Yesterday (Sunday, March 8th) was International Women’s Day (IWD)
I can’t help smiling at the differences between the French woman’s celebration of this global event and that of their Anglo-Saxon sisters. You only have to look at the two websites devoted to the IWD in French and in English, to spot the huge disparity in tone, ethos and conception.
Started in 1911 by Clara Zetkin, the German Socialist and Women’s Rights campaigner (confidante of Rosa Luxemburg) the idea of the IWD was to set aside a day every year – in any country that was at all interested in the idea of women’s rights – in which to celebrate women and provide a platform on which to press for their demands.
Today, the IWDs English web page claims to celebrate “the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future”. The French home page, on the other hand, is a shamelessly sentimental jamboree celebrating a rather quaint idea of femininity. It features an open letter, written by one of this year’s participants in the Journee de la Femme (JDF) 2009 Beaux Texte (Beautiful Prose) Competition. The entry is a “message in a bottle” tossed into the “tempest” that is the fight for female equality.
The text begins like this: “Will this world one day unite in its masculine and feminine sides? For what is there that is more magnificent than the mystery of the meeting of a man and a woman?” Est-ce qu’il sera un jour ce monde uni dans son masculin et son féminin ? Car qu’y a-t-il de plus grandiose que le mystère de la rencontre d’un homme et d’une femme ?
And ends like this: “A reunion through the fusion of souls, the explosion of bodies in the hope of the redeeming flowering, through the conception of a child, daughter and son alike, who will bring with them the best (of all possible worlds).” Réunion dans une fusion de leur âme, dans l’explosion de leur corps avec l’espoir d’une éclosion rédemptrice dans la conception d’un enfant , fille ou fils tout confondu, porteur du meilleur.
I could not hope to find a better illustration of French idealism v. Anglo Saxon pragmatism than these two readings of the IWD and the JDF.
In mitigation…Here is a a popular song called Je Suis Une Femme (I am a Woman), written to celebrate this year’s JDF by the two very gifted – and mercifully ironic – French loons, Clément Marchand and Alexandre Castagnetti.