Male politicians these days sure have a lot to say about women. Backwards women everywhere are chastised to listen up and learn, for the men are here to help. We have knowledge and have come to your assistance. For instance, who can ever forget this amazing moment where Justin Trudeau mansplains to a woman the acceptable way to use gender inclusive language and then smarmily comments on how we can all learn from each other.
To that wonderful moment that set feminism back fifty years, French President Emmanuel Macron essentially told Trudeau to hold his beer so he could roll up his sleeves and get to work. This is his masterpiece of condescension from a recent talk at the Gates Foundation: “I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight, or nine children.”
For his encore, maybe Macron can sit all the ladies down and explain to them where babies come from.
To be fair, education does have a correlation to smaller family size (or does it?), but the way Macron phrases his comment is so tone deaf that it deserves further comment. The implication is that only ignorance would cause a woman to choose to have children, and once we educate our poor, barefoot women and get them out of the kitchen, they’ll knock off all the breeding and start being more successful and rational like men out in the real world. Childless, or at least with a severely restricted family size – for that is the only rational choice – they shall be set free to put their education to good use.
I have questions, in which the above-mentioned comments may or may not be implicated:
Is it true that an educated woman would never choose to have a large family?
What value would an education, particularly a liberal arts education, have to a stay-at-home mother?
Is the education a waste if a woman doesn’t use it to earn money?
After falling into contemplative thought and pondering with all my might, it became painfully obvious to me that I am not, in fact, a female and thus have precious little perspective. Fortunately, we here at Dappled Things find ourselves surrounded by highly successful, educated women who happen to be mothers. I spend all my time ranting and raving on the internet while they’re essentially creating lasting works of creative genius. Maybe they’re a bit smarter than me? I’m going to get out of the way and let them speak:
Giving birth and nurturing children affirms that people’s value in the world isn’t reducible to their economic contribution. Pursuing higher education affirms this, too. Both choices have the potential to place women around the world in solidarity with each other. Equating large families with poverty and disempowerment does a disservice to women of all classes and economic levels everywhere.
– Katy Carl, Editor in Chief
I will use a French word so it cannot be mistranslated: largesse. Education encourages a largesse of the mind, expanding our horizons, helping us to develop an insatiable appetite for knowledge. But motherhood encourages a largesse of the heart and soul. It helps us develop an insatiable appetite for our own betterment so that we can live as good examples for our children, and an insatiable appetite to help our children become their very best selves. The largesse of motherhood is the largesse of love. Any education that taught us to put limits on our ability to grow in love was a very poor education, indeed.
– Karen Ullo, Managing Editor
The modern world values higher education to the extent that it leads to higher earnings, but thinking of wealth only in terms of dollars (or Euros) is of limited usefulness. How many mothers, when asked what their greatest treasure is, would respond “my retirement account?”
– Katherine Aparicio, Associate Editor
Speaking as a father who very much loves my six children, I can say that giving the fruit of my education to my children is the most valuable use to which I have put it. If anything, most of my reading is wasted in a world of practical application where it’s buried under pressing economic concerns and lack of space for personal contemplative progress. Education, particularly a liberal arts education, prepares us for a life well-lived. It’s an act of love, an act of faith in a world that is worth knowing more intimately. Our interaction within it, our exploration of it, our wonder before the mystery of it, opens up a whole new, undefinable, transcendent space. It naturally follows that I would not only want to gain an education to be a good father, but that my education has propelled me to actually become a father, because education itself is an expression of love. It’s as if the world is a precious jewel and I get to hold it up to the light and point out to my children all the ways the refraction leads us back to the single, inexpressible source of beauty.
Maybe education, at least the right sort of education, will actually increase the desire for children?
Go back the original article I linked to and look at all the pictures of happy, successful women with their precious families. Maybe, just maybe, these women are smart and thoughtful? Maybe they’ve made their life choices from the font of wisdom they’ve acquired through their education? As one of the women comments, “consider yourself schooled.”