If You Wrong Us, Shall We Not Revenge?
To be a woman is not an easy task. I grew up with boys, they were my only playmates for the first 4 years of my life, and many times I wished I could be one. Men have it so easy. *plays No Doubt's Just a Girl*
To be a woman is a strange thing. To grow up in America, I've come to realize, we are treated like we’re made of glass. In the South men are expected to be gentlemen, to take care of us, to provide for us, to never raise their hand. In Texas it’s a tad different. Women are courageous, we’re brash. Men admire that we can be stronger than them. It’s the best of both worlds.
Being a woman in France is entirely different. Women are pretty objects but nothing more. Not to be listened to or treated as equals. I’m not even entirely sure how women are regarded, but I know I did not fit in. I was not an ideal French woman. I was an opinionated American.
Lastly my relationship with an Englishman, Christian Kinnersley, who regarded women as imbeciles, as useless, nothing more than inconveniences. How I held his respect, if I did at all, is a conundrum to me. I was not immune from his elitism, but I suppose it helped that “I wasn’t really a girl, I was more like a boy”, and that’s why I was easier to get along with.
But his treatment of me, especially at the end, shows his respect was an illusion, and our relationship a fabrication. I still remember one of our last weekends together, right before Christmas. At that point I felt like he was using me, and I could not be as affectionate towards him as I usually was. While at Casino in the 16é he tried to bully me into letting him buy a vegetable so he could stick it in my vagina because he wanted to see something. It offended me, not just that he would treat me as that, but that he would try to force me into it. Another addition to the list of his grievances.
I think of all of the love I had for him. Love so strong it could power 1000 suns. Love that had no effect on him. I would have plucked my feathers out every night to be with him. Now I walk around half a person, and exist in the bit that is left of me. All for a man who never respected me, and who's ill treatment of me has forever tarnished my relationships with men.
Three different cultures. Three different perspectives. Converging to shape my view of the world.
Why am I writing this... I came across two articles today. One in The Paris Review. One on France 24.
The article in The Paris Review was a woman's story about leaving her fiancé before her wedding. It parallels her story to that of the story of The Crane Wife (a Japanese folktale called Tsuru no Ongaeshi). It talks about how woman are forced to sacrifice their wants and needs for men, even when those men are terrible to us.
I know what sacrifice is. The only time I ever sacrificed myself for a man, and did so willingly, Christian repaid me with the ultimate betrayal. “Boys will be boys” after all.
The article on France 24 talks about how the #MeToo movement is finally gaining momentum in France. Ironic since it seems to have lost steam in the US. But all the better.
My experience in France was not always a good one. When I went to the police after Léo sexually assaulted me they told me I was probably asking for it, and refused to take my complaint.
Years later after Michael publically attacked, and choked, me on boulevard Saint Michel, a female officer took my statement, and had me go to Hotel Dieu to be examined by a doctor, but I abandoned it when I was told the next step was to sit in a room, across the table from him, and hash it out. He had stalked me, and surprised me while I was out that night, and after that attack I didn’t leave my house for over a week because I was afraid that he was lurking outside. Sitting across from him seemed like an insane request.
I never really considered myself a feminist. I was one of the boys, my friends were always men. I understood them, I know how they think. But the older I get the more I feel like I don’t know men at all, and feminism makes more sense. Perhaps much is uncovered, and as the years go on we start to realize our concept of the world is a false one. I think a lot of it has come from leaving America.
Going from a society that coddled me, and protected me, to a society where I learned that men will consistently let me down, and treated me the opposite of how I was raised to believe men should. To be fair to the English, only one of my boyfriends (Christian) was a misogynist. The other Englishmen I dated never treated me any differently from American men. I try not to tar them all with the same brush, but Christian has that English arrogance, frigidity, and snobbery that is so infamous, perhaps they go hand in hand, now my view of Englishmen is forever tainted.
I can’t speak for all Frenchmen as I’ve only dated a few hundred and there are how many? But I point it out because there are a lot of misconceptions. Paris being the “city of love” and Frenchmen being the ultimate seducers. All of these funny little stereotypes that shape our thoughts and ideas, only to find out as life goes on that our ideas are wrong.
To be fair I had no preconceived notions of the French before I arrived. Would it surprise you to find out that every 3 days a woman in France dies at the hands of a man? It surprised me. Let your experiences be unbiased, but take heed when someone cautions you.
I hope for France’s sake that life for women improves. I hope for women’s sake men learn to do better. Let #MeToo panic them and force that change in them. I get frustrated a lot of the time by the treatment I receive. It sours my opinion of the French and men in general. I try to tell myself that I cannot force my ideas onto a society I am a guest of, but as a woman I take it to heart. Like any woman I wait for the world to treat us fairly, and give us the credit we are due. But humanity moves at a snail’s pace, and I am impatient to a fault.