The Politics of Female Sexuality in French Cinema

The complexity and je ne sai quoi of French women in film.

When I first started to appreciate film, I was a freshman in college who ventured into film studies after buying the Criterion Collection release of Jean Luc Godard's Breathless (1960) in an empty Barnes and Noble. I bought the film because I had several unused gift cards, and because I thought the sleeve of the DVD seemed artistic and cool in an unapproachable way, and that my buying it would signal my own unapproachable, artistic vibes I was fumbling with at the time. Watching the film proved to be a similar experience, a type of "Oh…I get why it's groundbreaking" admiration coupled with my own envy for the sheer style, albeit the anarchist philosophy of the story and characters. I had discovered European cinema, the French New Wave and all of its cigarettes, Anna Karina, tracking shots, and later, as my budding film studies progressed, Italian Neorealism.

I'll spare you my journey with Godard because my enchantment with European movies seemed strongest with female directors, the women who are now grouped in with the men of the French New Wave, the women who were there the entire time, writing and directing films about women. Agnes Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) is cited as a hallmark movie of the movement, but I suppose her addition to the male club is more of a glaring reminder of the directorial gender gap in the sixties onward. Cleo from 5 to 7 is about, in brief, a beautiful woman coming to terms with her expiration date, courtesy of a cancer diagnosis. Her existential crisis is a commentary on how women are told again and again that our bodies are the basis from which we are given value, power, and in Cleo's case, life. I always found the movie to be a poetic note for all women that our time is limited, but not measured by the elasticity of our flesh.

I remember the lethargy I felt watching Chantal Akerman's Je, Tu, Il, Elle (1974), a film that features a mattress, a woman, and not much else. In the moments when Akerman leaves the camera static, the film exudes the energy of the young filmmaker exploring her own promiscuity and nuanced behavior. In retrospect, I think these films taught me how to write about feminism through the context of visual narratives, but I also realize—and certainly appreciate—that these films attempted to find power in characters who were aloof, or passive to their own budding agency. These directors were exploring the reality of the female body as a complex and unflinching force, and the intensity of discovering one's agency in a world eager to categorize, sexualize, and police that agency.

It's hard to depict what a feminine power looks like when so much of cinema has been made by men for men, with women accessorizing the narratives and screens. Éléonore Pourriat's The Oppressed Majority (2010) attempts to subvert this familiar patriarchy by imagining a society in which men are cat-called, objectified, and harassed while walking down the street. It's a sharp, satirical enactment of the woman experience, with men starring as the leading ladies. It's not as simple as saying these directors celebrate womanhood or femininity (as so many superficial American films do); often, it's the inverse, with characters who are anxiety-ridden to extent of animalistic neurosis.

What are celebrated in these films is the need to want, the need to desire, and how indulging this selfishness is innately human. In order to want, something, or someone, or someplace has to become an object of affection (even obsession); and herein lies the violence—the female gaze, which has every close-up, panning shot, and sex scene of the male counterpart. I'm not sure there are enough American, female filmmakers who know how to depict the gaze of a woman without also enforcing the tropes used in familiar rom-coms and female-driven comedies. Not everyone is an exhausted mother of two, hungry for the perfect marriage and kitchen backsplash, prompted by their girlfriend to let loose for the weekend. French directors know how to depict the female gaze, and it's more visceral and powerful than Carrie Bradshaw looking for love in Manolos. Women in French cinema are sexual, and yet, their sexuality isn't marked by the outward expressions of their desire; instead, by the intellectual—sometimes physical—consequences of their conquests.

Feminine power, I've realized, is a woman at her most vulnerable, emotionally naked in front of the screen. The erotic fascination with the female body in Julia Ducournau's Raw (2017) is anything but glamorized, and still, it evokes a feminine rage that could be interpreted as a battle cry. What's depicted is a young woman's carnal craving for human flesh—a visceral metaphor for Justine's (played by Garance Marillier) sexual awakening. Flesh and meat bits aside, Justine's monstrous transformation is a visual depiction of her own inability to rationalize her desires. Justine acknowledges—like every human—that she is a part of a system, particularly the one of her body (made of bones, muscles, and organs that's susceptible to everything, including lust).

Raw is hard to watch—and the blood and finger eating has a lot to do with that—but even harder to metabolize for its unflinching examination of how our bodies undergo (sometimes irrational) transformations, even mutations as a symptom of being human. Ducournau's film reimagines body horror in a feminist context; all the blood, aches, pains, and screams of the female body are simply the pangs of womanhood. And all the fleshy love bites are collateral for playing with the desires of the body. This isn't my attempt to add to the somewhat comical mystique of the French woman, whose parenting, style, skin care routine, and diet reign supreme to her sisters in the West; but, it is my commentary on setting new standards for feminist filmmakers in the States. Why start with the pretty frills of our narratives when the ugly frills are so much more compelling, so much sexier?

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How Prima Helped Me Improve My Daily Routine

Primas hemp products helped my create new habits

The last few months of working from home and barely leaving my apartment have been tough. Everyone seems to be improving themselves during quarantine but I was just trying to adjust to the new isolated way of living.

Now that the hardest part is hopefully behind us, I'm ready for some self-improvement. After months of WFH followed by binge-watching Netflix and binge-eating junk till 2 am, I've got to make a few changes. I took some advice from my sister who told me to pick three areas I'd like to makeover and then form new habits to help me achieve my goals.

She also suggested that I try hemp. She's been in love with all of Primas products for the last month and claims they've made a huge difference in how balanced she feels throughout the day. She said that Prima's hemp stands out from other brands because it's the highest quality hemp and rigorously tested to ensure potency and purity. But I was all about the new habits, so I ignored that advice.

Here are the three new habits I've added to my daily routine:

  1. Make time for me!

This one may seem silly after nearly three months stuck in the house alone, but what I mean is quality time for me. I needed to integrate activities that are mentally and physically constructive. I heard yoga was great for your mind and body and with so many tutorials on youtube, I added 20 minutes of yoga before breakfast to my morning routine.

2. Exercise

I don't like gyms and that's never going to change. So I needed to refresh my exercise options. I love being outdoors so I added an evening walk weeknights and long hikes on the weekends. The fresh air clears my head after a long day and I can start hitting those 10K steps we're meant to do every day!

3. Less Screentime

This isn't just for kids! I realized I was on my work laptop all day, and when I wasn't looking at that screen I was watching TV on my phone. My eyes were never getting a break and neither was my head. I had to limit the crazy amount of time I was spending on my phone. I got a free app that alerts me when I'm on it too long, like an alarm that kicks me off. Then I ordered some novels to read instead of scrolling through Instagram and Twitter in bed. Now I read a few chapters and nod off.

My new habits took a while to get used to, but after two weeks of constantly reminding myself, they're part of my routine that I'm just loving. I'm definitely sleeping better and feel more motivated in the morning. However, I still felt like there was something missing. And my aching neck started to get worse. I thought the yoga would help but once the afternoon hit, my namaste had completely vanish-tayed and my neck was in bits by bedtime! I even sorted out my home office with a new chair and keyboards so I wouldn't be bending it so much all day but I think the damage was done.

That's when my sister jumped in and reminded me that I should try Prima's hemp products. For my neck? I still doubted that was the solution. But when she promised me Primas R+R recovery cream would help my neck, with her husband also vouching for it I gave it a go.

Once it arrived at my door I tried it every night a week for bed. The first night I felt a little difference but I just put that down to the cooling effect of the menthol. I was surprised hemp was just one ingredient among so many really amazing ones such as menthol, eucalyptus, and marula oil. Along with the botanicals tea tree, lavender, rosemary, and peppermint which are great to encourage total relaxation. While on their site, I couldn't believe the variety of hemp products they have.

By the end of the week, I really felt the magic of Primas R+R cream and it has become the most important part of my nighttime routine. I forget what it was like to have neck discomfort thanks to Prima.

I loved it so much that I couldn't help treating myself to their award-winning Night Magic Serum. I can't wait for my glowy skin!!

I never imagined I'd become a hemp fan, but Prima is the perfect piece to complete my revamped wellness routine that makes me more mindful and balanced. I'm so glad my sister introduced me to Prima, it's my new favorite habit that I will be keeping!

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What's Up with All These Fireworks?

New Yorkers have been hearing constant explosions throughout the night. Is it a conspiracy?

If you live in a large metropolitan area like New York City, Black Lives Matter protests likely aren't the only things you hear making noise in the streets.

In the past couple of weeks, as Black Lives Matter supporters march in memory of George Floyd and countless other Black people killed by police, the sounds of fireworks can be heard virtually every weekend. More than just your average Fourth of July shindig, these explosions often trail into the wee hours of the morning.

According to Gothamist, there were 6,385 total "311" complaints about fireworks in New York City from June 1 to June 19—up from 27 during the same time period last year. "This is not the simple firecrackers and little small toy-type rockets, but it was very elaborate," Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told Gothamist. "That in itself is raising a high level of concern with me... When you see the large displays along Brooklyn and in Manhattan, Upper Manhattan, you're seeing extremely sophisticated type fireworks displays that can be extremely dangerous in the hands of the wrong people."

Anything more powerful than a sparkler is illegal in New York, but that hasn't stopped regular folks from buying the type of fireworks you'd see in a professional display. But who is buying these fireworks, and what are they trying to accomplish? There are some wild theories.

NYPD, FDNY appear to let illegal fireworks show play out, video shows

NYPD, FDNY appear to let illegal fireworks show play out, video shows

As author Robert Jones, Jr. pointed out in a lengthy Twitter thread, antics by "bored Black and brown kids" tends to be the general assumption made by most mainstream media. "My neighbors and I believe that this is part of a coordinated attack on Black and Brown communities by government forces; an attack meant to disorient and destabilize the #BlackLivesMatter movement," Jones wrote.

One goal Jones proposed was that white people were the ones setting off the constant fireworks in an attempt to "stoke tensions between Black and Brown peoples." Many have voiced their frustrations online about the sheer volume of the fireworks they hear, and a shared annoyance is growing.

Another motive Jones proposed was that the fireworks are being used as a desensitization method to acclimate citizens to the sounds of the blasts—which often sound like gunshots. "When they start using their real artillery on us we won't know the difference," Jones wrote. "It's meant to sound like a war zone because a war zone is what it's about to become."

Police don't seem too concerned. The New York Post shared a video this week of fireworks being set off behind an NYPD precinct in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. No officers appear to deter them. A similar video in Harlem, Manhattan also shows a flock of police cars—none of which seem to mind the explosions.

Another video shows what appears to be Brooklyn firefighters setting off fireworks:

Video shows FDNY firefighters light off illegal fireworks in Brooklyn

Video shows FDNY firefighters light off illegal fireworks in Brooklyn

Today, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he was forming a task force to combat the illegal fireworks. "Illegal fireworks are both dangerous and a public nuisance," he said. "We're cracking down on this activity at the source to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers and the ability of our neighbors to get some sleep."

But if over 6,000 complaints have been made about fireworks to seemingly no avail, it seems a task force won't merit much of an improvement.

Many seem to agree with the theory that inconspicuous government officials have been offering fireworks to Black children, newly on summer vacation and hungry for ways to ease their quarantine boredom. As with many issues going on in America, these constant fireworks will probably be just another way for the government to further discriminate against marginalized groups.

At least we can always rely on memes to spread the good word.

I don't know about you guys, but working from home has taken a serious toll on me. It started off really well. I was sticking to my usual routine as much as possible, but I've been slowly becoming less and less productive.

I noticed my sleep schedule had completely changed. I was rolling out of bed a few minutes before I was due to start work, and sometimes even working from my bed. I ate lunch at the desk and worked straight through my scheduled breaks. I was sleepier throughout the day, unable to focus as much, and just feeling less motivated overall.

So I looked into what I could do that would help me out of my slump. I tried a few things. Some were so simple I never thought they'd make much of a difference, and some I wouldn't have thought of at all, but now I'm back feeling more productive than ever.

Here are my three tips for working from home:

1. Get up early

Yes, it seems so simple. But it's super important to stick to a normal routine if you can. Not only do I get up early, but I shower every morning and cook myself a nutritious breakfast before I start work. This definitely helped me feel more energized and motivated throughout the day.

2. Have a designated workspace

This is important because it separates your work from your home. Our homes are associated with relaxing, so designating a space that will be used only for work will help you concentrate on work while you're in that space. I also found that doing this helped me actually take appropriate breaks. When I left the space I was in relax mode, and once I came back, I was ready to work again.

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3. CBD supplements

When looking into ways to improve my focus and sleeping patterns, I came across an article about CBD supplements, specifically a brand called Prima. I'd never bought into the whole CBD craze, but when I read that you can try Prima's Rest Easy, Go-To, and Brain Fuel elixirs by purchasing their Trifecta for just $26 with shipping, I thought why not?

The elixirs are powders that you can mix into any beverage. The Prima Trifecta has a few samples of all three. The Brain Fuel elixir is to be taken in the morning, so I mixed it into my coffee, and I was awake and alert and able to throw myself into my working day.

Their Go-To elixir should be taken around noon. My daily midday productivity crash had gotten so much worse while working at home, but taking this elixir helped keep me sharp through the remainder of my work day.

The Rest Easy elixir is taken at night to help you get a good sleep. Since I started taking this my sleep schedule has greatly improved. It was so much easier to get up early again. It left me feeling well rested and ready to start my day.

I never realized how much simple things, like setting out a specific workspace, and getting up early would help me escape my unproductive rut. I wasn't expecting Prima's CBD supplements to help as much as they did, but they definitely had the biggest impact for me.

After trying the Prima Trifecta, I ended up buying the full size of all three elixirs. If you're having problems with sleep, focus, and productivity like I was, I'd recommend ordering the Prima Trifecta.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.