Editorial for SAW-B by Joanne Clotuche
What would be the reality of women if patriarchy did not dominate our society? If we had been born into a society without any domination, what would women’s daily lives be like? Imagine who and where we would be today!
From time to time, I like to ask myself this question as a utopia, even if some would probably see it as a scary dystopia. In either case, what I’m thinking about seems to me to be much more science fiction than any tangible reality.
Let’s try the exercise! It will of course be biased by my education, but even more by my family, professional, economic and cultural context. I am a 42-year-old woman, single mother of a 3-year-old child, working in the social economy. I live in one of the big Belgian cities. Having benefited from a social elevator that had fewer hiccups than today, I was able to go to university, my parents’ best investment, according to them. I am also the youngest of a sororie (a set composed of sisters from the same family) of four daughters. An important and significant part of my upbringing, my mom worked for a feminist movement for many years.
The story is based on a micro and non-societal everyday reality. What is valid in my life would not be valid in another person’s. It is therefore a partial and one-sided answer to a broad question.
Story of a utopia
7am, the alarm clock rings. A balmy day is coming. I will opt for a t-shirt and shorts, sneakers. Short hair, no makeup. Preparing is an easy task. I don’t ask myself any questions about the image I need to( convey, about the looks that could be made on me or about the inappropriate remarks of men I would meet on my way to drive my son to school.
It must be said that my wardrobe has changed a lot since women’s stylists dominate the sector and that the outfits are thought in the light of the diversity of women’s bodies, their needs and their professional realities. We dress to have fun, to love ourselves but not necessarily to please or, on the contrary, only to avoid looks. Short, long, tight, vaporous, sexy, practical. The codes have changed.
I drop my son off at school. I chose this school because the diversity in the teaching staff offers other perspectives to the son of a solo mother. It is a nursery teacher and a nursery nurse who take care of his class. And all the people who take care of daycare and cleaning are men. The school is under the leadership of the principal (a woman). He also has a woman gym teacher twice a week. Already at the nursery, there were as many women as men. What a pleasure to see a child who sees that the dimensions of care, education are as much the role of men as women.
I give my son a kiss, remind him that Louis, the babysitter, will pick him up at the end of the day and that he will stay with him tonight. I don’t even have to think about dinner, the mental load of the kitchen remains a plague for the single mother I am. Louis cooks very well and will be able to offer him a quality meal, probably more than me.
I go to work. I hold a position of responsibility whose schedules are compatible with the life of a solo mom. The majority of our pharmaceutical company managers are women. We have degrees in engineering, chemists, mathematicians, physicists, biologists, pharmacists, doctors. 75% of jobs are held by women. There is no glass ceiling and wages between men and women are equal for the same job. Our company specializes in the treatment of diseases by a feminine approach: cardiac, neurological, gynecological, sexual, gastric … All our drugs are tested on a varied female audience, of all ages, pre and post-menopause. We also have a training service to help health care staff understand diseases through a gendered approach.
After a day of work where my personal ambitions as a woman are accepted and valued and where my needs as a mother are understood and integrated, I can leave the office to live other dimensions of my life.
Meet tonight with friends, in a spirit where friendship between men and women is the norm without there being any discussion about this possibility. After a meal and a few drinks in the middle of laughter, the hour is late when I want to find my quarters. I hesitate between taking a taxi or walking home. The weather always mild, I opt for walking. I meet a lot of people on the street, including many women. Two strangers seem to be taking the same path as me, we start the conversation and we make the journey together. It’s always pleasant these impromptu meetings in the moonlight.
I go home, satisfied with my day, a little tired, but free and secure.
Tomorrow I will wake up and my dream will still be a dream. Because patriarchy creates societies where women are still not free of their mobility, their schooling, their professional career, their health, where men are almost absent from the professions of care, education (especially for children) where their place is nevertheless essential. On this last subject, my dream consists in the elimination of stereotypes and the gendered division of professions and not only in the inversion of the current one.
If this society is a utopia, it is also and above all because patriarchy is far from being the only domination we encounter. Gender discrimination is only part of the problem. Skin color, disability, social class, sexual orientation, religion, origin, age are all factors that prevent our society from promoting a just, egalitarian emancipation where each person can find his place in complete freedom and security while respecting his or her identity(s).