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Lesbian mothering and the family in France

Citation: Rye, Gill (2007) Lesbian mothering and the family in France. In: Society for French Studies annual conference, July 2007, University of Birmingham. (Unpublished)

Family demographics in France are currently undergoing a process of change, as they are in other Western cultures. The conventional nuclear family is in decline, and different arrangements are taking its place: single-parent families, post-divorce blended families, homosexual family groupings. Élisabeth Roudinesco (2002) suggests that same-sex parenting – or homoparentalité to use the term increasingly in use in France – may be the source of new models of the family of the future. Yet Roudinesco, among others, also points to the dynamics between sameness and difference, normality and transgression, operating on same-sex parenting. In wanting to have children, to what extent do gay men and lesbians (wish to) integrate themselves into society as ‘normal’, or how far do they desire to assert their difference? Are same-sex families simply part of a general evolution in the family or are they forging new social formations? Questions such as these take on particular resonance in the French context, given the eschewal of identity politics and the hetero-normative family laws of the French Republic. This paper engages with these debates, drawing on a group of narratives of lesbian mothering, both autobiographical témoignages and novels, which, between them, cover a variety of family arrangements and projets d’enfants: Claire Altman’s 'Deux femmes et un couffin' (2005), Myriam Blanc’s 'et elles eurent beaucoup d’enfants…' (2005), Laurence Cinq-Fraix’s 'Family Pride' (2006) and Éliane Girard’s 'Mais qui va garder le chat?' (2005). The discussion interrogates key issues – the question of the father, reproductive technologies, the role of the ‘second’ mother – and evaluates to what extent these narratives of lesbian mothering uphold new paradigms of parenthood.

Additional Information: An earlier version of this paper, entitled ‘La prise de la parole de la mère in contemporary women’s writing: lesbian mothering and the family in France’, was presented at ‘Parenting and Mothering: Family Relations in Modern and Contemporary France’, an Association for the Study of Modern & Contemporary France postgraduate study day, University of Durham (February 2007), with funding from the Association for the Study of Modern & Contemporary France. A revised version, entitled ‘Lesbian Mothering in Contemporary French Literature’, was published in the volume, Textual Mothers/ Maternal Texts: Motherhood in Contemporary Women's Literatures, ed. Elizabeth Podeneiks and Andrea O’Reilly (Toronto: Wilfred Laurier Press, 2010), pp.227-40, ISBN 978-1-55458-180-1. A longer version appeared as a chapter in Gill Rye, Narratives of Mothering: Women’s Writing in Contemporary France (Newark DE: University of Delaware Press, 2009) 221pp ISBN 978-0-87413-040-9 (hb)
Creators: Rye, Gill ( and
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Keywords: homoparentalite, same-sex parenting, lesbian mothering, Claire Altman, Myriam Blanc, Laurence Cinq-Fraix, Eliane Girard
Divisions: Institute of Modern Languages Research
Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women's Writing
  • 2007 ()


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