It was the morning of my birthday and I’d just finished my usual Parisian ritual: prayers at L’église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine before buying a copy of Le Monde and heading to Galeries Lafayette for breakfast at Angelina’s. As I sat feeling excited about my year ahead, I opened the paper to some devastating news: in 2018, 121 women (and 48 men) were murdered by their partners/ex-partners. 121 women dead. Murdered by someone who allegedly loved them, someone they were intimate with. In 2018, these deaths accounted for 19% of all murders in France. And I just read that 75 women have been killed (so far) in 2019. The article explains what we all know – often the violence takes place within the home, hidden from the public and the deaths, whilst rarely premeditated, are usually not the first exposure to physical violence. These women were most likely living in a state of constant fear. Chilling.
That evening, I went to the ballet and watched a contemporary version of Carmen. Again, a woman is murdered by a scorned man. Art depicting life. I felt so… I don’t know how to explain it. Scared. Scared for all of the women I know, for their daughters and for the future of our society. From the vileness of politicians who fail to see the humanity in women to religious leaders who continue to use their so-called holy books to deny us autonomy over our bodies and lives. My own religion is particularly adept at this, and I’m the first one to reject any such nonsense. As I reflected further, I felt a strong urge to hop on a plane home and reread MacKinnon’s ‘Are Women Human?’. Given that Russia is my home, I appreciate the paradoxical nature of this urge… My hotel was located just a few minutes away from Palais Garnier, but I needed some air. Some space to think. Strolling through my favourite parts of Paris – Place Vendôme and Place de la Concorde – against the beauty of the city, I started to look at the women I passed through different eyes. How many of them were going home to violence? How many would make it through the night safely? The injustice of life as a woman continues.
My day had started with a sense of privilege at being able to visit my favourite church in Paris and superficial excitement at wearing a floor-length silk gown for an evening at (easily) the most beautiful opera house in the world. However, it ended with a sense of gratitude at returning to my temporary abode without fear of physical violence. Safety and freedom. This is my privilege, but it should be my basic right. It should be the right of all women.