“Old maid” syndrome, social workers: two investigations into the link

Old maid syndrome social workers two investigations into the link

Diary of an “Old Maid”

For some time now, a wave of feminist essays have each tried in their own way to respond to a paradox that plagues their readers: how to save the heterosexual couple from the culture of patriarchy, reconcile family life and a critical approach to the maternal role. With Old girljournalist Marie Kock ventures down a more original and destabilizing path: giving visibility and depth to a status that has always been considered temporary and, when it becomes permanent, apprehended by society as a defect: female celibacy .

Interweaving literary references or borrowed from pop culture and biographical passages, handling the “I” specific to the genre of narrative nonfiction, Marie Kock offers an erudite, surprising and often nuanced approach to her subject. His variations on the theme of the old maid do not constitute a normative eulogy of celibacy on the pretext that the opposite choice, which remains the “relational standard”, would in reality be a dead end or an illusion. “This book is not intended to convince you to drop your companions, your companions, your children to go and smack everything in Las Vegas or retire to the forest”, writes the author. It is neither a “manifesto” in favor of celibacy nor a “warning” vis-à-vis the project of founding a family. Marie Kock rather considers her own situation as “a hypothesis”: “that it is possible, when it is not desirable, to live a life without ticking the boxes to which one predestines oneself from childhood, without living with someone a ni do a companionship […] and that it is possible to do without this love which is described as the greatest, the most indestructible, maternal love.”

Throughout her inner journey, Marie Kock examines her own choices, leaves nothing unsaid about the questions that everyone is asking: can we live happily without children, put sexuality at a distance, do not sink when we are left to your own devices… As traditional family configurations are re-examined by new generations, Marie Kock’s testimonial shows that it is possible to lead a normal and fulfilling life without necessarily living together.

Old girl, by Marie Kock, The Discovery.

A photo novel dedicated to social workers

Photographer and documentary filmmaker, Vincent Jarousseau has been investigating popular circles for several years. His reports take him into territories forgotten by decision-makers and sometimes by the media themselves. As in Denain, where he had met for a previous work a “France which is not on the move”, or in the cities which voted for an elected member of the National Front. Beyond his favorite themes, Jarousseau is at the origin of a very original form of social chronicle: the documentary photo-novel. Each of his visual reports is presented in comic strip boxes and the dialogues recorded on the spot are transcribed in speech bubbles. It is again this technique that the author makes use of in Women of the linka report about eight women who all do social work: Valérie, social and family intervention technician in the Nord department, working with families overwhelmed by educational difficulties, Marie-Basile, home help in Paris with elderly or dependent people, Angélique, maternal assistant in rural areas, on the borders of the departments of Nord and Aisne…

In a deindustrialized society, these women of the link embody the feminization and the tertiarization of jobs at the bottom of the social ladder. The Covid has shed light on these essential workers, usually doomed to stay behind the scenes. Alongside authors who have made provincial and modest France their object of study, such as the sociologist Benoît Coquard or the novelist Nicolas Mathieu, Vincent Jarousseau contributes to renewing the stories of this popular France, both omnipresent in our representations yet poorly known. One of the interests of Jarousseau’s work is to cross two territories. One, post-industrial and rural in northern France, the other in the Paris region, in Seine-Saint-Denis. A double anchorage which makes it possible to approach the life of women in peripheral France as well as in neighborhoods of recent immigration.

The women of the link, the real life of essential workers, by Vincent Jarousseau (drawings by Thierry Chavant). The Arena, September 22.


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