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Women in Contemporary Caricature
Analyzing the representation of women in La Caricature reveals interesting and important information about gender dynamics during the July Monarchy. This research also has implications for our understanding of contemporary caricature. Female politicians and mainstream dialogues about gender have changed the way that women are represented in caricature. However, several key themes present in La Caricature continue today. Perhaps most significantly is the regular appearance of Marianne in political cartoons and caricatures.
While she is no longer the only woman in the political arena, Marianne continues to play a significant role in French visual culture. She appears in caricature, on stamps, and even in the official logo of the French Republic. While her look has evolved since the 1830s, she continues to exemplify standards of French femininity and beauty. Caricaturists and other artists still regularly use Marianne to represent the French people or French values. Following the 2015 attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices, there was an outpouring of images of Marianne en pleurs crying over the loss of life and threat to freedom of speech. As exemplified in the image below, Marianne now also cries over the same acts of violence that she was subjected to by Philipon and his colleagues. There is increasing debate surrounding the use of Marianne to represent the entirety of the French republic. In July of 2018, President Emmanuel Macron unveiled the newest face of Marianne, calling her dynamic and féministe (Vaillant). In this image of Marianne, she gazes ahead, her slender face framed by loose curls. She reflects contemporary standards of European beauty. She does not, according to some scholars, reflect the French people of the 21st century. One historian, Mathilde Larrere is quoted saying:
"Ce n'est pas parce qu'elle a les cheveux détachés qu'elle est féministe. Mais ça ne serait pas une mauvaise idée de mettre un peu plus de diversité dans les Mariannes puisque la France a une population métissée."
"Just because she has messy hair does not mean she is a feminist. But it would not be a bad idea to add a little bit more diversity to Mariannes to reflect France's mixted population."
From "France : la nouvelle Marianne, nouveau symbole féministe ?" by F. Vaillant
Caricature, like any other element of visual culture, reveals a wealth of information about gender, power, and cultural values. The rampant use of gendered violence in La Caricature reflected antifeminist ideologies that cast women as wives and mothers who needed male protection. While contemporary caricature does not rely as heavily on such violent imagery, it continues to express narrow views of femininity that often exclude women of color and others who do not conform to beauty norms. By regularly examining both historic and contemporary representations of women and gendered violence, we can gain a deeper understanding of inequality and can work to overcome it.