The scandal with the French Presidential candidate Strauss Kahn (DSK) brought along its path some positive changes: the French feminist movement reappeared after a slumbering existence, albeit in a somewhat different shape.
In France there are still tremendous differences between men’s and women’s salary for the same job – sometimes as much as 19%! Despite that and despite the violence perpetrated against women that continues in every social classe: one girl of two is murdered per day; one woman in three has experienced a violent act against her sometimes during her life; one woman out of ten men in parliament… The list goes on. But to say that you’re a femisnist today in France is considered “old-fashioned”. It was the foreign critique of the French after the DSK-scandal that led to a revival of the debate. But it took quite some time to blossom up. With the Presidential elections coming up soon however, the French start to talk about feminism again.
“Be beautiful and keep fighting!”
That is the title of a recently published book by the colourful Yolaine de la Bigne. “The book is a feminist manifest for feminine women,” she says. “The profile of those women is not the manly looking feminists we’ve seen before, but engaged, feminine women that love men, chic clothes and sex!” The book’s cover shows a big red lipstick mouth that states the title in a bubble.
Mademoiselle – Miss – has just been erased on all official documents. It’s a symbol that women don’t need to show that they belong to a man anymore. It may seem old-fashioned as it has been replaced with Ms in the USA since quite some time, but France is still in majority a Catholic country where religion, traditions and customs die hard. Religion is one of Yolaine’s cornerstones. “All religions are against women’s liberation,” she says and gives as an example how from our Christian faith: the woman was created out of a man’s rib! She also despises psychologists who follow Freud’s ideas of blaming the mothers and their “penis-complex” for most problems. Women have accepted their subdued roles for too long now. It’s about time that they liberate themselves and show up!
At the same time, Yolaine defends men’s roles – and in that sense she is a true feminine feminist – that both sexes should meet and feel better with a more equal relation at work as well as at home.Women understand life in a different way and can be good complements to men’s way of problem-solving. Even economically, Yolaine sees women as an investment: the educated ones get less children, educate them better and contribute to a more stable society. Margareth Thatcher was one of the leading women who understood this: she gave the family allocations solely to the mothers (“men only go to the pub and spend the money in beer,” she is supposed to have said). Within industry and business, women may also contribute with different solutions. One example given is the one of the young designer employed by Renault. She understood that a family car needed everything a family wants. The idea of the stand for the baby-bottle was a hit!
Aude de Thuin – major in psychology
created in 2004 “Women’s Forum”. It was the first, independent, international forum consecrated to make a more just world and it became a success-story. Since then, every year in the posh french sea-side resort – Deauville – a conference is organized. In her book “Women if you dared, the world would be a better place” (Robert Laffont, 2012) she uses the Mahatma Gandhi’s teaching: “Be the change you want to see”. All women should, as Gandhi did, develop their inner strength to enable the world to change.
The book makes a thorough analysis of conscious and unconscious obstacles that push away women from the limelight. It’s an interesting reading for women’s situations worldwide, based on several recent studies that show that mixity is a must for a progressive society. She stresses also the importance for women to leave behind old, used models and embrace new ones that involve living up to one’s ambitions.
Aude gives us glimses from her own life as well and the book is full of good advices and experiences that can benifit us all. Other, more or less famous women, are given space to tell the reader about their specifities. Many among those women had to fight their way in society but did not give up in front of adversity or ancient traditions. When shall half the world’s population be invited to share in the making of a better society? She finally wonders.
The Middle East
It is however with a heavy heart that I write these words: that we still today, in Europe, have to fight for what should be an evidence. The violence against women is increasing: in schools both teachers and pupils complain that the girls are called “whores” and other insults; young girls are dressed-up as bimbos which lead to unsavoury relationships; pedophilia and pornography increase on the Net.
Instead of putting our efforts in helping our sisters that live in poverty and misery in other, less developed countries, we still haven’t solved our own problems.
In several countries, feminism is regressing. In Egypt where women got the right to vote before the French women, several of those acquired rights are disbanded. Women are thrown back to the Dark Ages where women are mere objects and men worse than animals – with instincts that are apparently impossible to handle. Saudi Arabia’s ideas of seclusion of half its population is spreading throughout the world. They have oil-money in profusion to use to propagate their views on women as inferior beings and they don’t seem to miss an opportunity to do so. Women have been made into scapegoats for all miseries.
When shall humans understand that women’s freedom is everybody’s freedom; women’s education, everybody’s education? We are all One, there are only cultural and religious differences, but those are on the surface, deep inside of every soul, there is nothing but one Humanity, everyone’s humanity.
Anne Edelstam, Paris.