French Friday: For Humankind

With the Republican running candidate blasting his opinions about women during his campaign and the #Metoo movement that followed, women have clearly taken the public debate stage.

Whether we appreciate the courage of the women who come forward or fear excesses in the process, it is impossible to ignore the momentum and to deny the need for real equality between genders.

Since it is a very heated debate it’s important, I think, to keep our sense of humor and critical sense as we plow our way along the arduous road.

Just this week, a few events show how the best intentions can fall flat and also how even women can see things very differently.

Pretty much everyone likes Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada. And pretty much everyone noticed him when he corrected a woman who said “manhood” and offered “peoplekind” instead.

Humankind or even humanity would have worked just fine. Despite the fact that Trudeau interrupted a woman while she was speaking, his intentions were no doubt sincere. Inclusion is necessary, but sometimes the desire to achieve it can lead to faux-pas.

Canada is still making genuine efforts. Take this magazine that printed two versions of its latest issue. One is sold 26 cents more than the other to reflect the disparity of salaries between men and women.

In the U.S., Macy’s is soon to introduce a collection of modest clothing and hijabs to capture a slice of the Muslim women’s clothing market.

At the same time in Iran, women are taking their veils off, putting their lives in danger, to obtain the right to choose whatever clothes they wish to wear.

Who is right? Maybe there is no right and wrong when it comes to women’s freedom to be who they want to be.

In any case, women are playing centerstage in these early months of 2018.

Now that I chose to write a month of French expressions for the A to Z Challenge in April, I could only notice that some of the most common French idioms are in fact sexist.

I was tempted to list them but have decided otherwise. I didn’t want to put de l’huile sur le feu, as we say in French (oil on the flame), but instead focus on the delightful aspect of these small words and short expressions. Thanks to my early personal mistakes, I quickly learned that all tell a lot about a country and its culture. Many are not perfectly exchangeable from one language to another. Often, they still have an equivalent. Sometimes, nothing can exactly convey the idea.

To my own surprise, I quickly compiled a first draft of my 2018 list, only missing as always an expression for the letter X.

As I went through the list I noticed that several expressions had something to do with food.

Now, it was telling something about France that men and women alike would agree on.

 

And nothing and nobody can be better than animals to bring smiles to humankind.

 

 

These photos have been taken in my native Normandy, where a few inches of snow fell over the last few days, transforming the landscape in a scenery that I rarely got to enjoy when I lived there as a child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Good post, Evelyne. I think we all struggle with language and gender. Often it is awkward. Mainly we are concerned with respect. For the most part, I am happy calling someone whatever they want to be called. –Curt

  2. In addition to this thoughtful post, Evelyne, I also read two posts today that talked about language and comfort levels when dealing with issues of race and ethnicity. Maybe we are beginning to have the conversations we need to have in order to solve these problems.

    I enjoyed the pictures!

  3. It’s hard to get away from sex with a language that requires nouns be masculine or feminine. It’s just built into the language. I think some of the “sense of humor” needs to come into play when recognizing that a language was created for the 2000s and accept that some words just are what they are.

  4. language was NOT created for the 2000s …

  5. Behind the Story says:

    Fantastic animal photos!
    We take the idiosycrasies of our own language for granted. Studying another language sometimes makes it easier to see interesting quirks and historical influences. The Spanish language, for example, shows the influence of Catholicism. At least when I was studying it, the swear words were more Biblical than barnyard. From the small amount of Chinese I know, it seems that they, on the other hand, often make reference to animals and the natural world.

    • Aren’t they adorable? So many of my readers love dogs that I knew they would fall for these. And the little cow reminds me of the ones I saw not too far from where I grew up.
      The French language bears the influence of Catholism too. I won’t comment on Chinese, but I like the idea that animals and nature are part of it. Thank you for stopping by, Nicki.

  6. Super cute photos. By the way, Justin Trudeau used to be a public school teacher in the Vancouver area…

    • In comparison to your photos, Jean…
      I didn’t know about Justin Trudeau being a former teacher. This is quite a great journey for this still relatively young man. I read that he was caught in a minor accident in California but was not hurt. He’s doing quite a good job, I think.

  7. A thoughtful and interesting post, Evelyne, I love your non-judgemental take on a very difficult subject… I am always torn between the beauty of traditional language and the mauling it gets from transgender phrases like Zhers and zhis …

    • Thank you, Valerie. It’s not easy to go through changes. Excess and awkwardness are to be expected. Gender neutral pronouns sound strange since we had never heard of them until now. If kids learn them as we’ve learned the traditional pronouns, it will become natural. It is still easier in English for the plural form than in French, which is not gender-neutral 🙂
      So far, I don’t think that anything formal has been decided for the teaching. What I find hard too is to ask someone who this person wants to be addressed. It changes the spontaneous aspect of a discussion if you start by asking this question. But again, it’s probably only because we’ve never done it.

  8. Oh lovely photos Evelyne, and a post with much food for thought.

    • I fell for the animals. So adorable. And yes, these current talks about language and how it affects equality between people are for sure stirring centuries of traditions. Whether all reforms are necessary is one question. More importantly will they really change the way people see each other? In any case, it’s fascinating to live through. Thank you, Andrea for another great visit.

  9. “Maybe there is no right and wrong when it comes to…” freedom. It’s all a matter of perspective and cultural bias, isn’t it? It will forever be a balancing act between the needs of a society and maintaining personal freedoms. Great photo of the deer in your native Normandy.

  10. What beautiful photos from your beloved Normandy Evelyne, it has certainly been a very cold winter here in the UK and Europe. Very much enjoyed your post, as always filled with your delightfully gentle brand of intelligence, humour and wisdom. Gender equality, absolutely, but as you say, how can we really decide what is right or wrong when it should come down to personal liberty and choice? Lovely to read you again Evelyne.

    • So nice to see you here again, Sherri. I know you love France and Normandy, so thank you for your comments. I wish I had seen these animals in person 🙂
      It looks like the last time real snow fell in Paris was in 1987. I lived there and didn’t have snowboots. Why would I have, right? Stores were emptied within a day when people woke up and snow blanketed the city. I didn’t even try to shop and simply enjoy.
      The police pushed cars in the périphérique’s (beltway) ramps. It was a mess but created memories too.
      Hope all is well for you, Sherri. See you on your blog.

      • And so nice to be here again Evelyne 🙂 Oh I can well understand the traffic mess in Paris. Just like here when it snows and we wonder why we are never prepared! I am so glad you enjoyed the experience, snow boots or not. What memories indeed, once the chaos ends! I do so much enjoy your posts about Normandy Evelyne, and of course Paris. Viva la France! Hubby and I hope to visit ‘your’ coastline there before too long, and I will of course keep you posted. See you here again soon and meanwhile, I wish you a lovely weekend.

  11. Patricia Sands says:

    Evelyne, as always, you raise many good points. The bottom line is respect for each other, no matter what the gender. Why is this so difficult, I wonder on a regular basis. I’m sure you do too. My apologies for our dear prime minister’s “peoplekind” blooper!

  12. 💕

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