Gendered Violence

Angèle: Balance ton Quoi

In francophone countries, the #MeToo-movement expressed itself using the hashtag #BalanceTonPorc, which can loosely be translated as “denounce your pig”, where pig stands for the perpetrators of sexual abuse and aggression against women. With Balance ton Quoi, Angèle places herself at the centre of this discussion.

Balance ton quoi both captures and exposes double standards within the #MeToo-debate. Firstly, the song starts with the observation that “they all speak like animals, pottymouthing all the pussies”1. By maintaining that men speak like animals about pussies, Angèle shows how the objectified percep- tion of women (i.e. the reduction of women to chattes, i.e. pussies) differs from the perception of men (who merely act like animals). This difference in perception is an example of a broader class of divisive structures that Vergès identifies in our social world, a class of structures that produce a “division between a humanity considered entitled to protection and those (almost by nature) excluded from it.” (Vergès 2022).

That men are the ones deemed worthy of protection produces an issue that can be retraced in Balance ton Quoi, namely, the excessive emphasis on and concern about the aesthetics of the political debate that often absolves men from the obligation of engaging with the actual content of the debate. From a theoretical standpoint, this can be understood in terms of Rancière’s notion of the distribution of the sensible, the political constellation of what is sayable and unsayable, of who is worthy of speaking and of being heard, seen, and being taken seriously. (Rancière 2004). Indeed, Angèle explicitly states that she will not be invited to speak on radio stations, because her words are not very nice, and, moreover, states that she will remain polite on television, implying that the opportunity to speak on the issue hinges on the very choice of her words.2. Evidently, however, the real problem at hand is not the way in which the issue is raised, but the issue itself. The emphasis on form over content which derives from the differential perception of men as subjects to be protected, however, reinforces their position within the already existing patriarchal structure.

There are also other, more implicit manners in which this double standard, this skewed distribution of the sensible, is brought to light in Balance ton Quoi. Firstly, the song has myriad instances of deliberate self-censorship: the replacement of the word “porc” for the word “quoi” (i.e. what) throughout the song, and the decision to never finish the sentence “to go fuck oneself ”3. Additionally, this can also be seen in the stylistic choices in the song: melodically, the song sounds girly, light-hearted, and at times even happy. Angèle sings with a highly pitched voice presenting herself in a non-threatening, innocent, almost infantile, “traditional” feminine manner. The intention seems clear, however: by embracing the role relegated to women within the distribution of the sensible, as being worthy of speaking and of being heard only when presenting themselves in such a non-threatening manner, Angèle (re)aestheticises the demands of the #BalanceTonPorc-protesters by establishing herself as an interlocutor worthy of being heard.

While this recentring of the political debate on the content instead of the form is certainly useful, there is, however, room for criticism. Angèle’s method of transposing a “traditional” notion of feminity onto the #BalanceTonPorc-discussion excludes victims of sexual violence that do not and/or cannot be embedded within this prescribed notion of feminity, like black, working class women, who are not traditionally seen as non-threatening or girly, but rather as e.g. aggressive. We argue with Vèrges that any “conversation about women’s protection from systemic violence cannot adopt a binary female victim/male perpetrator approach”(Vergès 2022), because such an approach is blind to the axes of race and class. In excluding these axes from consideration, one remains within the logic of racial and class domination, and therefore, ultimately, preserves a system of dominance centred around them.

Stephan Loor


1 In French: Ils parlent tous comme des animaux, de toutes les chattes ça parle mal
2 In French: Ouais je passerai pas à la radio, parce que mes mots sont pas très beaux. (…) Ouais je serai polie pour la télé.
3 In French: aller te faire en-hmmmm.

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