100th Anniversary International Women’s Day

Bravo to the French papers for their headlines celebrating the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day.
The American ones preferred the topics of the cost of oil and the states budgets to women.
Except Nicholas Kristoff who didn’t let us down with a particularly interesting article challenging several idées reçues or preconceived ideas on the topic of equality between men and women.
The funny thing is that, reading the French articles and readers’ comments, it felt as if France saw itself as a backwards country when it comes to women’s rights.
It does surprise me when I think of the many laws that support women in my native country. I have myself enjoyed my long pre and post delivery leave, and the opportunity (although I didn’t take it) to take care of my child until her third birthday without loosing my job. I remember of female colleagues who took Wednesdays off to be with their children who didn’t have school that day.
The American women are far from enjoying these advantages.
Yet, French women were complaining mostly of the still gender oriented chores such as house cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and child care.
Most complained of being the only one in charge while their partners or husbands did little to help them. Most seemed overwhelmed and resigned as if they had accepted that women would forever be the primary home caretakers.
Years ago, Sacrés Français, a book written by a former Newsweek reporter described in details how French men had it easy. The author wondered how they managed to have both pretty and obedient women who cooked and cleaned for them while wearing stylish clothes.
It had made my laugh then and I had thought that of course only French women could cleanup in a petite robe noire.
Practical American women would instead wear sweat pants and loose tee shirts.
It looks like my female ex compatriots overdid it and wanted to quit the rat race.
Although they were complaining, at least they were talking compared to our silence here in the US.
Is it because everything is dream like when it comes to men/women equality? Or is it because we stopped trying and plain gave up?
It is hard to talk for everyone but a glance at my family tells me a lot.
If my husband hates mall shopping, he enjoys grocery shopping. He knows the aisles of Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Raleigh as well as I do. If he doesn’t like daily cooking, he collects recipes that get his attention and can be quite the chef when it comes to sophisticated soups and delicate fish. If cleaning isn’t his cup of tea, he had to do it after my knee surgery. He bought a smaller, high tech vacuum cleaner because men enjoy tools, right? He doesn’t like spending an afternoon browsing through clothing boutiques but he has picked himself many of my nicest clothes and all my purses. If he is the breadwinner for our family (stories for kids don’t feed a large family!), he encourages and support my writing dreams and goals.
If he doesn’t do laundry because sorting clothes can be challenging if not gross, he found a new product to clean the washing machine that was reeking of mildew. Who would have thought of it but a man?
Because dogs don’t give birth to cats, my fourteen-year-old son walks in his dad’s shoes when it comes to mix and match male and female roles.
If he dreams of driving a Porsche on Las Vegas strip when he turns 21, he bakes cookies that he brings to school and cooks impeccable omelets for Sunday breakfast. He doesn’t wait for his mom to prepare his lunch if he gets hungry and even makes French toasts for her!
And both my men watch with equal passion the Chopped Chef on the Food Network and the Ultimate Fighter shows.
As for my daughters, they navigate between girly and sporty looking styles and wear their hair either very short or very long, they run and bike, and do workouts in their dorms. They read Glamour when they find a copy but blog daily in their own words. They go to formal and proms in long gowns and glitter in their hair but share the cost with their date if they have one. In high school or college, they study to get a job they will love and will support them later.
They talk of children but not necessarily of husbands. They hate boys who prefer long hair to short as if they came straight from the 20th century, but love the ones who don’t mind a sweaty girl and cheer them on when they run cross-country. They cook and bake, listening to Lady Gaga, the ultimate example of breaking traditional boundaries.
So when it comes to equality between men and women, I believe that although laws are instrumental to progress, change starts at home when parents don’t set up barriers separating their roles.
Oh, by the way, my husband just left for Costco before school pick up time. Meanwhile, I will vacuum
borrowing his cool new vacuum cleaner.
I’m happy to say that it is Women’s Day at my home. Almost every day.

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