Lili

I've know Lili for many years now. We met in High School, she was in class with me during Junior year. I remember her as a hard-working, ambitious and smart girl. We used to come home together at noon, took the metro or walked along the ring road. After high school, we lost contact since she moved to Nancy to study at Sciences Po.

We meet each other at Montreuil, to take a walk in her hometown. It was sunny (and hot) and we went to a Vietnamese restaurant to eat. It was the last week she'll be in Paris before going to the USA. « Everyone has to go abroad during the 3rd year at my school, it's mendatory. » While I'm writing these words, Lili is in Syracuse, a small town in the state of New-York. The city isn't that great but the campus is. It is kind of a small town itself in which you can take public transports to go downtown. « When I came there, I was amazed, it's gigantic. I have 4 main classes : sociology, politics, race and german. In France during the sociology class, we don't talk much about taboo topics such as races or gender in contrary to the USA. Here in France, we act like we don't see any color-based difference so we don't talk about it, which is a totally wrong thing to do. »

When we think about Sciences Po, we think of politics, presidents and heavy studies. « People always tell me « you're at Sciences Po to become the President » . No, I am at Sciences Po because I want to work in public services. I chose this school because I wasn't aware of what I wanted to do after graduation but I knew that I didn't want to study science. I don't know where this will lead me but I would like to have a uselful work that helps people later. I want to have a good reason to wake up to go to work in the morning, not just for a salery. »

On top of her studies, Lili worked as a treasurer for the student office of her school and is also part of speech contests. I remember that back in high school she used to take part into simulations of United Nations guidance in which each student represented a country. They used to debate about current issues and offer solutions on global subjects. « Speech contests in my school are organized 2 to 3 times and are sometimes in foreign languages. During the first year, I really wanted to take part in it but I was shy and stressed, I thought that my level wasn't good enough so I chose to do it in english since there wasn't much people. It's really hard since you are in front of all the campus, I didn't want to humiliate myself since english wasn't my first language. I was surprised when I was chosen to represent the campus in english at the Robert Descoings price. Even though I've completely failed the final and it was a great experience, I was frustrated because if I had done it in french, my words would have came out way more easily... »

The year after, she is chosen for the Philippe Seguin price which she did in french this time. She will fail at the semifinal. The next year, she decides to re do the Robert Descoings price but in french this time. « My subject was «  In may, do what you feel like » and you can choose to either defend or criticize. I finally won the prize, I was surprised but also proud of myself. »

When I see Lili today, I feel like she changed a lot. She is more confident, happy, more blossomed than in the past. « I arrived in Junior year at a time when groups were already formed in the class. It was hard to fit in because I felt like I didn't belong there, I felt like I wasn't enough and it was hard to work with these feelings. I wanted to change who I was but I didn't know what I wanted to change exactly » She arrives in her school with the same mindset as before graduation. She thinks that once again, she'll not fit in. « When I arrived in Nancy, I was in a student residence and so I made friends there, it was new to me. I've never had this kind of relationships and I felt good thanks to them. In the movies and books, we always see girls fighting : the one who'll have the most boys, the one who is more beautiful than the others...there's too much competition. In my group, it wasn't the case at all, we were 5 and all different, we had also loads of common point and everyone had its place, it was healthy relationships. » At Sciences Po, it was more complicated. « I am clumsy sometimes, my words can be raw and so people didn't really liked me, except for a girl that always said to the others that I wasn't mean and I didn't want to hurt people. This girl and the group of 4 I lived with helped me evolve and grow self-confidence. Unfortunately, we lost contact a bit because one of the girls left and we all have busy lives. »

At this point, Lili had grown self-confidence but wasn't completely confident with herself. « I still wanted to change a bit who I was. I met two people during my second year and we were a very heterogeneous group. There was a boy, an art history student, that was fond of chess and also very shy, but hilarious when you get to know him. The other person was a girl, she studied psychology, worked to pay her studies and loved to go out at night. Eventually, there was me, the student who always has her nose in her books. We were very different but we got along very well and I think that thanks to them, I learned how to love myself. Even if I miss them this year, they helped me in the process of appreciating loneliness. »

As I hear her talk about that much support and positivity, I want to debate about feminism with her. I remembered her as a true feminist, ready to assert her beliefs. « To me, feminism is equality. Equality for rights and opportunity between women, men and every other gender. I think that there's a « priviliged feminism » that is taking the lead at the moment. It is a feminism that fights for the high placed women rights towards high placed men and I think that this really lacks any intersectionnality. On top of ethnical or racial diversity, one should not forget social diversity : you can't call yourself a feminist when you don't help women that struggle, they struggle even more than men that struggle and they are confronted to a whole another sexism that high placed women are confronted to. Feminism must be intersectionnal. »

When I ask her if she has rolemodels or people that inspire her, her answer is no. « We are all humans and we all do mistakes. For example, the president of Birmania, Aung San Suu Kyi that got the nobel price in 2017 because she provided a non violent opposition to the military dictature of her country. She then, months later, did nothing for the Rohingyas holocaust, a muslim minority. Everyone has its own weaknesses and bad sides, I would say that I'm more inspired by actions rather than people themselves. I like the objectivity and introspection of Simone de Beauvoir or the courage of Simon Veil because she fought for women. Abortion was an issue for poor women because the one that had money could pay to get abortion in foreign countries. I can be more inspired by everyday life actions rather than heroic actions. »



All the women are real girls and you are one when you define yourself as one. I don't like the term of « real girls » which indicates that there's, in opposition to them,  « fake girls » . It isn't a question of self-confidence, make-up, plans or ambitions... being a real girl is only living your life and I think that this is already enough.

translated by Khadija