The Guardian reported some comments French President Emmanuel Macron made last month at a Gates Foundation event about women, children, and education in Africa. In his comments, which have recently resurfaced, Macron said, “I always say: Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight, or nine children.” While his comments actually continued with a commentary about child marriage, abuse, and education in the context of Africa, this phrase alone has set Twitter ablaze causing mothers to tweet about their education and accomplishments, a la #PostcardsToMacron.
If Macron were referring to all women — women in Western countries too — scoffing at them for having big families, that is unfortunate and warrants the furious response it is receiving. It’s unclear if that’s what he meant or if he espouses that ideology in general. Was Macron just bashing big families in general as Twitter suggests?
Macron’s comments continued:
“Please present me with the young girl who decided to leave school at 10 in order to be married at 12. This is just because a lot of girls were not properly educated, sometimes because these countries decided the rights of these girls were not exactly the same rights as the young man. That is not acceptable.”
In this, Macron observes a salient point. The fact that young girls are forced to choose to marry at an extremely young age because of the lack of education and the corruption of government and politics in Africa is terrible. (Although Macron is also unlikely to be the world’s foremost expert on politics and anthropology in Africa.)
Still, despite what appears to be a bit of a strong, and perhaps over-reaction, to part of Macron’s statement on Twitter, the result was still a fascinating look into what so many women in American have accomplished in their respective vocations, while raising many, many children.
@CRPakaluk PhD Harvard (2010), AM Harvard (2002), BA UPenn (1998). Eight children by choice. Keep it going ladies, add your own. #postcardsforMacron— Catherine R Pakaluk (@CRPakaluk) October 16, 2018
Emmanuel Macron: “Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children.”— Christopher J. Scalia (@cjscalia) October 17, 2018
BA in English from Radcliffe.
Two great-grandchildren.#PostcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/ED6xLGtzQK
Stanford graduate, electrical engineer, mom of 11. #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/Gl1Py63j7v— Beth Hockel (@ehockel1) October 16, 2018
Yes, they’re all mine. And so is my UVa degree. #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/dROzkKq1md— elizabeth foss (@elizabethfoss) October 16, 2018
While these tweets from American women hardly demonstrate a commentary about fertility in Africa — the socio-economic situations are so different it’s hard to compare the two — they do help debunk the idea that women who bear multiple children do so because they are ignorant, backward, and possess only one skill. I attempted to earn a master’s degree when I only had two small children and simply could not complete it due to logistics. The fact that so many women have completed multiple levels of higher education, work at incredible companies, or run their own businesses, all while raising several children, is an inspiring testament to their work ethic, perseverance, and strength.
The #PostcardsToMacron trend is even more interesting not when viewed within the lens of Macron’s comments, but modern American feminism, which often teaches that women still lack equality in many areas and should eschew raising children to earn more degrees or pursue their career. These #PostcardsToMacron women clearly demonstrate that it's not only possible to have a career and a big family, but that it gives them satisfaction and happiness in their work-life balance.
Nicole Russell (@russell_nm) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota.