The president of France shouldn’t speak for women—and certainly not on how many children they decide to have.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently said, “I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight, or nine children.”
“Please present me with the young girl who decided to leave school at 10 in order to be married at 12,” he added during his remarks at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Goalkeepers” event, which was held last month in New York.
Of course, most women agree with Macron on child brides.
But it’s insulting to moms of large families to imply a big family is akin to marrying off children.
I spoke to one such woman, Catherine Ruth Pakaluk, an assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America, who has eight children—and no regrets about that.
“When I saw [Macron’s] quotation, my first thought was, ‘Hey, wait a second, I exist, and I know lots of people like me that exist,’” Pakaluk, who received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and her doctorate at Harvard University, told The Daily Signal in an interview.
She added that she thought plenty of moms of large families would share the reaction to Macron of thinking that, “Hey, wait, I exist, and my family is not the product of ignorance.”
Pakaluk also started a hashtag: #PostcardsforMacron, to showcase the big families some educated women choose to have.
Macron says: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children.' Very well then! The subject of my current research. I'll consider this an invite to send you a copy of the manuscript when done. https://t.co/SC0YurJfAq
— Catherine R Pakaluk (@CRPakaluk) October 15, 2018
“I thought let’s keep this simple and friendly—I am not interested in picking a fight with the president of France,” she said.
Pakaluk tweeted out a photo with some of her children, using the hashtag—and as it turns out, other women agree with her.
— Catherine R Pakaluk (@CRPakaluk) October 16, 2018
#postcardsforMacron my mother with her masters in education, now with a top level security clearance, and her 7 children- because it takes one smart woman to raise the next generation. pic.twitter.com/SRb78lJOdK
— reilly ann therese (@seeallthejoy) October 17, 2018
#PostcardsForMacron I earned a pre-med biology degree from William Jewell College and Cambridge University,but my biggest joy is my beautiful family of 7 children and physician husband. pic.twitter.com/v9skMU1s3v
— Julie McKeown (@JulieMcKeown9) October 17, 2018
I have a BA from UCSB, and a California state teaching credential. But my greatest accomplishment is being a mother to 7 children. Besides, your comment suggesting only uneducated women have many children is classist and elitist. #PostcardsForMacron pic.twitter.com/26GRlfWerw
— Micaela Darr (@Micaela_Darr) October 17, 2018
— T Hart (@SrDir_SetonUA) October 17, 2018
#postcardsforMacron Just about to graduate with second degree me and my husband have been blessed with five beautiful children … we are educated in more than what society sees as acceptable and our lives are full of love … share your stories xx pic.twitter.com/eGqATBkwCy
— kelly williams (@kellywilliams23) October 17, 2018
— Nissa Gadbois (@NissaGadbois) October 17, 2018
My beautiful, well educated, always sophisticated Mother holds not one but two degrees from Arizona State. And she has 7 kids and 1 in heaven. I can only hope to be half as successful as her. #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/8XvrOzsEQx
— Marisa Helms (@misaclare) October 17, 2018
— Susanna Bartee (@SusannaBartee) October 17, 2018
— Kate Ortman (@kateortman) October 17, 2018
— Amy Kwilinski (@amystarrski) October 17, 2018
— jewelkeefe (@jewelkeefe) October 17, 2018
Macron’s stance that well-educated women choose not to have large families touched on a sore spot with some women, like Pakaluk.
“I know for myself how many times I get these offhand comments, ‘Oh, don’t you know where babies come from?’ or ‘Oh, what happened to you guys?’” she said, adding, “I think my choice deserves respect.”
Pakaluk, whose husband Michael is a professor of ethics and social philosophy, also at the Catholic University of America, said her response was “to seize the opportunity … to highlight … a group of people that are invisible currently and don’t need to be and are beautiful and interesting.”
The widespread response to #PostcardsforMacron show that women who have large families want to be heard and appreciated, not dismissed.
While women who pursue their education and go on to have large families are definitely admirable, there is a larger, all-encompassing discussion to be had to address the stigma perpetrated on women who choose to have more than several kids.
“It really isn’t about these high numbers and impressive degrees,” says Pakaluk. “It’s about pushing back on something instinctive in the progressive mind which doesn’t see that this behavior of choosing a large family can be an intentional choice for many, many reasons.”
And as the widespread response to her hashtag shows, she’s far from the only one who thinks that way.
This is my response to Macron’s comment: “I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children.’”
— Chinelo F. Ujubuonu (@ChineloF) October 17, 2018
Yes, I have a university degree. But the most important things I've learned are from being a mother and wife. 8 on earth 1 in Heaven and 1 more on the way! #postcardsforMacron #motherhood #chooselife pic.twitter.com/3jY44lT3s1
— Anne S. (@familysweden) October 17, 2018
#postcardsforMacron Mom: Fashion Institute of Technology, Executive Director of Success In Style, Inc. Dad: Columbia University, Lawyer. NINE KIDS! 6 college grads 3 to go! A few of the clan here! pic.twitter.com/FgZBF5oVAI
— Jeannette Kendall (@sisjeannette) October 17, 2018
#postcardsforMacron I'm the second of nine. Dad was a Yalie. Mom was secretarial school, a Rosie the Riveter in WWII, and whip-smart. The idea that university education is the only education indicates very limited thinking, M. Macron. pic.twitter.com/xwyCdvPmwl
— Ellen Anderson (@MochaLite) October 17, 2018
— Kathleen Stinehart (@stinehart8) October 16, 2018
— Natalie Schneck (@NatalieSchneck7) October 17, 2018
— Janette (@janetter61) October 17, 2018
— MyBrewCrew (@jbroui42) October 16, 2018
— Goldy (@golden30beacs) October 17, 2018
— Cindy Lathwell (@LathwellCindy) October 17, 2018
— Maria Morrow (@MariaCMorrow) October 17, 2018
— liz (@lizgilges) October 17, 2018
— Genevieve (@gskineke) October 17, 2018
— Jennifer S. Dunlap (@Jen4Ever4Always) October 17, 2018
I'm so enjoying the photos of all the lovely families in this thread that I had to share one of my own. This is my smart & beautiful Mom with her 2 sons, 2 of her 3 sons-in-law & 1 grandson. She has a BA in English & 5 kids. #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/67CYHVQQtr
— Maria Olaguera (@CIM_web_editor) October 17, 2018
Contributing to #postcardsforMacron @EmmanuelMacron started by @CRPakaluk BS in physics, studied law, now a student in MA Thomistic Studies degree 5 kids pictured with 4 of them. pic.twitter.com/fpu3uMjDv2
— lumasimms (@lumasimmsEPPC) October 17, 2018
I don't usually feel like I have a small family, but this #postcardsforMacron has me feeling like an underachiever. BS in Mathematics w/ teacher certification. Maybe that's why We are so good at multiplying! #onlyfive #stilltimeformore pic.twitter.com/O1DJijcgqs
— Lauren Chastain (@theapologista) October 17, 2018
— Jennifer Bossypants ? Stand Tall ? Stay Sweet (@ajenable) October 16, 2018