“On ne peut rien contreune fille qui rêve”: TeenagePregnancy as MaternalEmpowerment or MaternalEntrapment in 17 Filles

17 Filles (2011), the first feature film of French directing sisters Delphine and Muriel
Coulin, draws inspiration from a 2008 incident in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in which
18 high-school girls committed to a “pregnancy pact”, with the aim of conceiving
almost simultaneously. The Coulins transpose these events to Lorient in northern
France, and the film follows a group of lycéennes who agree to get pregnant at the
same time, in a bid to reclaim control over their bodies and their futures. This article
examines the ways in which the pregnancy plot of 17 Filles seeks to interrupt and
transgress the trajectory towards “successful” womanhood prescribed by society
for young girls. The article further interrogates the positioning of motherhood in the
film as an act of corporeal empowerment and female emancipation. In so doing, the
authors problematise the feminist undertones of the film by exposing the extent to
which the plot, at times, becomes entangled in the norms of the very institution that
it seeks to subvert: namely, patriarchal motherhood.