23 avril 2012

TLMEP Interview with Janette Bertrand, April 22

Written by Sylvie Lupien

Janette Bertrand.
Credit: User:Asclepias, Wikipedia
Janette Bertrand arrives on the set of Tout le monde en parle helped by Dany Turcotte and Guy A. Lepage. She is 87 years old,  though just looking at her, you can sense that her energy says otherwise. She is so happy to have been invited back to the show (she was last on in 2008, see video) and admits that she missed both Guy and Dany. I should add that she is a role model for Guy A. Lepage and openly admits that he adores her and calls her his spiritual mom!

She is here to talk about her new book: "Lit Double" ("Twin Bed") which will be available as of April 25th.

Guy A. asks: Why write about couples, again? Bertrand says she wanted to write about those 49% of couples that succeed in their union instead of emphasizing the 51% that divorce. She followed five couples of all ages and sexes (one gay couple is part of it) and revealed how they manage through crisis and their sexuality. Her daughter protested on the quantity of sexual aspect in her book, to which she replied: "Couples and sexuality go together. If you want to talk about couples, you have to talk about their sexuality".

Cover of Janette Bertrand's latest book.
Credit: Les éditions Libre Expression
What, then, is the secret to a successful relationship? Three things, claims Bertrnad. Man, woman and the couple. She goes on to say, that the problem is, in her opinion, female (heu non!). Women have a tendency to dream of a man that doesn't exist (heu....non, non!). Her explanation is that passion—real passion—does not last, and that this is normal (apparently, we women don't get that).

How long does passion last, Guy A. asks immediately? The man is worried! Six months to two years. After that, Bertrand says, reality settles in and the real relationship begins. She goes on, giggling that, in the beginning, everything is easy because basically you don't know each other and you make love all the time. When that slows down a bit—because it does—it's the "couple" that needs to be constructed, and it is up to the man and the woman to make a decision. Do we want to pursue this relationship, do we love each other enough, and what are we willing to do to make it work?

Bertrand herself has had two men in her life. One relationship that lasted 34 years (Jean Lajeunesse with whom she had children) and another, M. Genson, that has been going strong for the last 30 years, still deeply in love with (and who, I may add, is twenty years her younger). She demystifies the notion that you can love only once. She has and deeply was in love with both of her husbands. She left the first one on the basis that she couldn't emancipate herself (« s'émanciper ») since the very basis of their relationship was man overpowering woman. (We'll touch this again in the "Why This Matters" section, below). She met her second husband very shortly afterward, but was not able to be with him since he was already married and she therefore waited for him.

In the second part of the interview, Guy A. mentioned that Bertrand recently received the Guy Mauffette prize, the highest government award for lifetime distinction in radio and television. This is the second year of the prize's existence, and Bertrand is the first woman to be given the honour. She admits that she still suffers from impostor syndrome, even after all these years and all her achievements. Waiting to be named to received the prize, she was still convinced that they were going to tell her that they had made a mistake and that she wasn't going to be honoured. She relates this problem to her upbringing by the generation in which she was born: women were less of a person than men, women were not able to amount to anything worthwhile, women should be quiet and be pretty. She still holds a lot of insecurity, even though her work portrays a woman ahead of her time.

Why this matters

  • Janette Bertrand was born in 1925. She is an author, a radio and television host and an actress.
  • She studied at the Université de Montréal to become a journalist. It is then, that she opens up to feminism.
  • She began her career as a radio host, at CKAC, in the 1950's, with the show "Mon mari et nous" ("My Husband and Us").
  • She went on to create a television show called "Toi et moi" with her husband Jean Lajeunesse, which aired from 1954 to 1960. It talked about couples and their everyday problems, and she and her husband were actors in that series. Despite being the author of the screenplays, nowhere does Bertrand get credit for her work, because Radio-Canada at the time could not conceived that a woman could do such a thing. Her husband then had to sign his name as the author or else the television station would not take it.
  • She later explained in her book "Ma vie en trois actes", that she was deeply in love with her husband Jean Lajeunesse, and so having him signed his name at the bottom of her writing was understood by her as being what a woman should sacrifice for her marriage. I can already tell you that her perspective changed over the course of the following years and, if her husband had adapted to this change, she would probably still be married to him.
  • The body of Bertrand's work relates to love, couple's life, marriage, sexuality, adolescence and sexual discovery, and feminism. Through her radio appearance, television series, playwriting and a newspaper advice column she wrote, she influenced many young Quebec women in finding their voice and their sexuality.
  • If it's any measure on her impact on Quebec society, the iconic singers Robert Charlebois and Mouffe sing Madame Bertrand in 1969, portraying a man and a women writing to her separately in search of advice on finding their soul mate.

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