Eliza Cotton

Liberté, Égalité, Paternité: Understanding the French anti-gay and anti-reproductive technology movement, La Manif pour tous

April 5, 2021   /  

Name: Eliza Cotton
Majors: Sociology, French and Francophone Studies
Advisors: Dr. Thomas Tierney, Dr. Harry Gamble

My IS examines a conservative social movement currently going on in France, called La Manif pour tous (“the protest for all”). This movement emerged in reaction to the legalization of gay marriage in 2013, which gave gay couples the right to jointly adopt children. Supporters do not focus that much on gay marriage itself, but rather view it as a slippery slope that will lead to the erosion of the traditional family, and the acceptance of surrogacy and reproductive technologies for gay couples in French culture (surrogacy is currently banned, and other reproductive technologies are only accessible to straight couples with fertility issues). Through my analysis of images and speeches that have taken place at La Manif pour tous protests, I attempt to make sense of the controversies in France surrounding reproductive technologies, surrogacy, and the evolution of the family.

Eliza will be online to field comments on April 16:
2-4pm EDT (PST 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening)

55 thoughts on “Liberté, Égalité, Paternité: Understanding the French anti-gay and anti-reproductive technology movement, La Manif pour tous”

  1. Great presentation, Eliza! The compilation of protest images was effective – and disturbing.

  2. HI ELIZA you…dare I say… you finIShed, you d(IS)id it and I’m proud of you!

    Thanks for researching this! I had no idea what La Manif pour tous was before listening to your presentation, so even though I don’t understand the nuances of what the movement means in the context of France’s history, your argument was framed really well and helped me understand it through that more general lens of what happens when established traditions get their power challenged. The need to “protect the family” and uphold traditional family values is definitely a familiar one here in the states, and just like followers of La Manif pour tous use Republican images, it’s pretty common to see traditional values in the States associated with patriotism and upholding “the American dream.”

    When you were in Nantes, did you have any other experiences that led you to this project?


    1. Hi Samantha!!! Thank you so much for this sweet and very insightful comment. 🙂

      You pointed out a pretty notable parallel between the US and France! Unfortunately I’d imagine that this phenomenon of hate groups using national symbols to draw boundaries between what they view as belonging and not belonging in the nation is probably more widespread than just in these two countries.

      When I was in Nantes, it was mostly my host family that sparked my interest in this topic. I remember them explaining to me how awful they viewed surrogacy, and I thought that was so interesting because I had never heard of any political debates about the topic before. I also wrote a paper about reproductive technologies for a sociology class in Nantes that was about 5 pages. I realized I still had a lot of unanswered questions after that, so that’s when it occurred to me to write my IS on La Manif!

      You are so thoughtful and kind! Love you so much!!

  3. Congratulations, Eliza! I had never heard of La Manif pour tous, and I learned a lot from your presentation. I loved your comment about the movement’s images of women and children “serving to redirect attention away from the people they are discriminating against (the LGBTQ community) and towards the people they claim they are protecting.” This tactic reminds me of many conservative social movements we see in the U.S. as well.

    1. Hi Emily! Yes that is another great example of a similarity between the US and France. I think this strategy can unfortunately be very effective. If I had never researched this movement and saw a poster that said “Women are not baby making machines,” I would be like, “yeah I agree!” and wouldn’t think twice about it.

      Thank you so much for your comment 🙂

      1. Exactly – that poster was exactly what caught my eye! I would agree with that statement too, but they are clearly co-opting it from more other, progressive social movements. Again, great work, you should be really proud!

        1. You’re absolutely right! That was a major theme throughout my project, this strategy of movement leaders disingenuously presenting La Manif pour tous as a social justice movement. I really appreciate your interest in my topic!!

  4. Well done! I have learned so much reading your IS and I am so impressed by the work you have done!!!

  5. Excellent travail, Eliza! Un sujet de recherche tristement important et difficile à comprendre vu de ce côté de l’Atlantique. Toutes mes félicitations pour cette étude et pour ces quatre années formidables à Wooster!

    1. Merci beaucoup Prof. Duval! 🙂 C’était un grand plaisir de suivre vos cours de français et de travailler comme assistante de langue avec vous. Vous allez me manquer beaucoup!!!

  6. Merci, Eliza. I am learning a lot watching this. What an amazing story about how you discovered the stickers and began your research.

    1. Thank you so much! And yes, I am very grateful for my past self deciding to take a picture of those puzzling stickers!

  7. Eliza, I enjoyed hearing about your research throughout the semester – congratulations!

  8. Eliza, your brilliance is exceeded only by your kindness and compassion. You’ve worked so hard on this project, and its been inspiring to see the way you’ve overcome challenges. Throughout, you’ve maintained a commitment to justice for all! Thanks for sharing this incredible project with all of us. I’m so proud to be your friend, and I can’t wait to see all that you accomplish in the future!

    1. THANKS LANEY this is very sweet. Thank you for supporting me. It has been so fun to learn about your project throughout the year and see all the amazing work you’ve put in also. Love you a lot!

  9. Congratulations Eliza! This is absolutely fascinating, and I’m so glad I could learn a bit more about la Manif pour tous. I also remember seeing those stickers when I was in Nantes, but after I learned it was a conservative/homophobic movement I stopped my research there, so all the additional nuance about surrogacy and the way they construct their identity as protecting women and children is completely new to me. Congrats again on an incredibly interesting and important IS!

    1. Thanks so much Annabelle, I really appreciate it!! Also cool to have someone who has already heard of the movement check out my IS, because it’s not very well known at all in the US!

  10. Bravo, Eliza!!! I’m so proud of you. I had no idea this movement was so widespread before watching your presentation. I learned a lot. But congrats to you! Je t’aime et gros bisous.

  11. This is such an interesting project, Eliza! I’m sure your time in France added to your understanding of the topic, and I enjoyed learning more about it. I may have missed it in your presentation, but is surrogacy still illegal in France for both gay and straight couples?

    1. Thanks so much Olivia! 🙂 Yes, surrogacy is still banned in France for everyone. Intended parents who want to use surrogacy often go abroad to the US or other countries where it’s legal.

  12. Eliza, this looks very interesting, congratulations on your work! Very impressive!

  13. Great presentation, Eliza. Interesting findings about this social movement and nice take on analyzing the implications of the images and messages shared. In researching this social movement, did you get a chance to learn more about the type of people who support this cause? Do many of the members share similar demographic characteristics and identities? Congratulations on getting this project done.

    1. Thanks Prof. Miyawaki! The majority of supporters are Catholic, despite the complete lack of religious rhetoric in the sources I was analyzing (likely due to French culture’s emphasis on secularism). I think this was more of a rhetorical strategy to present La Manif pour tous as secular in order to accommodate to French cultural expectations, while in reality it is heavily supported by Catholics. I also know that supporters tend to be more politically right as you may have assumed (Marion Maréchal––granddaughter of the founder of the National Front Party was one of the protest speakers I used in my analysis). As for other demographics like race, ethnicity, and gender, I was not able to find any definitive statistics. But just based on the videos and images I saw, there seemed to be more women than men who were predominantly white (this is purely based on my own observations, not any reliable statistics).

  14. Congratulations, Eliza! Very interesting presentation! Thanks for sharing your work!

  15. I really enjoyed hearing your presentation! I like your analysis of the imagery, language, and theatrical components to the protests as a way for protesters to tap into cultural identity and values to support their cause. The question of cultural identity is really profound these days, as you mentioned in your talk, and I wonder if that is one thing that young French people are grappling with in a push to highlight global mindsets and ties. The push for globalization and connection can be destablizing to one’s sense of foundational identity. Two resources that I thought of while watching your presentation were “The Complexity of Identity” by Beverly Daniel Tatum, and the work of Michel Foucault on power and discourse.
    I have fond memories of my IS at Wooster, and hope that you bring your remarkable sense of cultural awareness with you as you embark on your path after graduation! Wishing you the best!
    Class of ’91, French/Cultural Studies major

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. My IS does focus a lot on identity, but I didn’t have any theoretical sources to back up my claims, so maybe I will check those out. Very cool to see a former French major interested in my topic!

  16. Eliza, your dad and I are so proud of you and all the hard work you put into this. I’m so glad you chose Wooster where you had such wonderful advisers and could really challenge yourself and discover just how much you can accomplish. Big congratulations on a fascinating IS!

  17. Congratulations, Eliza, on completing your Senior I.S.! This is a great example of interdisciplinary work to explore a fascinating (albeit troubling) and timely topic.

    Wishing you every success in your future endeavors post-Wooster!

  18. Fantastic work, Eliza! It is so nice to see your presentation on this in its entirety, I feel like I have a much better understanding of these issues since when you first brought them to my attention. I can’t wait to see where you take your research forward from here 🙂

    Quick question–did you find anything about the differences in conservative perception of lesbian couples and gay couples who were attempting to have a child through surrogacy? The second part motto you pointed out (“Les utliser pour priver certains enfants de leur père”) seems awfully androcentric to me, as they are specifically taking issue with the lack of presence of the child’s father, not mother.

    Either way, keep up the good work! I’m so proud of you!

    1. Thanks Olivia!!! That is a great question. The bioethics law that bans surrogacy and IVF for lesbian couples is currently under review. The part that is up in the air is IVF for lesbian couples, so therefore these Manif pour tous supporters are more worried about that part because it is more likely to be legalized sooner than surrogacy. I would say surrogacy is viewed as much more controversial. The thing is that it likely won’t be legalized for a while compared to IVF for lesbians––a more “pressing” issue to them. Thanks for all your support 🙂

      1. But I do think you are right. There is much more focus on “fatherless reproductive technology.” They use the term “PMA (procréation médicalement assistée) sans père” to refer to reproductive technologies for lesbian couples and single women. And there is a focus on the term “paternité” as seen in my title. So I think it’s a combination of this, and also of the “urgency” that IVF for lesbian couples and single women will be legalized in the near future.

  19. What a fascinating study. I was unaware of this movement and appreciate your analysis.

  20. This is such a fascinating research topic, Eliza! I really enjoyed hearing your analysis on this group I hadn’t heard about previously. Congrats!

  21. Congratulations, Eliza! I really like the interdisciplinarity of your research. And that it all began with your study abroad experience. A true liberal arts research project!

  22. I would like to congratulate you in completing such a big project, but not only completing it, you completed it in style. You pushed through this with a Yes I can attitude and I love it. Good Luck to you and keep up the good work. YES YOU CAN!

  23. Great job, Eliza! It was so interesting learning more about this movement as I have not heard about it at all.

  24. Great job Eliza! This is such a cool project, you should be super proud of yourself 🙂

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