The freedom of women in France is very much a matter of words, and I think it is intimately related to language. As with many Latin languages, the masculine form trumps everything when it comes to grammatical agreement of adjectives and so forth. We say Un Français et trente millions de Françaises sont contents; those 30 million French women have to be contents in the masculine form as dictated by their one male companion, rather than contentes as they would be without him.I would normally place myself with those who consider that there are more important things in life. But Madame puts her case most elegantly.
A lot of men tell us that we are fighting the wrong battle, that we should fight first for wage equality, or against the glass ceiling. But words matter. Let's imagine unmarried men having to tick the box Mon Damoiseau, the medieval equivalent of Ma Demoiselle. The boys soon stopped allowing people to call them bird, with its insinuation of virginity. Whereas I, at the age of 43, still get called "Mademoiselle", literally "my little hen". Charmant, non?
25 February 2012
Gender and sex
A French lady (am I allowed to say that?) writing in The Guardian: