What examples of women who have been a reference in society for their values and actions do we give to girls and boys? It is common to see Simone de Beauvoir used as a reference for feminism in secondary education. Beauvoir defended pederasty. She was one of the signatories of the 1977 manifesto where an significant number of people from the intellectual world protested against convictions “for having had sexual relations with minors or for having encouraged and photographed their sexual games” and affirmed that “three years of age for caresses and kisses are enough”. Years before, in 1938, Simone de Beauvoir had already been condemned, and removed from teaching, for having an intimate relationship with one of her students.
Feminism defends women’s equality and freedom, and this includes a stance against any violence against girls and women, of which sexual violence is a manifestation, as stated in the 1993 United Nations definition of gender violence.
Why is it that if there are models of women who have been examples, both in their public and private lives, of the values we claim to defend, women who defended and exercised violence against children continue to be used and imposed as referents? Simone Weil is a clear example of a feminist referent, of a very high intellectual level, who has been hidden for many girls and boys as such referent. Some people say that they did so because Beauvoir was a great intellectual. We have entries in this blog about the academic quality of Weil’s work, and Cristianisme i Justícia has held very interesting seminars about it as well. Simone de Beauvoir herself, in an autobiographical writing, said of Weil: “I was intrigued by her great reputation as an intelligent and audacious woman. At that time, a terrible famine had devastated China and I was told that when she heard the news, she cried. These tears commanded my respect, much more than her gifts as a philosopher. I envied a heart capable of beating across the entire universe.” There are also those who say that they present Beauvoir as a referent because she fought against Nazism. Weil fought against Nazism until her death in 1943, while Beauvoir was working for the Vichy government, which was Nazi-collaborationist.
If scholars who represent the opposite of the ideals we stand for, such as equality and freedom, are held up as examples of feminism, many girls, women and men will run away from feminism, they will not want to identify with it because their values are different. The majority of those of us who are feminists are precisely because we defend those values, that are today shared by the vast majority of society.
All scientific evidence shows that child sexual abuse is one of the most destructive experiences, with terrible consequences for victims who, in order to become survivors, need our strong support. That support includes always taking a stand against child sexual abuse, no matter who does it. Saying that you condemn pederasty but excusing it if the perpetrator was Beauvoir (much quoted in certain feminist circles) or Cohn-Bendit, considered the main leader of May ’68, who wrote: “I could feel perfectly well how five-year-old girls had learned to excite me” (Le Grand Bazaar, 1975), does great harm to the victims and increases sexual abuse.
At a time when the Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus include “to help eliminate abuses inside and outside the Church (…)” and “to accompany the young in the creation of a hope-filled future”, it is very important to reflect on this very concrete issue and to defend the freedom of each girl and boy to choose their referents of humanly excellent persons, also their feminist referents, without impositions and without hiding actions such as pederasty or its defense.