“Les Droits de l’Homme” simply means “the rights of humans”. The word “homme” is French for “man” but the word “Homme” with a capital “H” means humans or mankind. When you use the word “Homme” you talk about people in general, children, or of mankind in general.
So, far from being a phrase that somehow asserts male dominance over the French-speaking segment of the human species “Les Droits de l’Homme” is a phrase that clearly proclaims: These rights are the rights of mankind, these rights apply to all and these rights are not restricted or limited to a specific class of people.
Yet for a particularly childish reason a group of French feminists sent a petition to the French government arguing for a change of the phrase so it means “human rights”, even though the phrase already means “human rights”.
The group argued that the original phrasing of the law in 1789, after the French revolution, was inherently sexist, only applied to men during that time and therefore out of date and should be removed. What the group of feminists however fail to explain is how a 200-year-old definition of the phrase somehow trumps the current definition of the phrase.
It’s as if in their minds the phrase is still interpreted in the exact same way today as it was interpreted in 1789. As if the past 200 years with all its social developments and lingual developments hadn’t affected France.
Words and phrases, as well as their meanings within society evolve and change over time. And even though it is true that this phrase was initially meant to only include men, you can expand this further. The emancipation of the jews took place 2 years later in 1791, giving the jews of France the same rights as other French citizens, thereby making France the first nation in the world to give jews equal rights.
Over the course of French history, many groups who had previously been excluded were emancipated and added under the word “Homme”. And as of today the French declaration of human rights includes all people holding a French passport.
For those who were added under this category, those who were emancipated into having “Droits de l’Homme”, this was not an act of accepting some supposed male dominance, it was a liberation and an act of emancipation.
To bicker about the origin of the word “Homme” is to pretend as if this declaration didn’t apply to women in this day and age, which simply isn’t the case. It is a non issue, it is a complete irrelevant thing to talk or even argue about, especially during a time in which French liberties and rights are actually under attack by Kalashnikov-wielding barbarians.
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- All Humans are equal, but women are more equal than others. - February 17, 2016