FIGAROVOX / MAINTENANCE – In Ladies’ school, Raphaël Enthoven offers a rewrite of Molière in the #Metoo era. The opportunity to come back to the daily spectacle offered by our society and to reflect on the resonances of Molière in the news.
Aggregate of philosophy and essayist, Raphaël Enthoven has just published Ladies’ school (Éditions de l’Observatoire, 2021, 128 p., € 15).
FIGAROVOX. – Your room, Ladies’ school is an Alexandrian pastiche of Women’s school in the #MeToo era. Resuscitating Molière, for you, was that a way of defying contemporary political correctness?
Raphaël ENTHOVEN. – It was first and foremost a happy challenge and just another way to pass the time. Everyone can write a few alexandrines on a corner of the table. Very different is the ambition to make three acts and to preserve, in spite of a contemporary lexicon, the rhythm, the alternation, the structure, the misunderstandings and, sometimes, the expressions of the XVIIth century.
And then, it was a way of going back to the very origins of feminism, and to the words of a playwright who, contrary to his time, depicts women of all conditions, who are radically freeing themselves from power and power. grip of men.
Dorine for example, the servant of Orgon to whom Tartuffe asks to “cover that breast“That he could not see, is the first to understand that, under the injunction of modesty, it is lubricity which is expressed (“You are therefore very tender to temptation, And the flesh on your senses makes a great impression! Certainly, I do not know what heat rises in you: But to covet you, I am not so quick, And I would see you naked from top to bottom, That all your skin would not tempt me.“). What better way to meet all the men who want to veil women? Some people retort that Molière made a mockery (in The Precious Ridiculous and Wise women) the feminine desire to free herself through knowledge and painting of women who fall in love with false scholars, but it is to forget a little quickly that it also gave it its letters of nobility! “My God, how low your mind is! said Philaminthe to his daughter Henriette (who wants to get married), That you play a little character in the world, To shut yourself away from household matters, And not to catch a glimpse of more touching pleasures Than an idol of husbands and children children ! ” Gisèle Halimi would not have said otherwise. What about Célimène, who turns men into donkeys? And of Angelique, who is forcibly married to Charles Bovary (aka Georges Dandin) and who deceives him without an atom of guilt? What to say, finally, of Agnès, the insurmountable heroine of women’s school, who does not even need to be instructed to discover the infamy of the condition imposed on him, and the means of getting rid of it? Molière should, with Descartes, appear in the pantheon of feminism, even if the individual Molière himself, whose features are found under the tragic figures of Alceste, Dandin, Chrysale (the “good bourgeois”) or Arnolphe, is at the antipodes of feminism and testifies, conversely, that order and hierarchy are flouted in this century with inconsistent manners.
Being a man of his time – that is to say a good bourgeois whom his wife deceives and who feels sorry for it – does not prevent Molière from being the best spokesperson for a nascent progressivism.
You explain that Molière was probably a misogynist at heart and a feminist by head. Would you define yourself that way?
It is a perhaps apocryphal formula that I borrow from Tocqueville (who said, by memory, “aristocrat at heart and democrat at head”). Is this absurd? I do not believe. The bottom of the heart is not opposable to the choices of reason. Being a man of his time – that is to say a good bourgeois whom his wife deceives and who feels sorry for it – does not prevent Molière from being the best spokesperson for a nascent progressivism. You can have the heart of a husband and the soul of a lover. As far as I’m concerned, things are different. I was brought up in a hurry to fight for the liberation of women. The child that I was constantly received the vaguely contradictory injunction to hold the girls for my equals and to defend them, at the risk of my life, in the event of aggression. I am a feminist at heart and a feminist at heart. My existence does not take the opposite of my convictions.
Can our Manichean era accept this type of distinction?
I’m not sure it’s a fact of the day, but people tend to believe that different truths are opposable truths, even though they complement each other. The same man can perfectly well, like Molière, put himself in the place of a woman who frees herself from tutelage and who gives an arm of honor to her father as to her husband, while deploring, in himself, like Molière. , secretly, because he is the father or the husband, that things are like that. And in fact, it is essential to understand this, because it is paradoxically one of the strongest arguments of contemporary feminism: “You are man, therefore you are incapable of understanding… ”Now, what Molière shows is that one can be“ man ”in the sense they give to this term (that is to say an old male steeped in prejudices and sexism of his time) while being the objective ally, if not the first architect, of the liberation of women! We must apply gender theory to our own opinions: just as an individual does not necessarily have the fate that the shape of his sex seems to reserve for him, an old male does not necessarily have the opinions of his reflexes. .
The whole point of feminists (like me) who rejoiced in #metoo before worrying about it, was to remember that things change by law and not on the web, and that the presumption of innocence should not be sacrificed to the urgency of finally speaking.
Do you yourself fear the reaction of feminists?
We fear what we ignore. However, for having been the object of a bewildering vindictiveness after my intervention at the summer universities of feminism in 2018 (and to still suffer the aftershocks of this false earthquake), of this popular tribunal, I am, as Guitry would say, the first to be warned! And I get ahead of them, in a way, by the grace of the “intersectional spectator” whose fury, they say, is one of the good moments of the play. It is true, however, that the play deliberately takes the opposite view of an identity feminism which challenges the difference between the sexes (to the point of accusing of transphobia whoever remembers it) while affirming the intrinsic superiority of women and the urgency to secede. But this is collateral damage. I haven’t written an essay, or even an essay. Just a comedy which, by the way, makes fun of the people I give up convincing.
Your play takes place today in the entertainment world. In this universe, has the #MeToo phenomenon allowed the liberation of speech or the advent of an opportunist feminism? Or both?
It was essential that actresses seize the question and dare to testify themselves, at the risk of their image. It was essential that speech be freed, and the violence of the phenomenon provides information on the extent of the denial that precedes it. Honor to those who had this courage and, like Adèle Haenel, were not satisfied with a gratuitous accusation but filed a complaint. Honor to all those who lift the veil on what they have suffered. The systems are based on the consent of its members. If we stop hunching over, the system bursts. And that’s what happened. Centuries of injustice have been shattered. How do you expect such a thing to happen without excess? How do you expect a revolution (because it is, and it is global) not to carry the risk of excess and the presumption of guilt? The whole issue for feminists (like me) who rejoiced at this immense awareness, before worrying about it, was to remember that things change by law and not on the web, and that the presumption of innocence should not be sacrificed to the urgency of finally speaking. It was a difficult speech to hold, but I believe it is necessary. We believed, wrongly, that this speech fought #metoo, while its only ambition was to slow it down. Not to slow down the effects, but to allow them. Experience shows that in the event of a revolution, people who want to make a clean sweep of the past often find themselves with the status quo on their hands.
Orgon, the father in love with Tartuffe, the ostrich who reluctantly pulls his head out of the sand, is embodied in the twenty-first century by all the intellectuals complacent with Islamism under the pretext of tolerance.
Your play deals in particular with the issue of consent. Do you think like some neofeminists that a heavy joke or a stolen kiss can be considered sexual assault?
A stolen kiss is heinous and (without a bad spirit) deserves a slap in the face. A heavy joke imposes, when it is possible, a reply of the same nature. The problem is not there. To condemn these gestures is, in my opinion, obvious, and only hinders in their efforts to seduce people who try to seduce with heavy jokes and stolen kisses. Good riddance. For once, you have to have suffered this kind of aggression to measure its violence. The problem is in the definition we give of the kiss in question. Scene 2 of Act II describes the kiss that a woman obtains without the consent of her “victim”, only … It is by reciting to him Cyrano’s greatest moment of seduction (the balcony tirade) that she achieves its ends. So: constraint or seduction? What about the fact that after the kiss, Nathan dreams of doing it again? Is he twice a victim? The play does not argue in this direction.
Is your play going to be performed? Have you already received proposals? Which actors do you imagine on stage?
I sincerely hope that it will be. And I would like to stage it. I already have at least two faces in mind. What will they say? We will see.
Are you going to continue exercising? What do you think of a modern version of Tartuffe with an Imam? Wouldn’t that be a way of being Charlie?
It is an excellent idea.
Moreover, if the world is a theater stage, we can consider that the play already exists. In the role of Tartuffe, we have the excellent Tariq Ramadan who orders women to be modest (or to “cover their breasts”) before sexually assaulting them himself. In the role of Dorine (who replies to Tartuffe that he can go and show himself when he asks her to cover up), we have the Femen, who show their bodies to show that their body is not subject to their gaze. austere pigs. In the role of Mariane, Géronte’s daughter, torn between the love of her man and the fear of her father, we find all the intersectional feminists who fear being racist if they defend women who remove their veils. Like Mariane, they will all be “tartufiés” (the word is from Molière), which could be translated as “Islamogauchisée”. As for Elmire, the mistress of the house who puts her body in danger to show her husband that Tariq (or Tartuffe) is an impostor, she is embodied on the world stage by Caroline Fourest who risks her life to show us what she is. it is with certain scoundrels. Damis, the son of Orgon, who is right but who speaks too loudly and too violently to be heard by his father, is played by the Republican Spring (whose courage is sometimes hampered by excess). Orgon, the father in love with Tartuffe, the ostrich who reluctantly pulls his head out of the sand, is embodied in the twenty-first century by all the intellectuals complacent with Islamism under the pretext of tolerance, whose erudition is put at the service of the worst qu ‘she tries to put things into perspective. Madame Pernelle, finally, who loves Tartuffe so much that she obstinately denounces “false suspicions” and “deceptive appearances” when she herself is confronted with the lies of her idol, is played (beautifully) by all the assholes who see a ” Zionist plot ”in the turpitudes of Ramadan – or who never have enough evidence to see Assad as the executioner of his own people… In short, the play exists. We play it every day, here and there.