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To disturb the good logic
1 Jul 2010
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“We work so that rights are protected as rights, but it is constant vigilance, a reclaiming of rights. You never have a right. It is there, the law was passed, but one must practice it.”

Maison des femmes de Montreuil. An open center for women on the outer edge of Paris, where women can come freely, connect with other women, and find resources and community. Equipped with meeting space, a feminist library, and multimedia center, they also offer academic programs and workshops in subjects such as technology, self-defense, French, voice, and painting. Interviewed July 2010.

To disturb the good logic

Women, they live everything at the same time. They have the responsibility of the meals, their job, the cleaning. Every responsibility, every domain is thrown together in the life of a woman.

She doesn’t do it all freely. That’s to say, eighty percent of women do the domestic tasks, the shopping, the cleaning, the housework, the children. If she does other things in addition to caring for her home and children, she accumulates a number of functions that are exhausting and guilt-provoking. A woman who is career-oriented must also watch the children, feed the children. At the same time, she is running to meetings to manage projects. It is the double, triple hats worn by women, which is not at all the place of men today.

A man when he has a professional situation, he is in a professional situation. He is not carrying his private life and his public life together. He is in a sequence of life, in his choices of life. Women have not won that yet.

Eighty-percent of domestic work today is done by women. That’s a reality that has moved very little in a century. 

A century ago, there were a certain number of rights given in law that leveraged some fundamental rights of women: The re-appropriating of one’s body by women, the autonomy of women, the liberty of women. These laws that were passed and these possibilities of life were real advances for civilization. The laws allow women to access a level of equality.

Today, all these advances are in movement. We are still far from acquiring all the laws that allow us to have real equality. We can ask, “Yes, there is progress but who does it progress for?” Does it advance for everyone or only for certain individuals? Will it take generation after generation to transform?

It is true that girls have an advantage in school today they didn’t have a century ago. On the other hand, we know also that across four hundred fifty professions in France, women will only go into twenty or twenty-five different sectors. Evidently, they work with an advantage but only in certain professions. 

It’s necessary to deconstruct the social mechanisms in order to reconstruct the possibilities in life and autonomy for women. Patriarchy, it is the world around. The patriarchal society has secured the partitioning of roles and sullied populations.

Men guard their power. When a woman like Ségolène Royal ran for president several years ago, the journalists presented her as presidential candidate speaking only of the number of children she had and how she dressed. When they spoke of Sarkozy as a future president, they did not speak of him in his capacity as a father, how many children he had, did he take good care of his children? She was treated like a slut. “Go back to your house. You would do better to take care of your home.”

It is the reality today. It is true that a woman who rises to the top, who presents herself in positions like that, she is going to face two times as much difficulty. It is similar in every domain.

Woman are not allowed to occupy the place of a man. You can only go as far. You have groups of men who say that the arrival of women perturbs the mechanism, the capacity of work in the political groups, in professional groups. To let women enter is to disturb the good logic, the good method.

For example, in the professional sector, the arrival of women devalues this professional sector, lessens the wages. The métier of lawyers, for example, when there was the arrival of women as lawyers, there was a drop in prices, honorariums, the financial value of this professional. Today, we know that the strongly masculine professions are going to be more closed to women out of fear of devaluing their work.

It is absolutely disgraceful when you say a woman has, for the same work, a lesser salary. We have a tendency to say it’s unbelievable, but you must notice the de-valorization of professional sectors and ask, “What does that mean for the value of work in general?”

All of the sudden, what happens is a protectionist reflex unclenches. There are different parameters that make it so men don’t have to give up their privilege. The senators, they don’t want to leave their positions. They create their own laws to stay in a closed circle. Then, after, you have all the history of civilization that proves that there are masculine roles, there are feminine roles, and one must deconstruct that, too.

 Of course in their own way, women stop themselves, don’t allow themselves to have autonomy. Many women define their life, their perspective by the obligation to be a mother before all else. It is women themselves who bring this perspective, which is extremely dangerous. Becoming a mother, it is a project of imprisonment for women. A woman must put into perspective the life of women without entering into the perspective of the life of a mother.

There is an emergence of possibilities and rights in some domains. We know that equality can exist according to the laws that are in place for certain individuals, in certain areas. But you are in a real problem of a patriarchal civilization that has subjugated women for thousands of years and which is not unique in France, which is truly universal. So every time you attempt to fight for the rights of women, you attempt a fight that is extremely painful, extremely taboo, extremely censured.

The body of women is the first censure. It is a very violent censure, very strong and very passionate. The moment you approach a problem around the subject of the bodies of women, whether it is abortion or the veil, the surrounding populations stand up and protest. You are truly dealing with problems that are profound. It is very heavy as a subject, very delicate and very immediate.

There are no groups that do not deal with the body of women. Religion, of course, touches on the body of a woman. The political, of course, touches on the body of a woman. A woman’s body confronts the fundamental subjects that define political, economic, and cultural functions of the country and the mass around it.

We know that contraception and the choice of sexuality today are possibilities. We know that there are a certain number of methods legally that you can abort. It is legal. That is accessible. These ways are accessible to people. That is a reality on paper and at the pharmacy, except, one must fight constantly, so that it stays that way.

For example, it is possible today for nurses in academic establishments to give the morning-after pill to students. We know that the nurses are more or less carriers of this information.

But you are in a context of society where those people are less and less present. The nurses are under suppression. For example, today, it’s possible to abort in France but they are in the middle of closing centers for abortions. It is more difficult to make an appointment to have an abortion and we know that if you come back in two weeks, you can no longer have an abortion in France. It is difficult to have a place, the beds. You have no more than two weeks to wait, and you can longer have an abortion.

There is one side of possibility and on the other side, the effects of the censures. When you close a center for abortion, you have an impact on the possibilities of the right of woman to have an abortion.

It is the political choices, the financial choices. If you tell a hospital, I am developing the finances for cancer but not for the abortion, you make a choice. When you say that it’s possible to abort in France, but there are less beds for abortion and you lower the number of beds for abortion, that has an impact on the possibility of choices of women immediately.

The second censure is the accessibility of contraception. Can we have the morning-after pill officially so that anyone can go to a pharmacy and ask for a morning-after pill without it being a moral judgment? The reality is there is a pharmacist there who says to the woman, “Why do you want to have a morning-after pill?” Or the pharmacist says they don’t have the morning-after pill. After, the woman does not dare to go again because she was humiliated. She does not dare to ask for the morning after pill and after 24 hours, the effectiveness of a morning-after pill decreases.

You see? The time you have to go to ask for this morning-after pill will in fact impede on your choices sexually, your liberty to have a child or not. You have a practical reality, obliged to morality. The reality immediately has an impact on this right. It is linked: To have this right and to practice it.

It is important to get rid of the guilt, to continue to say that it’s possible, to uphold the ways that are in place so that it is possible for women. 

Here, we hold protests. We organize; we raise awareness; we make petitions; we go into hospitals; we pass on the information to young people in high schools. We work so that rights are protected as rights. But it is constant vigilance, a reclaiming of rights.

You never have a right. It is there, the law was passed, but one must practice it, apply it. It is similar for violence against women; there are laws that were passed but to apply them, it is truly hard.

On one side, the laws exist, but to have an application of the rights and laws by the government and the populations is integral. It must be a real political choice. We make it happen or we don’t make it happen. Why don’t we make it happen?

The first group who is going to take the fall, it is always the women. Like in all the countries of the world, the situation of the economic crisis, it has an immediate impact first on the situation of women. All of the sudden, you see the emptying of positions by women. “Return to the parlor. Abandon the profession. Return to making children, to the family notion and role of a mother.” The mindset of communitarians also affected women first. The rebound of values of Puritanism affected women first. The precariousness in France provoked by the economic crisis affected women first. What does that mean? That means each time you take a situation, you know that there is an immediate impact on the women.

Here, we give our expertise to society and government. For example, how we see the evolution and the precariousness of women’s situation. What are the needs? What are the costs? How is it going? Are there measures to put in place?

It is a political consciousness that pushes you to choose these areas of movement, and me, I am feminist. I chose an area of activity that allows me to be in the field, to work on proposals, and try to make things move towards gender equality. It is a political and personal choice. And there is a sentence in my head, it is, “One is not a woman, one becomes it.” One is not feminist, one becomes it.

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Community Justice Activism Advocacy
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