International Women’s Day

It sounds almost unnecessary to have an International Women’s Day.

Things have changed so much for us, women, that there is really nothing we can’t have that men have, nothing we can’t do that men do, nothing we can’t dream of and can’t achieve, etc, etc.

We, women, came a long way.

We finally won the right to vote in 1920 in the U.S. and in 1944 in France. Okay, it took decades of fight in the U.S. (the first actions took place upstate New York in 1848) and happened almost hundred years later than for the men in France, but in the end we can cast our vote.

The fight for equal pay hasn’t been won yet, but more women make it to the top of the economic ladder and in politics.

In Saudi Arabia women can’t drive and throughout the world girls fight for the right to study. But our daughters, at least in westernized countries, dominate higher education. One of mine is graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in May, and most of her undergrad classmates in the scientific fields are girls. So, yes, we came a very long way, and the future looks bright.

And yet, when it comes to rape and violence against women, we are living in the dark ages.

Have you tried to say the word “rape” during a dinner? No better word to utter if you want to stop conversations. You can talk about losing a loved one, about being robbed, about all kinds of diseases, about being fired, about being broke, and even about marital infidelity. But not about rape. There is around the word too much shame and too much hurt. Just too loaded.

So many hateful words – astonishingly sometimes from women too – are pronounced and written on the topic that it is worthless arguing against.

I found it more effective to read positive books that wasting energy and losing hope through trashy conversations and pamphlets.

Among the best books I have read on the topic of rape and violence against women, most are novels. A few have particularly moved me and pushed me to recommend them to my children, to their friends and to my own friends. Written words are almost always more powerful than any oral speech.

In Fiction for Adults and Young Adults:

Speak from Laurie Halse-Anderson

She was a pionneer, here in the U.S., when she wrote this book filled with grace, tact, and hope.

Lucky from Alice Sebold

Also the author of the Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold was raped herself, so her writing is even more meaningful than other writers’.

Room from Emma Doneghue

A beautiful story despite the hardness of the issue, told from a child’s perspective, son of his mother’s rapist.

Sold from Patricia McCormick

She is the voice for difficult subjects.

The Tenth Circle from Jodi Picoult

Not the only book Jodi Picoult wrote about rape, but one of my favorites.

Thirteen Reasons Why from Jay Asher

One of the very few men to write on the subject, I applaud the choice he made. Like Laurie Halse-Anderson, he does it with sensibility and dignity. And he is a Californian.

How to Save a Life from Sara Zarr

She is one of my favorite authors for young adults and tackles any subject with infinite talent.

If you read French, you may be interested by a couple of books from Clémentine Autain. Unlike the above list, hers are nonfiction and politically oriented. Clémentine Autain is actually a political figure in France (radical left) and a feminist activist. She has written on the topic of rape – she was raped when she was 22 and remained silent until her mid thirties. She spoke up during the DSK scandal and has been a controversial figure since. But her voice and others in France have been essential to start a much needed conversartion in a country where 75 000 women are raped every year. What I like in Autain’s writing it that she has no hate against men, only the desire to change the way some men live their sexuality through domination and to open the dialogue between men and women.

Her most recent book Elles se Manifestent: Viol, 100 femmes témoignent is released today in France in honor of the International Women’s Day. It is a collection of true stories from 100 women who tell in their own words of their rape and of its consequences on their lives. Above all it is a work of hope and love.

In the end, it looks like, despite all the progress, it is still necessary to have an International Women’s Day so that women can think of the other women living somewhere in the world. We are after all one half of the planet. And of course, it is also a day to remember that many more men love us and care for us than the other way around.

So it can only be a good day.

 

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