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Speaking to break taboos

Article author :

Juliette Maes

Juliette graduated with a Master's degree in Press and Information from IHECS in 2020. She started her journalism career at ELLE Belgium, for which she still writes today. She is interested in feminist and social issues, including female entrepreneurship, inclusiveness and ecological transition. Professionally, Juliette is on the move. Besides journalism, she is a photographer and videographer, notably for Badger Production, a Brussels-based company specialised in corporate storytelling.

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Created as a result of two French women who adore podcasts and love talking about anything and everything meeting one another, 100 Tabou tackles the subjects which are not discussed in society. Wages, gynaecological violence, sexuality, parenthood or addiction: if it is difficult to talk about it openly, they will do so.

Manon grew up in a typical, modestly well-off family, but in which there are many subjects which are not talked about. At the age of 18, she left the family home to commence her studies in a very male and misogynistic world, one with very few women. It was only when she started working that she was able to spend more time with women and was made aware of numerous subjects, such as feminism, which she had no inkling of previously. 

Jo for her part spent her childhood in very mixed neighbourhoods of the Paris region. She doesn’t feel that she has these taboos in her life and it is only recently, when she talks about them with Manon, that she has become aware of the things which are not discussed in society. ‘In my family we talked about everything, so it was frustrating to realise that around me this wasn’t the case,’ she says. ‘Sometimes I was even told not to raise certain subjects.’

The idea came to Jo’s mind in the spring of 2021. As Manon had already created a podcast, they were able to get the project up and running very quickly. Before starting, they had imagined a whole series of themes they wanted to tackle. ‘Obviously, there are many subjects we know nothing about or had not experienced, as we are two women without children in heterosexual relationships.’ So, more often than not, they adapt to the people who wish to share their experiences, in particular by means of appeals for witnesses on their Instagram page.

A liberating and healing effect

The subjects discussed in the podcast can at times be difficult to listen to, above all, for a listener who is going through a similar experience. The women therefore pay particular care to choose interlocutors who have some perspective on their experiences and can thus offer solutions or advice. ‘That is what I identify with,’ explains Manon. ‘What I love in these episodes is that the listeners become aware that they are not alone in what they are going through and that they can obtain potential solutions, answers from the interviewees. That is how I see the broadcast.’

For Jo there is also the liberating aspect of people being able to talk about things they have never shared. Some people come to get something off their chest even though they have never talked about it with the people around them, because they hope that it will do them some good. ‘I love offering that to the listener, and to the interviewee as well,’ she confides.

I think it takes more than just one person wishing to break a taboo. It has to go both ways.


The goal of 100 Tabou is to loosen tongues and to free minds, but it has not managed to encourage conversation within Manon’s family, and she says that she never talks to them about the subjects addressed in the podcast’s episodes. ‘I think it takes more than just one person wishing to break a taboo. It has to go both ways,’ she admits. ‘But on the other hand, it has personally opened me up to many subjects, so if someone approaches me to talk about them, it’s always a pleasure.’

Jo for her part has a more direct approach, not hesitating to be the one to start the conversation herself. ‘My family opens up to sensitive subjects gradually, but I jump straight in a lot more,’ she explains, adding with a chuckle that she readily brings up subjects at the dinner table during family get-togethers. Her brother and sister-in-law have for that matter made this the subject of an episode on the podcast.

After just one and a half years, the two friends are proud of the feedback they have received from their interlocutors. For many it has been a liberating experience. Several of them have even been able to subsequently talk about it with their families or their friends. For others it has at times also become a kind of supporting document to say: ‘I don’t have the courage to say it to your face, but listen to the episode and afterwards, if you like, we can discuss it,’ adds Jo.

Remarkable subjects, at times hard to bear

 Of the 32 episodes produced up until now, one of those which most affected Jo was the one she recorded with her sister-in-law and her brother on gynaecological violence. In addition to being connected to the birth of her niece, it is a subject which has always bothered her and it was important for her to talk about it. This episode also had the advantage of involving two interlocutors and thus hearing the father’s point of view on the subject.

Some stories can, however, be very hard to bear, for those who are listening, but also for the producers. Manon for example remembers the second episode recorded for the podcast, during which the interlocutor recounted the suicide of her sister. ‘I was convinced that I was going to be able to manage this subject because suicide is a tragedy I have experienced closely in my family,’ she notes. ‘The interview went very well; it was very positive. But afterwards, I had nightmares about it for two weeks; I dreamt that it was my sister who was committing suicide. I couldn’t touch the episode for a month afterwards because it was too hard.’ The two producers have thus learned from their mistakes and now divide up the subjects depending on their sensitiveness, to ensure that they don’t go through the same experience again.

What Manon and Jo didn’t realise is that 100 Tabou reveals that women are far more likely to open up about their experiences. Of the 32 episodes, only two interlocutors were men, because the producers have found it difficult to find male witnesses willing to express themselves. Yet, that is not to say that they are fewer in number or live through less stories which are worth being told. In Manon’s opinion, whilst men freely express themselves on delicate subjects when they are not involved in them personally, it remains very difficult to get them to talk to someone about personal subjects, whereas women open up more easily.

For Manon, actually hearing women sharing their experiences encourages others to also do so as well, and the same goes for men, provided that they do so. ‘As soon as we manage to break certain taboos for men, it will become easier,’ she hopes, ‘but you have to take the first step.’

Far from being naïve, Jo and Manon hope that their initiative will form a small part of the fabric of a more open society in which people will be able to have conversations on taboo subjects in the same way as happened with any of the series’ episodes. ‘I would really love it if people talked about 100 Tabou episodes when we are having a meal with our colleagues, without any awkwardness, or practically without any,’ admits Jo.100 Tabou is the first podcast Manon and Jo have produced together. The podcasts Le Départ and Vers Do can also be found on their website Positiv’ Studio.

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