It is Time to Stop Living in the Past

Does one really need a father to be fulfilled as a child? This Tuesday in France, the bioethics bill will lay emphasis on whether or not to provide assisted reproduction to all women. At the same time, the traditional family model is under questioned. At this point many women are coming to the same conclusion: It’s about time…

French people seem to love the notion of living in the past. “C’était mieux avant”they stubbornly repeat throughout the day, blindly neglecting to face the reality of how quickly social norms are everchanging from within the well-developed country they seem so proud of. It goes without saying that these individuals are not wrong in their belief that things have changed since the beginning of the 2000’s. But can we really say that these changes are for the worse? I must admit that I do not believe that it is so easy to characterize societal change as “better” or “worse”. Rather, I feel that there is more certainty in the fact that change is not always so easy to come by, allowing many people to lack an eagerness and/or readiness to evolve. Reconstructing a world of equality shouldn’t be something to fear nor to be angry about. Instead, it should motivate us to challenge ourselves by considering a perspective other than“c’était mieux avant”.From the 19thcentury up until the end of the 20thcentury, France had already undergone several changes in matters of ‘unconventional’ expressions of sexuality and within family life broadly speaking. Although it is certainly true that not all of these changes have been widely accepted, it should be noted that those that are considered more ‘obvious’ and generally accepted today serve as a reminder to society that change is something that is both necessary as well as capable of fulfilling new needs society may develop as it evolves alongside the human species.

Whether it be promoting sexual freedom through the use of condoms and birth control, the incorporation of women in the workforce, or the legalization of marriage among homosexuals, each of these changes have transformed the society in which French citizens are living. With it, various social norms have evolved too – even if they are still met with somewhat conservative thinking. Today, even though one might be frightened or uncertain of what assisted reproduction could mean to the wider society, and for women, who is to say that a redefinition, or perhaps even a partial lack, of parental figures within a child’s life will render him/her any less likely to grow up in a healthy and functional household? We must face the truth of the matter here. To begin, the fact that this law is being considered is extremely important as it is bringing heightened awareness and encouragement to the overwhelming amount of change that has been experienced within areas such as gender role distinctions. Likewise, by neglecting to endorse it and/or integrate it as a viable option for these women, it will be subconsciously be promoting a halt the evolution of change all together.

Besides, is such thing as this concept of a “traditional family” truly existent nowadays? In France, the normative family composed of a father and a mother seems in many ways outdated: according to the INSEE in 2012, 10% of families in France were stepfamilies, while single-parent families represented 20% of the families that same year. Divorces, on the other hand, were and still are to be counted in hundreds of thousands each year. In such a case, is it truly reasonable to assume that the presence of a father-figure as parent is necessary for a child? No study proves that one will be impacted psychologically if he/she grows up with one parent, or two mothers for instance. Quoting our health minister, Agnès Buzyin, for RFi: “With all that single-parent families, don’t you dare tell me that one ¼ of French children are living and are being born having issues in their development. That’s nonsense”.

Of course, this debate is making the paternal figure contingent, which may be hard to accept as it totally breaks from this idea we have of a traditional French family. However, hasn’t the traditional framework already begun to deteriorate several decades ago? Or perhaps this is something some have been too afraid to admit. This bill on assisted reproduction will only legalize things that are already fundamentally in existence. Now it’s time for detractors of the accessibility of assisted reproduction for all women to see that society is no longer the same as it was before. Likewise, the legal representative of a child isn’t going to change its life depending on if he has a penis or not.

With this in mind, the conception of gender is now far more complex than it used to be only a few years prior. For instance, women can choose to embody a masculine essence in the same way that it is possible for men. Let’s face it, it is far more difficult to consider the reality of a current issue while attempting to maintain the same gendered framework of thought that was encouraged back in the 1980’s… It is time to admit that the idea of the paternal figure is and has already become abstract. Simone de Beauvoir’s “on ne naît pas femme, on le devient” has provided an entirely new outlook on the expression of self in a way that attempts to encourage a reality of existence in which individuals are able to choose the nature of their identity and to thereby receive access to the same opportunities no matter the biological sex they have. 

Lesbian couples and single mothers deserve the right to have children in the same manner that heterosexual couples do. If not, the issue French people seem to have with the implementation of assisted reproduction no longer becomes a matter of mere biology or psychology, but rather symbolizes a distaste for women and/or homosexuality. With that being said, I am somehow not surprised… In this sense, society will continue to be unequal and perhaps even less democratic so long as it doesn’t give attention to the reality of gendered inequalities, or more specifically the impact sexual orientation has on the ability to obtain access to specific means of procreation. Sure, it’s easy for the average person to say that because women aren’t ‘biologically designed’ to have children (without the help of technology), that their union with one another is simply ‘unnatural’. And yet, thousands of lesbian couples are in love, thus reaffirming the very natural social tendency of humans to want to connect with one another. How will you manage to ignore this any longer? And what can be said about single mothers then? 

Let’s please not attempt to set up debates (on the basis of individualized/personal choice) when there shouldn’t be one. Instead, let’s give women the right to benefit from the science that men within modern society have produced. Because even if they do not, these same women will find another way; a way that lives up to the ways of modern times. One that will be far less ‘pretty’ than before. Let’s face it, continuing to ask politely can only goes so far… Making it legal for women to have the choice to produce children without the help of a man would be a first step in showing that French society is ready to recognize its very own evolution. This is about being honest with ourselves at the same time that we extend a sense of respect and flexibility to the reality of life that experiences change from one moment to the next. These rights should have been acquired long ago, and it may be time for us to make haste in our delay. 

Indeed, this will raise questions about surrogacy in France. Still, this does not mean that French society is becoming unethical. Rather, that each French citizen must think in terms of equity. If one science is only produced and thought of for a dominant group, it is only a matter of time before it must rightfully become available to all. The privilege of being a white, heterosexual, seemingly grumpy French person doesn’t justify the deprivation of a fundamental right: the one to create life. I’m glad to see that the French government is finally ready to handle this topic, even if it means taking several steps in order for this issue to be solved. I’m ready for it. But the questions is, are you?

Since this article has been written, the use of assisted reproduction technics for single and lesbian women has been approved by the National Assembly (on the 25thof September).

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