Women and Love Throughout the Ages

By Raymond Viger

The French dictionary is an imposing tome, a great philosophical treatise. We can meditate on the given definition of a word and use it, with confidence, in a coherent context. By knowing a precise definition, we can make a word vibrate with its meaning.

Let’s take the definition of the word amour, for example, which of course means “love.”

The 1968 Nouveau petit Larousse dictionary defines it as: “A passionate sentiment for someone of the other sex.”  

The Petit Larousse illustré of 1982 defines it as: “A physical or sentimental desire one human carries for another.”

The 1996 Petit Larousse illustré calls it: “An intense feeling, an attachment, including tenderness and physical attraction between two people.”

In 1968, homosexual love couldn’t exist! In 1982 there were two types of love, either physical or sentimental. In 1996, love had to include both at the same time!

Three dictionaries, three eras, three different definitions of love. It’s surprising to see that definitions can change so much over the years.

What’s true today in terms of our social norms may not hold true tomorrow. The idea of what’s correct and incorrect is relative. It changes with the times.

Why try to define values and principles as a function of theoretical social norms if they waltz through time like a chameleon changing color?

If someone points a finger at us because we don’t follow today’s social norms, is it possible we’re just ahead of our time? In expressing who we are and what we feel, we may just be writing future pages of the dictionary, instigating social change.

Just because something is written down in the dictionary doesn’t mean that it’s true. It is our duty to question preconceived notions.

I Am a Person

Don’t forget that it was only in 1929 that women in Canada were included in the legal definition of a “person.” That’s when women could begin to take their place in the Senate. Before then, women couldn’t fully participate in political or business life.

On October 18, 1929, this decision was announced by Baron Sankey, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain:

 “The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours. And to those who would ask why the word ‘person’ should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?”

The right for white Quebec women to vote was won in 1940. But we had to wait 20 more years, until 1960, before Indigenous women could enjoy the same fundamental right. Not only was a woman not considered a man’s equal, but there were different “categories” of women.

The duty of a woman to obey her husband was only abolished in 1964. From that year on, a woman could possess and dispose of her own property as she saw fit. For the first time, a wife could open a bank account in her own name. Imagine! The year I opened my own school bank account! Nonetheless, banks continued to require that a husband co-sign for any loan taken out by a wife. This was only made illegal in 1975. That same year, the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms officially recognized equality between spouses.

Since 1981 in Quebec, a woman no longer has to take her husband’s last name. She can keep her own. Abortion was decriminalized in Canada in 1988. And only in 1989 did the Civil Code confirm that in the case of a divorce, both spouses are entitled to an equal share of family property.

As recently as 2000, a Quebec government report observed that women had more difficulty getting financing for a business than did men.

A Daily Struggle

Whatever the daily struggles are for women, the gay community, the preservation of the French language, the protection of the environment and for many other causes, the younger generation should not think that we’ve achieved a just and equitable society.

There are still men around who would like to roll back these rights and freedoms. Our government has the power to return us back to the Stone Age in very little time. Stay vigilant and continue the struggle; teach our children where we come from… to avoid ending up heaven knows where.  

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