Why Do You Always Write About The Girl Effect?

I wanted to write this first post for The Girl Effect, as a tribute to Joss Whedon and a pastiche of his brilliant imaginary interview.

It has become a tribute to my parents…

Here’s the video (watch & listen to Meryl Streep, too, she’s fantastic!)

YouTube – Joss Whedon’s Equality Now speech.

This is the one question that he has been asked 500 times:

Why do you always write these Strong Women Characters?

I imagined I would be asked (in a dream after the TED Talk that I will give once I’m a famous speaker!!!)

“Why do you write about The Girl Effect?”

Because of my mother Of course, in this picture, she is beautiful and radiant.

That’s not how I remember her, however. As I was growing up, as early as when I was 8 years old,  she started to develop a severe anorexia, which eventually led her to commit suicide, just the year when her first grand- chid (my eldest daughter) was born. (The truth is that she commited suicide the night when I was giving birth to my daughter, then was rescued in extremis, then did it again and eventually succeeded, 18 months later, after immense sufferings.)

She never saw being a female an opportunity but rather a threat to her blossoming, almost a malediction. If only she could have been a male!

So why do I write about the girl effect because of my mother? Because, as a beautiful and brilliant girl growing up in Morrocco, studying medicine, becoming a Doctor, studying philosophy, being a girl was never enough for her. Boys mattered. Men mattered. She had almost never lived with her own father, an Alsacian Administrator of the French Colonies in Morrocco and Mali. She was raised surrounded by women, by my grand mother, a very conservative and strong role model,for whom the only way out for her girls was through marrying an aristocratic and brilliant man (mature man, I must add: 20 years difference between my parents!).

My mother, like the little Chèvre de Monsieur Seguin, resisted as long as she could. She left Morrocco , the sweet orange blossoms, caress of the sun and tenderness of her beloved godmother, “Marraine”, for the foggy and unpersonal cold winter of Lyon, Medicine Faculty. She didn’t have much money and spent days and nights studying, on her own. She studied hard, became a Doctor, married, had children (two daughters in a row, the second while she was in Sanatorium, hospitalized for Tuberculosis: don’t ask me why she could have been pregnant when she was so sick…). She studied again, refusing to stop in spite of societal (and my grand-ma’s) pressures. She worked as a rhumatologist and was very appreciated from her patients. She also spoke at International Medicine Conferences. She had another child. Another girl. That was me, and I can tell you that she was not enthusiastic that another little female came to the world!

What happened? No one really knows why she let it all go, her intelligence, her appetite for healing and understanding , her career as a Doctor and researcher. She was tired of swimming against the current I guess, and my grand mother “won”. She thought her daughter was eventually becoming the perfect wife for her adored son-in-law (my dad). My mother resigned from the hospital and her private practice and stayed at home. And hated that. Her home became her jail.

She never cooked, almost didn’t take care of her home, except collecting antiques and angels (…). I would come back from school and find her , in the best days, writing at her desk, listening to Albinoni melancholic adaggio, curtains closed on an oppressing bedroom. I found her  in her bed, after she decided she could not live anymore, taking with her the belief that it was not worth being a woman…

One message, though,  she achieved to engrave in each of us, her girls: “Study, study and keep on studying! Have a career and become independent! Aies un métier ma fille, et sois indépendante!”. So, her’s to you, maman, my beloved advocate for EDUCATION for GIRLS!

“Why do you write about The Girl Effect?”

Because of my father

Because he was so proud to have three daughters.

Because he placed our Education above all, education of our minds, our hearts , our senses and our soul!

Because he loved his own mother and kept writing to her every day until her last day.

Because he cooked me breakfast every morning, took me to my exams, went to the fresh market for flowers fruits and vegetables with me and also told me stories at bedtime! Because he was tender and nurturing as a mom could be…

“Why do you write about The Girl Effect?”

This is again Joss Whedon speaking, there’s nothing to add. Stories and videos shared on The Girl Effect site punch you in the heart. They resonate deeply.

Because these stories give people strengths, and it’s not just women. It’s men. There’s something particular about a female protagonist that allows a man to identify with her. It opens up an aspect of himself  he might be unable to express. Hopes & desires he might be uncomfortable expressing through a male identification figure.  It crosses across both.”

“Why do you write about The Girl Effect?”

How is it possible that it is a question?

“Why do you write about The Girl Effect?”

Why don’t you ask why people DON’T write the Girl Effect?

“Why do you write about The Girl Effect?”

“Because Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women and the misogyny, that  is in every culture, is not a true part of the human condition. Misoginy is life out of balance and that inbalance is soaking out of the soul of every man and woman who is confronted with it.”  Joss Whedon

“Why do you write about The Girl Effect?”

Because you’re still asking  that question.

“Why do you write about The Girl Effect?”

Because the little 12 years old in me still  wish she could see her parents dancing like this, equal in their embrace, under the complicity of Guignol!

Because I think of all the women who are not given the gift of education, and remain their own shadow.

Because I identify with all my heart with all those little girls who are denied existence for the unique reason of their sex.

Because I find it hard even just face the violences done to girls, to watch the videos, when I compare my situation, in the comfort and prosperity of my country. The least I could do is to write about it.

Although I’ve had the privilege to get the best of education myself, I feel I can write about how it resonates with my childhood and why I developed this irresistible drive to help women around the world, starting at home.

“We need equality. Kind of now.”

Gratitude to Julie Daley, who pointed me to Joss video, via her beautiful postSame. Same.” on Unabashedly Female, women’s wildly creative leadership from within.

You can read it now.

This post is part of  The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign, created by Tara Mohr. Come check out other wonderful posts and even sign-up to post yourself!

18 thoughts

  1. Marion,
    This is so full of passion, love, fierceness, intelligence. What an amazing legacy. I see you were born to give this blessing to the world. I am blessed to call you sister.

    1. Merci, Julie. As I told you, you inspired me while I was writing this post. It turned out to be a healing experience and took me back 24 years in the past. I feel much forgiveness and gratitude. I know clearly that I’m on my way, serving my purpose. Sister is a very strong word for me, Julie. I accept it as a gift and an honor.

    1. You remind me, Susan, that thanks to you and Lolly, earlier this year, I was able to start sharing this story during our interview. It meant a lot for me and started to unpeel another layer, after all these years when I thought my heart was totally at peace.
      It is peaceful, like a volcano can be peaceful!
      Now, it’s my time to open up and share.
      Thank you Susan for stopping and writing these beautiful words.

  2. Marion, this is so powerful that I don’t have words for it. It was very courageous of you to share your story. You are standing on the shoulders of your mother (and your father) to accomplish what they were unable to do. If only we would truly listen to other’s stories, there would be a lot less unproductive conflict and unhappiness in the world. I feel a sisterhood with you that transcends geography and language.

  3. Marion, there is little I can say here that has not already been said except that this is a prime example of the power of storytelling. Your story brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing it and for introducing Joss Whedon as well. The man should be cloned.

    1. Thank you, Jane. You know what power means for women.
      The power to be strong AND vulnerable. The destiny of my mom taught me to embrace both dimensions, aware that life is fragile . Our Life is a present, and our mission is to open it and share it with the world.

  4. Hi Marion, I am glad I met you thyrough Twitter, A very powerful post and from the heart. It just melted my heart. Thank you for sharing

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