Oct 15, 2010

Declaration of Rights of the Women and the Female Citizen

The day before yesterday I was reading about the French Revolution… last time I actually studied the French Revolution was probably in the XX century when I was a teenager at high school. I learnt that it lead to the passage of the Declaration of Rights of the Man and the Citizen (1789) in an attempt to bring equality to this world. Pretty awesome, I thought… however, I found out about someone that to my opinion was way more interesting than anybody else that played a part during the revolution: her name is Olympe de Gouges.

If you are a woman and you are proud of being a woman, this is a name you should remember and never forget.

Declaration of Rights of the WomenOlympe de Gouges, 1748-1793

Two years after the passage of the Declaration of Rights of the Man and the Citizen, she wrote the Declaration of Rights of the Women and the Female Citizen! Yeah, that’s right! Because when they passed the one from 1789… they forgot to include women on it; talking about equality! Such hypocrisy!

So what she did was to rewrite the whole version from 1789 but including women. For example in the version from 1789 says:

Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be based only on common utility.

Then she rewrote it like this:

Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. Social distinctions may only be based on common utility.

Another one really interesting, in the original version from 1789 says:

Each citizen has the right of noting, by himself or through his representatives, the necessity of the public contribution, of free consent, of following the employment […]

She rewrote it:

Female and male citizens have the right to verify, either by themselves of through their representatives, the necessity of the public contribution […]

Notice that in France women only got the right to vote in 1944!

In the 1789 version says:

All the citizens, being equal in its eyes, are equally admissible to all public dignities, places and employments, according to their capacity and without distinction other than that of their virtues and of their talents.

She wrote:

Male and female citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, must be equally admitted to all honors, positions, and public employment according to their capacity and without other distinctions besides those of their virtues and talents.

Alright, we all know that today women still get lower salaries and occupy less higher ranking positions in companies and bla bla bla… needless to say all the psychological oppression that comes from stereotyping. Both real serious issues of society, today!

I mean, she was a true visionary; I’m so inspired by her and so should you.

If you think that's all she got to say, you’re wrong. She was a true genius of her time, she goes beyond simply rewriting. She opens the Declaration of Rights of the Women with these so powerful and beautiful words:

Man, are you capable of being just? It is a woman who poses the question; you will not deprive her of that right at least. Tell me, what gives you sovereign empire to oppress my sex? Your strength? Your talents? Observe the Creator in his wisdom; survey in all her grandeur that nature with whom you seem to want to be in harmony, and give me, if you dare, an example of this tyrannical empire. Go back to animals, consult the elements, study plants, finally glance at all the modifications of organic matter, and surrender to the evidence when I offer you the means; search, probe, and distinguish, if you can, the sexes in the administration of nature. Everywhere you will find them mingled; everywhere they cooperate in harmonious togetherness in this immortal masterpiece. Man alone has raised his exceptional circumstances to a principle. Bizarre, blind, bloated with science and degenerated—in a century of enlightenment and wisdom—into the crassest ignorance, he wants to command as a despot a sex which is in full possession of its intellectual faculties; he pretends to enjoy the Revolution and to claim his rights to equality in order to say nothing more about it.

If you are a woman, don’t you feel inspired? Empowered?

She closes the Declaration like this:

Woman, wake up; the tocsin of reason is being heard throughout the whole universe; discover your rights. The powerful empire of nature is no longer surrounded by prejudice, fanaticism, superstition, and lies. The flame of truth has dispersed all the clouds of folly and usurpation. Enslaved man has multiplied his strength and needs recourse to yours to break his chains. Having become free, he has become unjust to his companion. Oh, women, women! When will you cease to be blind? What advantage have you received from the Revolution? A more pronounced scorn, a more marked disdain.

She wrote this in 1791, and today women are still oppressed by men in many countries, even developed countries. I wish women all over the world could learn about Olympe de Gouges and fight for their rights!

She died in 1793 by the guillotine because of her writings.

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