Spotlight on France

Podcast: The battle to breastfeed in France, Emily in Paris and Mata Hari the spy

Audio 30:55
Spotlight on France episode 40
Spotlight on France episode 40 © RFI

New mothers in France are being forced to wear masks during labour to protect medical teams from Covid-19, and some are calling it out as violence. Also, why France has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Netflix's Emily in Paris offends with a clichéd portrayal of city and its people, but offers respite in trying times. And Mata Hari, executed as a spy but why?


Giving birth during the Covid epidemic has long been a stressful experience but it's become a nightmare since a growing number of maternity hospitals are now insisting women wear face masks during labour and delivery. In recent weeks new mums in France have been sharing their horror stories on social media. While the College of obstetricians and gynaecologists strongly recommends women wear masks to protect medical teams, it stopped short of making it an obligation. But Sonia Bisch (@sonia_bisch), founder of Stop VOG, a collective that campaigns against obstetric and gynaecological violence in France, says in reality women have no choice and many pregnant women are in a state of panic. (Listen @3'25'')

France has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world, and French doctors and midwifes rarely provide much information or support, leaving new mothers on their own to navigate what can be a complicated, sometimes painful process, that has a lot of negative stereotypes. Stephanie Habenstein, founder of VanillaMilk, a website providing information on breastfeeding, and lactation consultant Carole Hervé talk about how that might be changing in France. (Listen @9'57'')

Emily from Chicago has taken Paris by storm. A new Netflix series charting the wonderful life of a young, attractive American who gets a job without speaking a word of French has become popular in the US, and in France, despite being panned by critics for its clichéd view of France and Paris. Franco-Scottish journalist and cultural commentator Marjorie Hache (@marjoriehache) weighs in on the clichés, and wonders weather a dreamy look at Paris is what people need today. (Listen @24'10'')

Mata Hari, the exotic dancer who thrilled Paris at the turn of the 20th century, was executed on 15 October 1917 for allegedly spying for the German Empire during WWI. But it’s more likely that she paid the price for her frivolity and loose morals while France was struggling during the war. (Listen @19'45'')

This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on iTunes (link here), Google podcasts (link here), on Spotify (link here), or your favourite podcast app.

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