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When “Wlaha Wogoh Okhra – She Has other Faces” started more than five years ago, the rebellion against the prevailing pattern of women’s magazines was the motivation. Throughout this period, it wasn’t not preoccupied with fashion, modelling, cooking recipes and tips for happy married life as always seen in the Egyptian women’s platforms. Some considered that an exceptional departure from the original base in its hometown, but with a broader view it can be seen as one of the few. With this view getting broader, there was a chance to pick up projects similar to (Wlaha Wogoh Okhra) in other countries, including (Cheek Magazine) in France. Although this experience originated in a country in which women are empowered in many fields and supported by a highly supportive legislative system, the message is still the same, the method is quite similar, the goals are typical and even the forms of hostilities are similar.

“Cheek Magazine” is a French e-magazine that presents a journalistic content with a feminist perspective. It was founded in October 2013 by three independent French female journalists. We visited the headquarters of the magazine in Paris, where we met one of the three co-founders, Faustine Kopiejwski, and interviewed her to know more about this interesting project, as well as the challenges faced by women in general and female journalists in particular in France.

Faustine -37 years- works in the field of journalism for many years. She was a member of a music magazine called “Magic”, then she moved to work for one of the women’s magazines called “Be”, where she met Julia Tissier and Myriam Levain, who later became her partners in the foundation of “Cheek Magazine” which was established five years ago.

This feminist French platform is limited to electronic work. According to Faustine, the editorial team does not seek to convert it into a printed magazine as they believe that the generation they belong to reads online newspapers and magazines rather than print-outs. She also told us that “Cheek Magazine” had already published a single print issue in 2017, in collaboration with “Les Inrockuptibles”, a French cultural magazine which started in 1986.

Before our interview, we checked the website of “Cheek Magazine” which is available only in French, to review its objectives and the issues on which it focuses. A sentence among the lines of the “About Us” stopped us, the sentence that defines one of its objectives as “creating an ideal women’s magazine”. It was the source of the first question in our interview with Faustine Kopiejwski, the co-founder of “Cheek Magazine” who emphasized that the main objective of her e-magazine is to present a magazine for women that would not focus mainly on fashion and beauty, but on more cultural and societal issues with a feminist perspective.

As we moved through the magazine’s sections and number of its articles, we found out that this magazine is a practical application of feminist journalism or pro-women journalism which is still uncommon or non-acceptable by many journalists and publishers. This matter refrains many women journalists from starting up similar projects, because they believe that they will face more difficulties and impediments than others. Consequently, the media outlets that talk about women from a feminist perspective are still limited throughout the world. However, Faustine and her partners did not care about all these matters and launched “Cheek Magazine” to be – as Faustine described it- the answer to the question of women’s press and contradicts other traditional women’s magazines, in which the goal is to promote cosmetics and women’s bags. Although “Cheek Magazine” believes that fashion tells people a lot about their societies, but its team chose to produce a feminist content.

We want to talk about the taboos and show the bodies of women that readers did not use to see in women’s magazines. First of all, we want to talk about what women do, not how they look. We do not want to tell our readers what they should wear, so we decided to give up the classic columns that publish fashion advices,” Faustine said.

Faustine reveals another reason about why the magazine is specialized in producing content from a feminist perspective, which is the desire to face male-dominated informatic press and its magazines’ covers which show males only, “therefore, we adapt a feminist approach even if we did not use the word “feminist” at the beginning,” she added.

Connecting feminism to press and the use of term (Feminist press) has been rejected by group of journalists who consider this type of journalism as an oriented one which is neither professional nor impartial. However, Faustine believes that this view is insufficient and very old.

Yes, we are talking about women only and choosing our topics from a feminist perspective, but this is applied through a journalistic insight, nothing more. As journalists, our profession requires investigating facts and narrating true stories, and we don’t make a propaganda,” she explained.

Faustine demonstrated that support and acceptance toward her magazine is increasing over time. “Support is increasing and our female community is expanding, but this also means that the backlash can be bigger. The more people follow us on social network sites, the more people such as masculinists try to shut us up.”

In May 2015, the French daily “Libération” published an open letter entitled «We are political journalists and victims of sexual discrimination» which was signed by 40 female journalists from different media outlets. In this letter, they expressed their disappointment that discrimination and sexual violence practiced by French politicians has only slightly receded, even after the debate and controversy created by the arrest of former French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel worker.

Sexual discrimination does not only target political journalists in France. This is what Faustine assured “How can we think that something different is happening if most newspapers are owned by billionaires who are bankers and industrials, also discrimination against women journalists does not happen only in the workplace but also outside. For example, women journalists in the field of sports are exposed to sexism by athletes during their interviews typically as female political Journalists who are subjected to it by politicians during interviews as well. In addition, women journalists who face discrimination through social networks especially TV stations because they are more visible.

Faustine also emphasized that women journalists in France are exposed to discrimination which women in other professions are also exposed to, like; wage inequality and the difficulty of getting access to leadership positions with higher responsibilities.

According to official figures, men in France get higher wages than women at an average of 9%, despite laws recognizing wage equality for nearly 45 years. In addition, 80% of workers who earn low wages in France are women.

The reality that Faustine talks about and the issues published by “Cheek Magazine” bear no relation to the rosy picture which is drawn by many in the Arab region about France, even though it is more advanced, respectful and empowering for women compared to Arab countries. However, the patriarchal dominance is still present especially with the availability of cultural channels which allow it to reproduce its power from time to time.

I think that the reason for the gap between reality and what’s thought about the situation of French women is the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, when women got rights such as abortion and the provision of contraception. Their struggle and victories were clear to all around the world and it seems that this strong image of sexually liberated women, is deeply rooted in the minds about French women. Unfortunately, in contrast, other crises and problems which they are still struggling to overcome, have disappeared, such as; the wage gap, sexual harassment in the streets and the general problem of living in a society in which men are raised within a “rape culture”, a society in which men believe that women mean “yes” when they say “no””.

Last August, France adopted legislation against sexual harassment in the streets, which imposes on-spot fines up to 750 euros against the harasser. The authority imposed the first sanction under the law one month after it was adopted. A French man was fined 300 euros and a three-month imprisonment due to slapping a woman and describing her “a bitch”.

In the context of sexual violence, the French Odoxo poll center issued a survey in October 2017, stated that 53 % of French women were harassed or sexually assaulted at least once in their lives. The center announced the figures days after the launch of the #MeToo in the Unites States, following what was globally known as “the scandal of the famous Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein” who was accused by women of harassing and sexually assaulting them at different times.

Undoubtedly, the impact of this movement has spread out of the United States, moved the stagnant water in other countries and encouraged survivors around the world to break the silence. However, when we asked Faustine about the impact of #MeToo in France, the answer was not as positive as we thought. She started her answer by “This movement has raised a number of questions about the mentalities in the French society.

While the Hollywood actresses were supporting the movement and raising their voices against sexual violence, none of the famous actresses said a word in this regard, as if the field of film making in France is not suffering from the same problem. Even worse, the famous French actress Catherine Deneuve with a group of women, signed a letter, was published by the French newspaper “Le Monde”,  in which they declared their opposition to and rejection of # MeToo. This act was very irresponsible and said a lot about how much sexual violence against women is deeply rooted in our culture,” Faustine explained.

But Faustine pointed to a glimmer of hope with these unknown women who raise their voices to say that things must change in France. “I think that #MeToo with its objectives has found its way into their minds without help of well-known personalities” she said.

In the last part of our interview, we tried to know more about “Cheek Magazine” from the inside, so we asked Faustine about the journalistic genres that the magazine prefers to discuss its topics through.

The main type is investigations, because we prefer to tell facts and to discuss with the experts what these facts say about our society and how we can change the things. We also do many interviews with women to give them the chance to be heard. As well, we offer them the space to write opinion essays, and there are testimonies. Moreover, the content of the magazine is not only written, we also produce Podcasts like “Flux” in which the magazine’s team interview a guest in each episode. In addition, we organize events under the title “Cheek Club”, where we hold conferences, screenings and concerts as well as promoting thinkers, artists and authors those we like.”

Talking about the editorial policy of the magazine, Faustine stressed that it does not stipulate caveats or prohibit discussing specific topics. However, she and her team are strongly concerned when dealing with topics like hijab and prostitution. “The two topics lead to extremely passionate debates in France, and the feminist community has always been divided about them. And when both are discussed by the mainstream media, such outlets usually do it in a sensationalist way, but we seek to deal with both issues in a way that respects those who are concerned. In such cases, we prefer to rely on either testimonials or opinion essays.

Before folding the papers and ending the interview, we asked Faustine about what she is proud of on a personal level thanks for “Cheek Magazine” and what she considers as her greatest success since she had founded it, and the answer is an evidence of being proud of the whole experience, “on a personal level, I’m happy with everything I have learned since the magazine’s launch and happy with the transformation of my feminism – which was largely instinctive at the beginning – into a structured and intellectual one. In fact, I’m so happy that I could open myself to issues that I wasn’t aware about, such as fat shaming or inter-sectional feminism, and I’m glad because I become a more inclusive feminist.