Joanna Espin discusses the latest incarnation of Marianne.
A newly unveiled stamp, issued to mark the presidency of François Hollande, has unleashed a political storm. The stamp, selected from a shortlist compiled by students and unveiled on Bastille Day, was intended to mark the President’s commitment to the country’s youth. Designed by Olivier Ciappa and David Kawena, the stamp depicts Marianne: a symbol of the French Republic who is often depicted in French Revolution imagery as a bare breasted, militant woman striving for liberty.
Olivier Ciappa subsequently took to Twitter to explain that the inspiration for this incarnation of Marianne was Inna Shevchenko. Shevchenko, co-founder of feminist group FEMEN, has recently been granted asylum in France. FEMEN lists its aims as combatting patriarchy in religion, dictatorship and sexual exploitation. The controversial protests made by the group, which have included topless demonstrations and cutting down a Christian statue, have received much press coverage and have divided opinion.
A host of responses for and against the representation of Inna Shevchenko as Marianne have been made across France, including calls for a boycott of the stamp from the political right. Supporters of the stamp argue that Shevchenko, and her fight for equality, embodies the qualities of Marianne. The stamp has become a battleground of opposing political opinion in France and, due to widespread coverage on the internet, internationally.