Sunday, May 22, 2011

MESDAMES LES MISOGYNES


French women do everything modern women do, but, astonishingly, many still defer to men, allowing themselves to be treated like inferiors, children and servants.  Even though most French women work, are financially independent and sexually responsible, they continue to tolerate men’s antiquated, old-fashioned, out-dated, passé paternalism and machismo. 
French women are no shrinking violets.  Very few think they’re inferior to men, they’re mostly strong, ambitious, free-thinking, out-spoken, go-getting women of action.  French women stand up for themselves and are not afraid to speak out––except to the men in their life.
    Many French women will also walk all over their female friends to get and keep a man, obviously not considering female friendship worth a damn and thus illustrating the fact that they don’t think much of their gender. Giving men this much power weakens women and the entire culture.
    Shocking, really, when you think that French feminism had it’s origins in the Revolution of 1789     and one of the most famous works about feminism,    The Second Sex was written by Simone de Beauvoir.  Not that there aren’t feminists in France today, but, as late    as 1974, France actually had a Minister of the Feminine Condition.  Good grief. 
    The reason most French women give for their behavior is that they are deathly afraid of being thought of as “aggressive”, as they consider feminists and American women to be.   As if being groped, attacked and insulted makes you feel soft and feminine.  They prefer to appear submissive in public and to wield their power behind men’s back.   This involves much subterfuge, artifice, manipulation and quite a bit of deceit.  Nasty, underhanded stuff.
   This behind-the-scenes “power” also creates men who believe they can get away with anything, like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose innocence we will presume until he’s proven guilty.  As long as women allow men to behave abusively, men will continue to abuse them.  French women say they believe in equal pay for equal work and they complain bitterly to other women when men treat them like children and servants, but many are just not prepared to stand up for their rights for fear of being thought “aggressive”, “crazy” and “feministe”, a dirty word in France.
    Tolerating male dominance is admitting that you’re inferior, that it’s okay to pay you less, treat you disrespectfully, order you around and expect you to be a servant, no matter how cleverly you dodge around behind his back.  This decades out-of-date behavior is feminine machismo, female sexism and it does France no favours.
    French men will tell you that they don’t dominate women, that French women are strong and free to do what they like and they have plenty of power.  I recently heard a young male French film director defending the wimpiness of his heroine by saying that she really had plenty of power at home.  So much for French gallantry.
    Standing up for your rights as a human being is not aggressive, it’s essential. 
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

WHAT KIND OF MOTHER?

      Photo: Louise Bourgeois' sculpture "Maman" 

     I’ve often wondered what abused children feel about Mother’s Day.  What do they think about all the advertising exhorting them to pay tribute to their mother for all the loving guidance, encouragement, protection and support she’s never given them? 
     What do they make of the gift-giving, floral tributes, dutiful telephone calls and loving lunches to be given to the woman who gave birth to them, who holds the powerful and venerable title of “mother” but who doesn’t deserve it?   
    What do they think of doing to the woman who beat, kicked, slapped, insulted, burned and humiliated them? Abusing a child is condemning him to a damaged life so, what kind of tribute should be paid to someone who’s abused trust and innocence and made a child suspicious and wary of others? Solitary confinement, drawing and quartering? A day in Abu Graib?
     What kind of flowers would you send to an abusive mother? Dead black roses with plenty of thorns? Weeds and poison ivy for evil and wickedness? A wreath of nettles with black ribbons mourning the death of motherhood in her case?  
    What kind of gift does cruelty merit? Arsenic-laced chocolates? A rack, handcuffs, a water-board?
    What kind of mother abuses her own child? Obviously, a cowardly one, deserving of the utmost contempt. Who would raise a child with hatred instead of love, sneers instead of encouragement, hits instead of protection?   Imagine being attacked by the very person whose job it is to protect you. What would you expect from the world after that? If you your own mother hates you, what’s the world going to do to you?  
    On Mother’s Day, do abused children make reproachful phone calls with angry accusations? Send their mothers cards full of curses, reproaches and suffering?
    Or do they send Mike Tyson to beat the crap out of her, bite her ear off, pull her hair, scream at her, belittle her and tell her she’s bad, evil, twisted, insane, selfish and cruel?
    It must be tempting.                                   
    What would you do?
    Perhaps grown abused children don’t mark the day at all because it has too many ugly memories of having their sovereign self beaten into non-existence, their accomplishments ignored, their dreams held in contempt.
    I like to think that, on Mother’s Day, abused children choose to celebrate themselves instead, knowing that they mothered and comforted themselves as best they could. Perhaps they send themselves a mothers’ day card and flowers. Why not, they certainly deserve them. I hope they refuse to waste one iota of reclaimed life on an evil female who once had total control over them and abused that power. I hope they prefer to celebrate the fact that they managed to rise above the slaps, whips and harsh words to live a generous, loving life even if it is a bit bruised, broken and patched in places. 

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