A strange day in Paris has dawned. Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of the French capital, faced virulent criticism over the weekend for threatening to ban an intersectional, mostly segregated black-feminist festival and prosecute its organizers.
The Nyansapo Festival, slated to occur at the end of July, will employ a separate-but-unequal standard for attendance. The majority of the events (amounting to 80 percent of the festival) will be open solely to black women. The remaining fifth of the events are divided on the following tribal lines: black attendees of both genders, women of color, and, finally, everyone. No word yet on whether France’s non-binary activists have complained about the delineation of (only two!) genders.
Quoting a tweet from the International League against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA) over the weekend that condemned the racially exclusionary aspects of the event, Hidalgo called for the event to be banned from being held in the city and threatened to prosecute the organizers on the grounds of racial discrimination.
Hidalgo’s declaration evoked an uproar from the French media. France 24 deemed the debacle “a controversy started by the far-right,” while Libération said that the event “allowed [the Socialist Left] to show our ignorance of the question of non-mixing” – read: segregation – “which left-wing feminist activists have been practicing for many years.”
La Générale, the private venue hosting the majority of the festival’s activities, released a statement standing by the event and its organizing group, Mwasi.
“La Générale is a laboratory of ideas which will always defend benevolent and constructive debate,” declared the venue, which plans on hosting forums and discussions with people only of the same gender and race. It further identified itself as “historically a place of feminist and anti-racist debates, not a place of ideologies.” Lauding itself as a meeting of “Afro-feminist militancy,” La Générale makes clear that it’s a place of at least one ideology: race-based tribalism.
Hidalgo ultimately succumbed to the intersectionalists, backing down completely while declaring her “solution” to the controversy: letting the event run exactly as planned. On Monday, she announced that following “firm” talks with the event organizers, the segregated portions of the event would be restricted to the private venue, which is, as the group putting on the event noted, “exactly what was planned from the beginning.” (Only the non-segregated portions of the event were scheduled to take place in a public building.)
The French network of overlapping and opposing identities has come to a deadlock, with the far-left feminists unable to reconcile their grievances with far-left Socialists.
As it turns out, economic tribalists, such as Hidalgo, who pit the proletariat against the “one percent” or capital owners, cannot fully satisfy the intersectional demands of racial and gender tribalists. In essence, the French network of overlapping and opposing identities has come to a deadlock, with the far-left feminists unable to reconcile their grievances with far-left Socialists. This dynamic isn’t limited to the Left in France. In the recent French election, Marine Le Pen failed to unite her culturally nationalist, and by extension tribalist, coalition with François Fillon’s generally Republican following.
The emergence of racial and especially religious tribalism runs contrary to France’s long-running history of legal anti-communitarianism, which separates the church or mosque from not just the state, but from pretty much every non-religious aspect of public life. This latest battle has pitted the same anti-communitarians who prevent Christian students from wearing crosses and Muslim ones from wearing burkas in French classrooms against the country’s identity–politics–obsessed coalition. It seems as though the latter is one step closer to winning the existential culture war for France’s future. This specific battle, focused on a public official’s ability to impede voluntary association on private property on the grounds of non-discrimination, may feel foreign in more ways than one to most Americans. However, our own public institutions have come under increasing pressure to succumb to the discriminatory demands of campus rioters, as evidenced by banned campus speakers and the increasing number of segregated spaces in state colleges.
Perhaps in America, identity politics will come to dominate all forms of principled discussion. But if France serves as a preview of our own trajectory, then the warring, hashtagged resistance of white women versus proletariats versus black activists may ultimately devour its own.
— Tiana Lowe is an editorial intern at National Review.