In his speech at the Gates Foundation event in New York, French President Emmanuel Macron called for more educational opportunities for young women in Africa.
“I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children,’” he said. “‘Please present me with the young girl who decided to leave school at 10 in order to be married at 12.”
He did not realize that he would anger many American women with his comments. They became defensive, saying that a woman doesn’t have to be one or the other. In fact, within several days, many educated mothers began making social media posts to prove that they could be both educated and willing to have many children.
The first woman to post a comeback on Twitter to Macron was Catholic University Professor Catherine Pakaluk. She shared a photo of her with her 6 children and urged other women to “flood Macron with beautiful postcards from educated women with large families born from their own loving choice.” Soon, women from all over the United States, France, and African nations began posting pictures of their big families with the hashtag #postcardsformacron.
About a minute after his comment, Macron clarified that he was talking about women in impoverished communities who start having children at a very young age and feel that they have no other choice. He said that he didn’t have a problem with women having many children after they received their education, as long as it was their own choice. He said that to him, education was the main answer to maximizing opportunities for African women and properly monitoring demography.
Gretchen Livingston, a researcher at the Pew Research Center, said that it is true that there is a connection between family size and education. 8% of women with postgraduate degrees have 4 or more children, whereas the same is true for 26% of women with less than a high school diploma. In fact, family sizes in the United States have declined since the 1970s, as more and more women postpone marriage and motherhood to finish their degrees.
- To call for (phrasal verb) – to say publicly that something must happen
- Defensive – self-justifying; anxious to challenge or avoid criticism
- Comeback – a quick reply to a critical remark
- To urge – try persistently to persuade (someone) to do something
- To flood – completely fill
- Impoverished – very poor
- Demography – the composition of a particular human population
- Postgraduate – relating to a course of study undertaken after completing a first degree
- Postpone – put off; cause or arrange for (something) to take place at a time later than that first scheduled
Questions for Discussion
- Do you think women were right to react the way they did? Explain your answer.
- What is your stance on this issue?
- What can you say about the women that you personally know? Which trend is true for them?
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