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Monday, 2 February 2015

We women: still too much or too little

by Michèle Mialane, Tlaxcala, 01/29/2015
Translated by Jenny Bright, Tlaxcala
For some time now, the status of women has declined, along with other achievements, ranging from social security to secularism passing through the right to challenge neo-liberal thinking, since the times of the already ancient "TINA!" of Mrs Thatcher, in power from 1979 to 1990.

Before the acceleration of the collapse of our societies, all this had already emerged, insidiously. What! They're still complaining, after everything they got! From the right to sign the social security forms for their little darlings (Yes, until the 60s only the head of the household, the man of course, was recognised and if he disappeared without leaving any address, the children did not belong by right to the neglected wife, even if she had a job and she and her offspring were living by it) to the right to drive a bus, passing by the right to be insulted a lot more than her male counterparts in the political arena. (I'm not, I'm really not a fan of Ségolène Royal, but never would the PS have tolerated one of their males to be treated in a way similar to Royal during the 2007 presidential campaign. I cannot imagine what would be said of a woman for a third of the sexual escapades of DSK (Dominique Strauss-Kahn). And I could go on.) What liberality! We remain silent.

Meanwhile wages, even at full-time are lower (9% less according to the Observatory of inequalities) for women - and although required by law, the principle of "equal pay for equal work" is not respected in the private sector: a discrepancy of 27% to the disadvantage of women, I have read. Furthermore it is on women that unemployment, and especially involuntary part-time (with no decision on the schedule) falls most heavily, the collective unconscious always considering the woman's income as "supplementary income". And I have heard the bourgeois claim that "feminists were stupid to claim the right to work, whereas before they were kept without having to do anything." Whew! This is not the image that the rustic that I was, had of farmers wives. How many of the rest, in agriculture and elsewhere - though it was certainly before I was born - must have temporarily or permanently replaced men during and after the First World War, that butchery that reaped over a million (official figure: 1 397,400) lives, often young, listen to the song of Craonne. An outdoor photo exhibition held in Sainte-Geneviève des Bois for the hundredth "anniversary" of 1914 showed that despite their touching fragility women worked at that time in explosives factories and replaced fire-fighters (while pumps were not as manoeuvrable as today, far from it). Many were the war widows to raise their children alone, and I do not remember that any young and less young idiots, from Versailles and others, of the   Demonstration for all [collective of opponents to same-sex marriage]  were at all moved by the fact that all these orphans have not benefited from a father ...But as noted by the sociologist Andrée Michel; in all societies, women perform the tasks the men do not want - which may vary, elsewhere, according to civilizations and eras.
And I have seen the persistent feelings of worthlessness in the man earning less than his partner. A young thirty-odd year old, middle class, rather well-off, told me he had dumped his girlfriend for that reason alone. In the novel  "En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule" ("Ending Eddy Bellegueule"), at the bottom of the social ladder, Édouard Louis tells of how his father refused to see his mother earn more than himself and forced her to stop work even as the family was having difficulties.

As for the "housewife", she does not work, and it is probably for this reason that the division of housework is still uneven. According to INSEE (2010) women spend 2.2 times more time on domestic work than men in couples where both partners have a job. With a peak for those aged 30 to 50 years. This is nothing new: since domestic duties are not actually work... Not surprisingly, the higher up the social ladder and the less marked the difference. Flora Tristan is still relevant today... And to return to Andrée Michel: it is always the women who "fight against dirt". (Today, some immigrants descend so low on the social scale that they can clean too. But not at home: a few years ago, in the (excellent) program "The Health magazine" on channel Five, it was discussed how to dirty toilets as little as possible. Marina Carrère d'Encausse then remarked loudly that this task was ALWAYS assigned to women. It is well known that men, they never use the toilet and above all never urinate next to it, which was also the subject of debate.)

Now to the worst of all: the image of women.

I open the topic with the famous phrase of Mr Foyer, former Minister of Justice, shouting at the top of the podium: "Man must have his dignity and place in society in his work; the woman must have hers in marriage and motherhood."

Well come on!  (In brackets: what about those unmarried, without children? Incompetents? And those who have had children out of wedlock? Whores?)
Shortly after this thunderous declaration, a feminist activist from my relations - and others with her - had written to various authorities requesting a ban on the use of women's bodies in advertising. NOBODY has deigned to answer them, not even the prudish Bishops' Conference of France. Forty years later, we know what it is. The ads for cars, among others ...

And yet! We are always either too much or too little. We had to fight tooth and nail to have rape recognised as a crime: as it is we who are provoking it! At the other end, we are told that we must give women the "freedom to veil themselves" - that is, to state clearly themselves to be a sexual object (forbidden, but because of their sex object status). I have often heard in my distant youth reproaches for my lack of vanity; what's more, I was told, I was perfectly capable of "bringing out the best of myself". An expression that says a lot! Well, what do you want, the clothes and makeup are not my cup of tea; I appreciate well-dressed people, but I prefer to use my time and money otherwise. To me, my "best" lies elsewhere. Certainly, numerous are the women who- sometimes, often, from lack of money- have incurred the same reproach. Give me a man who has been put in this situation? The taste for "brands" is not intended to catch the female eye, or to satisfy the public, but is only proof of a gregariousness characteristic in young males.

As for humiliations, they are daily, never mind your age. We permit towards a woman - especially if she lives alone, a lack of respect that we would not inflict on a man. For example, to tell her where to get off because she complained that your dog barks all day or because you listen to rap a little too loudly. Benign sexual assault - quotation marks, forceful seduction, "hand on the buttocks," etc. are daily. (How I regret the untimely death of Reiser, the only "feminist" draftsman ever counted among the Charlie Hebdo staff. Even if I get myself booed by affirming it!)
Marie Curie
In France there are two million women beaten by their partners. Two die each week. It doesn't reach the headlines. I heard once that peremptory judgment: a woman who had had enough of being rebuffed on the grounds that she was a woman, had objected to her husband and his friend behaving differently with another of their peers, heard the response: "Yes, but it is not the same, she's smart". An intelligent woman is not really a woman. Moreover, even women have explained this well to us. Because the worst is that we have internalised not only our role as eternal "seconds" (The Second Sex, is it not? As compared to the "divine elder," as father Hugo wrote in The woman's Rite), but also the fibs we were fed to legitimise what nothing factual could justify. Think of all that literature and art have produced that is misogynistic and sexist, while women who have risen (at the cost of what difficulties) to creation have not been avenged. I really like Brel and Brassens; but what misogyny among the first (Mathilde! The walls of Warsaw! Air of stupidity! among many others), and sometimes what ingenuous sexism: Marinette or the Sheep of Panurge and a number of others from the second, who has yet written some of the most beautiful love poems in French.) Marie Curie has
been criticized for her affair with a married man; she herself was a widow. Sophie Germain had to pass for a man to get scientists of the time to read her first mathematical work. The worst of all my principals (I'm a former teacher) said: "You cannot imagine in what a state I found this school. I will only say one thing: I succeeded a woman". Parents of students obtained a shelving of
Sophie Germain
this brilliant macho, as he was unable to perform his duties. Read the "women's magazines" makeup, clothes, recipes (they always told us, however, in my youth that the great chefs were all men. Egad! We are big fans of the degree in France, and I knew the first woman who obtained one, she told me, of the title of "sauce chef"; it being previously banned for women to achieve this status.) And then, the romance magazines! Ah, how women are futile! We are not like the regular readers of L'Équipe (French sports daily) and other France Football!

My own experience confirms that of so many others before me; as soon as we demand real equality, at worst, we are treated as hysterical. Otherwise, we are urged to rejoin those who are well-behaved and conform to what the world of men expects of them, or we are told that we must help the revolution (the men) then everything will work out, or we are asked what our personal problems are (female problems, of course.) But usually they do not even hear us - or they wait with boredom for us to finish talking.

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