by Carine Belmont
In the United States, in France or in the United Kingdom, our western society seems to want to make a sudden leap backwards. Everybody seems to desperately hang on to old values and to want to deconstruct the social rights which took us so much time to gain.
With Donald Trump’s victory, the Americans welcome as the head of their country an openly misogynist and racist man. Likewise, François Fillon, winner of the centre-right primary in France, seems to have a very ambiguous opinion regarding abortion. From my point of view, this is called “backpedaling”. When the situation becomes too difficult, we hang on to what we know best: the past, and we pedal in the wrong direction. The good old traditional values reassure us. In other words : Courage, let’s run!
I have to admit that for me as for many people, not so long ago, feminism rhymed with over excited harpies who bellow on men and seem to absolutely hate them. Nevertheless, I learnt in my history classes, just as everyone else, and know perfectly well that originally the feminism was the wish to establish equal opportunities for women and give them the right to choose their husband, their work, their education and their status. In other words the right to choose their life as they want it.
A few years ago I studied in Montreal for a year. The place is well-known for having a very strong feminism mentality. I was quite interested in seeing how that was functioning in reality. But, once in the student assemblies, the thing did not appear to me as healthy as it should have been. For instance, when a woman wanted to speak, no matter the number of men who had asked to speak before her, she had priority, or when the creation of a feminist group was debated the question of the necessity to allow men in the group had been asked. All of this seemed absurd. How can we build equality without involving the other half ? How to obtain the respect from men if we refuse them the opportunity to communicate?
Over the years, other questions appeared in my mind, one especially: are not men also victims of the ‘ambient machismo’ trend? Obviously women suffer stereotypes all day long, but by opposition men too. If one is weak, the other must be strong, when one is sensitive, the other should be sensible and if one must obey, the other has to command. For instance, a young boy who likes arts or shows a creative mind will be regarded as “sensitive” while a girl will be only a girl and by definition sensitive. Hence, the problem should not be handled unilaterally. The real matter is not to prove that women are just as capable as men (as if we tried to scale a pedestal) but to prove that women are and will always be alongside the men, equal. We must undo ourselves from social yokes in which we are trapped and put everybody in the same basket, namely the one of human beings.
Nevertheless, in this society more and more inclined to conservative ideas, small acts of contesting appear, in particular thanks to social media, cinema, actions of feminist associations and speech of some celebrities. In Paris a campaign against harassment of girls on the streets has been released recently. Emma Watson made a memorable speech at the United Nations for the campaign HeforShe.
Video courtesy of: HeForShe
New interests also appear about the gender question. The transgender and transsexual causes are more and more defended in the media. For example, the film The Danish Girl received four Academy Awards nominations (of which one won).
Fortunately, sometimes a small action can lead to great results. A French Radio Columnist, Guillaume Meurice, recently interviewed a woman working for a website, which was supposed to give information about abortion and the interviewee’s answers were absolutely surreal.
Therefore, even if the future does not seem necessarily pink given the recent political events, the small fights of the everyday life are perhaps our greatest weapon. The politicians are not the society and if they prefer to take refuge into the past, the people will always have the power to move forward.