The 8th of March was International Woman’s Day and this year I must tell you that I was in two minds about the idea of this day. Wondering: Is the French woman feminist? Not that I am not for valuing women and being reminded that women are still victims of inequalities in our “modern” societies but rather because I am sad to notice that we need a day each year to remember that as women we are a part of this world. Shouldn’t we extend this day to the other 364 days of the year?
This is why I have decided to publish this article on another day, a common day, the type of day when women are living out the realities of inequalities at work, this altogether commonplace day where still women are beaten or/and raped, another day where the housewife, the partner or the mother has more housework and chores than her man, a simple day in government where women have to fight to be heard.
Following this thought, I wondered to myself, am I a feminist? Is the French woman a feminist?
When I came to Australia, I noticed a real difference between women in Australia and women in France. In Australia, a lot of women are feminists, they even organise meetings to talk about it, start their own businesses more fearlessly than French women, and even go as far as to separate men and women in gym clubs or even during parties. On this last point, I have to confess you that it’s always difficult for me to have a girls’ night when my preference is to mix with both men and women, appreciating this difference that in fact unite us.
Before coming to Australia, I never really asked myself if I was a feminist. And to tell you the truth I don’t think I am. So of course I am for equality at work, in politics, and I share the idea that a woman must be respected and her word counts more than everything. I’m convinced that a woman has an important part in life – often the utmost importance – to play in our society, however I have quite often considered SOME forms of feminism as a false struggle that pushes away from men, attacking them and sometimes going as far as sexism.
7 French people out of 10 believe that feminists do not use the right methods
(2014 Harris Interactive survey for the magazine Grazia). My question is: do the feminists use methods to allow men and women to live together in harmony?
In France, the principle of feminism reared its head (or should I say its breast) in the 19th century, with the goal of fighting social inequalities in an overly patriarchal society. Later on, feminism took on new momentum when Simone Weil, female politician activist, played an important role in the liberalisation of abortion.
I have to admit nevertheless that I hardly know any French women around me who claim to be pure feminists. Frankly, nowadays there is not really a face that incarnates the feminist movement in France. Naturally there are a few women in politics or media that engage with and fight for feminism.
However if I have to give you a name, the first one that comes to mind is Simone de Beauvoir who has a special place in the heart of French people; the female modern-day philosopher in a couple with another great philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
Simone de Beauvoir was opposed to marriage and placed great value on the conditions of women. She also wrote on this topic and published “le deuxième sexe” (the second sex) in 1949, a successful existentialist book in which we find the popular quote “on ne naît pas femme, on le devient” (one is not born a woman, one becomes one). Her thoughts had such an impact for women that in 2008, the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for women’s freedom was created.
These days, the French woman claims to not be so feminist not because she doesn’t value the importance of her conditions in society but maybe more because she wants to keep the privileged relationship she has built over the centuries with the male gender.
Although we see more and more feminism in politics, feminine media and even in fashion. We can’t forget the fashion show Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld in 2015 with its strong messages on posters like “ladies first” or “without women, no men”. A protest movement that we also see in the personality of Gabrielle Chanel when she decided to bring the tweed for women, she was expressing feminism through fashion.
I have difficulties in claiming to be a feminist as I do not recognise myself in the methods used by feminists. I also love our femininity, this unique and special characteristic, too much; this essence that distinguishes ourselves from men and defines ourselves so well, a quality that we often forget in place of aggressive feminism. Maybe we could build a new movement that I would love to call “femininiteism”, a concept that wants to enhance femininity.
Of course, by using the word femininity I don’t mean fashion or wearing high heels or showing a décolleté, no I am referring more to a state of mind that will highlight tenderness, ease, listening, gentleness, a powerful, calm and energising force that will bring a feeling of peace and aestheticism to our societies that I consider to be too often quite violent and vulgar.
With age, I am more and more attached to femininity, to connecting with my soul which is, I believe, the best weapon to combat inequalities, stupidity and nastiness.
I also like that a man emphasises my femininity by recognising my unique character with delicate attentions as a gentleman. It’s maybe a bit crazy or utopian but I still want to believe that the change will come through a feminine revolution, a personal path that every woman needs to take. A woman is an initiator, an initiator of love, of beauty and delicacy; surely, the best way to make this world more receptive to feminine charm is to act as a real Woman every day in our both actions and words.
To all women who have inspired me and still inspire me today, I especially think of my mum and my grandmother who helped me to become a Woman.
MERCI NHM TRANSLATION