I’m not at all an active feminist. On the contrary, I’m a bourgeois. I love family life, I love doing the same thing every day.
– Carla Bruni (source)
There was something in the news today that struck in a chord with me, and not necessarily a pleasant chord. If anything, I am now feeling increasingly frustrated, thanks to the latest comments made by former French First Lady Carla Bruni.
In the above quotation, Bruni likens feminism to being anti-family life and anti-structure, as though feminism were part of some counterculture, and all feminists were social deviants with pierced nipples. But worst of all? She has completely missed the point.
What Bruni is missing is that feminism is not about female superiority, but is about choice. It is about having the freedom to make a decision without being judged or oppressed. It is not my (or anyones) place to say a woman is less of a feminist for wanting to be a stay-at-home mother, have children or uphold traditional values, nor it is the place of anyone to state that I’m not a good feminist for wanting to pursue travelling, my career and my personal quest to get through my game backlog instead of settling down with a partner and procreating.
Similarly, I find part of her comment to be a bit insulting. There is no correlation between wanting to be able to walk down a street without being treated like a slab of meat and loving or not loving your family. If anything, I would argue that being a feminist might make one more aware of family dynamics. If you’re aware of social problems, you can educate and attempt to influence those directly surrounding you. If your daughter wants to grow up to be a housewife, then that is fine; not everyone is preordained to walk the same path in life. But, I would be happier knowing that my daughter made an informed decision and was given every opportunity. Being a feminist isn’t condemning her to a life of bra-burning and hairy pits – it’s just letting her know that it’s okay if that’s what she wants to do.
Bruni, no stranger to speaking her mind, also called feminism outdated — a view seemingly at odds with her image as an independent woman who forged careers in both fashion and music before settling down with Sarkozy.
“There’s no need to be feminist in my generation,” she said.
Imagine if Emmeline Pankhurst had said what Carla Bruni said about there being no need to be a feminist?
What Bruni doesn’t seem to understand is that there is still every need to be a feminist. Okay, she might not like being labelled as a feminist, which is understandable (not everyone likes being labelled, and that is something I can empathize with), but to simply dismiss the very real struggles that women in this world face, from her highly privileged position as a rich, white female, is just ignorant and wrong.
If there had been no feminist ‘uprising’ in the past, does she really think that she would have had a successful career as a singer? Does she think that a male-dominated society would have allowed her to strike out on her own as an independent female?
Perhaps I’m being a tad sensitive right now, but if I were married to a very rich and influential man, I might not need to argue about my rights, either. She is attempting to speak for a generation to which she cannot relate, because she comes from a position of incredible privilege. It has taken years of sweat and debt for me to get to where I am now (which is basically nowhere), and I know there are men out there being paid more than me for doing less than me. Do I think that’s fair or even right? Absolutely not.
Carla Bruni might not like being labelled as a feminist, but to reject the core values, the very real essence of what feminism stands for, is not just ignorant but naive. Without feminism, she wouldn’t be where she is today, and to both diminish the struggles of morden feminism while associating it with unfounded negative connotations just leaves me feeling sad and deflated.
It is possible to be a housewife, a mother and an activist – they aren’t mutually exclusive, nor should they be. There is no shame in calling yourself a feminist, just as there should be no shame associated with any of the lifestyle decisions that modern women choose to make for themselves.
Just, please, don’t say that feminism isn’t needed – without the feminists of years past, you wouldn’t even have a platform to speak from.
Imagine how far we can still go from here.
Written by Becci Yare