World War II produced a significant impact on the development of human society, art and culture. In fact, the war affected practically all fields. At the same time, many directors proved to be unable to reveal the depth of the tragedy and controversies people suffered from during and after the war. In this respect, the film “Hiroshima Mon Amour”¯ by Alain Resnais is probably one of the most successful films. This film is focused on the fate of the main character, the French actress, whose personal tragedy and humiliation are closely intertwined with such feelings as love and the sense of great loss, which defined her life in the post-war period. What is more important, however, is that fact that this film reveals the actual position of women during the war and the extent to which the war could be controversial, since such feelings as patriotism and love often came into clashes with what was actually the case of the main character.Ā By excluding women from the making of war and creating passive characters in war narrative, it has forced them to plat predominantly passive roles in both situations, thus furthering their inferior and emotional status in society.
On analyzing the film “Hiroshima Mon Amour”¯, it is possible to estimate that the film reveals a number of gender related issues which often remained unnoticed. In fact, the film reveals the extent to which the position of men and women was unequal in the society. In this regard, the inequality between men and women could be traced in practically all domains, including the war. The latter means that women were excluded from the war and they were perceived being unable to take part in the war, which, though, inevitably affected the life of women as it affected the life of the entire society. In actuality, women could not ignore the war, but the society still ignored women at wartime and in war. It is important to lay emphasis that this inequality of women and their inferiority compared to men in regard to war was determined by historically deep-rooted biases as well as by huge gender roles differences, norms and stereotypes which dominated in the society at the epoch of World War II and which determined the treatment of women as second class citizens unable to take part in the war.
However, this exclusion of women and their inferiority, which was relevant at the epoch of World War II, still persist. The development of the contemporary society is accompanied by the progress of democracy and emergence of civil rights movements, which target at the protection of various social groups from oppression and discrimination. At the same time, the arguments, concerning the real equality of all people regardless their race, gender, or social position, still persist. In such a situation, the arguments concerning the position of female in the modern society are among the most contradictive since on the one hand, there are people who sincerely believe that women have eventually managed to get an equal position in society compared to men and, at the present days, they have really equal opportunities as men do. On the other hand, there is a totally different view on the position of women in the modern society, according to which the glass ceiling still remains an unsurpassable barrier women regularly face in their life. Moreover, women still suffer from the discrimination at the employment for they have lower job opportunities, lower wages, etc. The latter position is more realistic and corresponds to the actual position of females in the modern society since their leadership is still rather an exception than a norm.
Obviously, both points of view are grounded on certain reasons which should be analyzed in order to fully reveal the extent to which the belief in the real improvement of the position of women in the modern society and their access to top positions is erroneous. First of all, it should be said that the fact that women have made a great progress compared to the previous epoch is beyond a doubt. It is really true that females play a significant role in the modern society and they have larger opportunities and formally they have absolutely equal rights compared to men. As a rule, those, who believe that the glass ceiling syndrome has gone and totally vanished from the modern society, stand on the ground that modern women have not only equal rights compared to men but also have wide opportunities to realize their right.
In this respect, it is necessary to agree that nowadays women have really got a chance to receive the same basis for their future professional development and career growth. To put it more precisely, modern women have access to education and have an opportunity to receive higher education of the same quality that men do that is one of the basic conditions of their future perspectives as potential leaders.
Furthermore, it is really an unarguable fact that rights of women and their opportunities are recognized and amply supported by the modern legislation which focuses on the protection of women against any sort of discrimination, including the gender-related discrimination. Moreover, women are not viewed as secondary-class citizens anymore who are supposed to spend all their life taking care about their families, children and household.
However, probably the strongest argument of those, who believe that women have really overcome the glass ceiling syndrome, is the assumption that, nowadays, women are widely represented in practically all spheres of life and, what is more, often they occupy the leading positions. To put it more precisely, it is possible to estimate that many women are quite successful politicians. For instance, nowadays, female play increasingly more important role in political life and their representation in the legislative and executive power of the country is constantly growing.
Practically, the same situation is estimated to be in economic sphere. The supporters of the belief that the current situation indicates to the end of the epoch of the glass ceiling underline that women may be also fond among CEOs and in boardrooms of the most powerful companies and financial organizations. For instance, a woman is chief executive of the London Stock Exchange and the similar examples may be found in other developed countries.
Hence, it is obvious that women are historically excluded from taking socially significant position and participation in the life of the society, including political and economic sphere. In such a situation it is quite natural that women are excluded from war, as the film “Hiroshima Mon Amour”¯ shows because women are considered to be unable to compete with men in the war. In a way, it is possible to speak about the existence of a kind of glass ceiling in relation to the military service of women. Moreover, women could not only obtain high military ranks at the epoch of World War II, but they also could hardly join the army and take an active part in military activities. But, today, the situation starts to change not only political and economic life but in the military as well because the number of women in the army increases and some of them attempt to make a successful professional career. On the other hand, it is obvious that such efforts are rather exceptional than normal because women are still inferior in the army and military service.
In such a way, judging from such a significant penetration of women on top positions in politics and economy, it is really possible to believe that there is no glass ceiling syndrome anymore. In spite of seeming progress, the reality turns to be quite different from such an optimistic belief. In actuality, the position of women has hardly changed substantially in recent years or even decades. Regardless the seemingly growing presentation of women in politics and economy, in actuality, they still remain underrepresented in a male-dominated society, especially women are missing from top jobs.
Even though women can have a real chance to receive the higher education similarly to men but this does not necessarily mean that they will and actually have the real opportunities to realize the acquired skills, abilities and knowledge in their professional life. To put it more precisely, the recent researchers reveal the fact that 81% of well-qualified women that can occupy top positions face serious barriers engendered by the existing stereotypes and preconceptions (Andrica 1997) which are basically generated by male and accumulated in the society where male ideology is dominating.
Furthermore, researchers also point out that many employers simply feel an aversion to taking a risk by hiring a woman, or not clearly planning their careers or job assignments to benefit them and, what is more, less than 1% of CEOs see the development of high potential of women as a priority (Feldman 1997).
In such a way, it is obvious that the stereotypes and biases still prevent women from an opportunity to occupy top positions in organizations. In this respect, it is even possible to speak about the failure of anti-discrimination legislation, which, being actually good in principle, has turned to be unable to change the stereotypes that have been existing for decades, if not to say centuries.
Moreover, speaking about the wider opportunities of women in relation to their professional careers, it is necessary to underline that top positions still remain hardly accessible to women. In actuality, in spite of the substantial growth of women working in different spheres, including those which were traditionally believed as purely male-dominated, they are still unrepresented on the top level. In other words, even though there is a growing share of female in organizations their perspectives of gaining high or top positions are extremely low. As a result, the share of women among CEOs is extremely low as well. For instance, according to a recent study only 7-9% of senior managers at Fortune 1000 firms are women (Castro 1997). The same may be said about politics where a few women that have access to leading positions while, taken at large, politics still remain the domain of men.
Moreover, the conditions of work and payment are still unequal. It is not a secret that many women can hardly maintain their careers after having children. This is particularly true for women that used to play the leading role in organizations where they occupied top positions. It is also important to underline that pay gaps are also the reality of the modern life since, as a rule, men still have more chances to receive a better paid job, or, what is more, men earn more than women even though they fulfill absolutely the same job. Remarkably, the gap for part-time job is traditionally wider than for the full-time job. As a result, asking for flexible working still spells career death for many women in today’s workplace.
At the same time, it is also worthy of mention another side of the problem of the still progressing glass ceiling. In fact, often specialists, when they speak about the glass ceiling or poor or equal opportunities of women, forget that there are also women from ethnic minorities who, at the present moment, seem to be practically unrepresented among the leaders of organizations, neither in politics nor in business. In fact, the cases when a non-white woman is a CEO, for instance, are very seldom. The same trends can be observed in the military service and the position of women in the army. They are still excluded and inferior compared to men and, as a rule, they have little opportunities to take part in war being equal to men. Instead, their perform supportive functions, focusing on health care services, logistics, etc., but they are rarely involved in the military operations where physical abilities and strengths are very important. In fact, the gender does matter in the modern army and war as well as it did at the epoch of “Hiroshima Mon Amour”¯.
In this respect, it should be said that trends that were noticed by the director of the film and that were typical for the epoch of World War II in regard to women in war still persist. The problem of inferiority of women is probably the most significant problems which still affect the participation of women in war and their involvement in the army. Similarly to the present epoch, women were treated as inferior in war during World War II. “Hiroshima Mon Amour”¯ reveals the fact that the society was not prepared to treat women as equal participants in the war compared to men. Women were simply considered to be unable to afford such involvement in the war.
At this point, it is possible to refer to the life of the main character in Nevers during the war. In actuality, women took inferior position in the war because they stayed away from the front line and people could not take serious the perspective of the participation of women in the war. Instead, unlike men, women led a routine life in the cities where the military actions had stopped. In such a context, the fact that the main character of “Hiroshima Mon Amour”¯ falls in love with the German officer is quite symbolic. In such a way, the film shows that women were perceived being unable to understand and accept such concepts as enemy. What is meant here is the fact that women could not share the male view and attitude to war. Instead, they could develop normal, natural relations with enemies whom they were supposed to kill at war time. as a result, the fact that the French actress fell in love with the German officer is a symbol of her inferiority because, if she was equal to men, she would rather kill him than love him.Ā Ā At least, this was the position of the overwhelming majority of the French society depicted by the film. However, such a view on women as inferior to men was widely spread and even today, such a superior attitude of men to women persists.
At the same time, the inferiority of women was perceived as a norm and “Hiroshima Mon Amour”¯ shows that women were unable to afford even the civil life during the war time. For instance, they could not fully accept the common negative attitude to German soldiers who occupied France, but the main character does not only fails to hate them, in contrast she falls in love with the German officer. In such a way, she proves to be unable to accept norms of the wartime, which men perceive as unbreakable laws.
In such a situation, it seems to be quite natural that women could not be enrolled in the army because there was a risk that they could betray the national interests and fell in love with an enemy, for instance. However, such a view on women in war was apparently biased and unjust. In actuality, the main character proved to be devoted to the man she loved, to the German officer, whom she can never forget. Even fourteen years after the war, she still loves him that proves her ability to have strong feelings which they can preserve, in spite of humiliation and huge social pressure. What is meant here is the fact that the main character has preserved her love to the German soldier even though she was forced to leave her motherland. In such a way, she proves that she can be strong because she could easily forget the German officer and stay in France, but the memory and her love to him haunts her and she cannot afford living in the country, where she used to love, but her love was destructed by the war.
However, the cause of her escape from Nevers reveals another important aspect of women’s exclusion from the war. To put it more precisely, the society was unable to perceive the involvement of women in the war. In this respect, the love of the main character to the German soldier could be perceived as an act of betrayal of France and, in a way, it was a part of the war because the French actress loved a person who was perceived by the society as an enemy. As a result, the French punish the main character for her love to the enemy. In this respect, it is possible to estimate that they apply the laws of the wartime to the woman who was, consciously or not, involved in the war. In such a way, the participation of women in war turns out to be punishable and the main character is severely humiliated for her act of betrayal. However, her reaction on the punishment is quite controversial.
On the one hand, her escape can be interpreted as the evidence of her weakness and, therefore, her inability to afford challenges of the war.
Hence, in such a context, the woman is apparently inferior compared to men in war. On the other hand, her escape may be the evidence of her devotedness to her beloved, whom she cannot forget. In this regard, she can be viewed as a strong woman and potentially such internal strength can be very helpful for her in war. However, the society does not remark this internal strength of the woman, Instead, people get used to view women as unable to take part in the war. In this respect, it is possible to speak about extremely biased, conservative and patriarchal view on women as extremely unreliable, deceitful and dishonored beings, which actually contradicts to the traditional view on a man in war as a strong, constant, reliable, devoted to his country and honorable being.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that women were and still are perceived being inferior to men, especially in war. People always believed that women were unable to afford hardships of the wartime and they could easily betray their country and their people. In contrast, men were traditionally perceived in a commanding position since it was men who actually made the war. They were involved in the military activities and they died for their country and their people. In such a way, through the attitude to women in war, the society reveals the unjust, discriminatory attitude to women, who apparently occupied and still occupy the inferior, secondary position in the society. In fact, the position of women has not been changed or improved substantially. In stark contrast, the life at the top is still white and male and the arguments in favor of the existence of equal opportunities for men and women seem to be not very convincing. At least statistics perfectly illustrates that women are not only underrepresented at the top positions, but they are also often discriminated and are not considered to be potentially perspective workers. As a result, the current leaders prefer to develop men as future leaders instead of developing women which potential may be equal or even higher than the potential of some men that occupy high positions. Obviously, such a situation cannot remain unchanged and the problem of the glass ceiling still has to be solved in such a way that women can get a real opportunity to fully realize their potential and become leaders. However, to achieve a considerable success women need to overcome the existing biases and stereotypes, which remain very strong, especially in relation to the military service women since even today women are still considered to be inferior to men in war and in the army at large.