoît Hamon’s spokesperson, until 2012. After the election of the same year and the creation of a Ministry of Women’s Rights, she was appointed advisor for relations with associations and the fight against gender-based violence for one year. She was in charge of leading awareness-raising sessions on gender equality issues for government ministers. She then left the Socialist Party because of the lack of debate within it, a situation that did not correspond at all to her values. Since then, she has continued to support feminist and environmentalist candidates in the presidential primaries and legislative elections.
“Each and every one of us has immense power: the power to speak out to convince and to intervene to stop violence. And if there are thousands, even hundreds of thousands of us, we can make it stop.”
Fight against sexist and sexual violence
The Collective #NousToutes, born in 2018 as an informal non-violent collective focused solely on the fight against gender-based and sexual violence. It is mobilized against economic, psychological, verbal, physical or sexual violence and focused on action, training activists, and raising awareness throughout society. It gathers today 10 thousand people and is supported by more than 80 associations trade unions and politicians.
The COVID-19 pandemic arrives in March 2020, and as the whole world, France starts a national lockdown. It is then impossible to carry out face-to-face activities and the collective starts setting up online training. More than 20,000 people participate and are formed gender-based violence issues. #NousToutes is still running trainings on rape culture, non-violence behaviour, as well as gender-based violence practices and history every week.
The latest news? On the 4th of March 2021, the published the guide En finir avec les violences sexistes et sexuelles (Ending gender-based violence). The guide is an action manual to give everyone the tools to end gender-based violence. As she says, “each and every one of us has immense power: the power to speak out to convince and to intervene to stop violence. And if there are thousands, even hundreds of thousands of us, we can make it stop.” She believes that changing the patriarchal world requires three steps: identify, understand, act. This strategy is explained in the book. All royalties go to #NousToutes.
In France, 93 000 women are victims of rape or attempted rape per year. 9 in 10 women knows the perpetrator.
Caroline De Haas is considered by the right-wing and conservatives as an extremist feminist and as such her words are often criticised and considered controversial. The activist proposes a 6-step mechanism to reverse the violence that a victim of violence experiences. These steps are to tell the victim:
- I believe you, to reverse the isolation of the victim
- You did well to tell me about it, to revalorize the person
- You have nothing to do with it
- He is the culprit, to put the guilt in the right place
- The law prohibits it
- I will help you
These points are very criticized because they remove the presumption of innocence from the potential perpetrator by directly believing the victim, a concept greatly cherished by the French.
Likewise, Caroline De Haas created, with Pauline Chabbert, Egae, a consulting, training, and communication agency with expertise in equality between women and men, the fight against discrimination, diversity, and the prevention of gender-based and sexual violence. The group intervenes through personalized support and advice training for public organizations and is highly criticized because of their “cancel culture” method and harassment practices to condemn potential perpetrators in the work environment.
Finally, simply her words are regularly debated, especially when it comes to talking about perpetrators of violence. For instance, in an interview for L’Obs, a French magazine, she said “One in two women is a victim of sexual violence. In the majority of cases, by someone close to her. So that means that there are many abusers. One in two, one in three? I don’t know. Many.” This has generated a lot of hatred. What was her response? “What I find most interesting about this is how disturbing, how uncomfortable it makes us say that we know an abuser, or even several. Maybe that’s a sign that we’ve hit the nail on the head.”
Written by WAVE Intern Raphaëlle Jouannic
Read our last inspiring Thursday: Sadako Ogata
Caroline De Haas and #NousToutes on social media:
Facebook: (10) Nous Toutes | Facebook