The real truth about French women
Every nation is subject to stereotypes about its people and culture. Stereotypes being what they are – inaccurate, sweeping and superficial – their contribution is limiting and, in some cases, they produce inequities and injustice.
According to the cultural myth, Australian women are all blonde surfers, Italian women cook pasta and look like Sophia Loren. Plus, the French woman is a chic, thin seductress, which ultimately means her value lays in her ability to select clothes, remain lithe and accumulate lovers.
The Truth About French Womenoffers an alternative vision of French women that eschews cultural clichés and presents a rounded and inclusive analysis.
In doing so the book challenges us to think about the insidious role capitalism and marketing play in the creation of stereotypes.
Le Moël grew up in a rural area in France before moving to Paris to live. Perhaps it was this juxtaposition of experience in the country and the city that contributed to her insights about the ‘truth’ of French women.
In an interview with Marie Claire, she says,
This idea of the French woman is not necessarily a false image but it is only a tiny part of French women. In fact, it’s often a Parisian woman. She’s very elegant, intellectual and open-minded. This is the kind of woman you might find in central Paris.”
French ‘elegance’, suggests Le Moël, is a product of money and wealth, rather than inherent proclivity:
If you have money and education — if your grandmother was dressed by top designers and she taught you — then you are elegant, no matter where you are. Of course it’s better to say, ‘It’s because I’m French’, rather than ‘It’s because I’m rich.’” *
Ultimately, suggests Le Moël, real women are much more interesting than clichés. So, The Truth About French Women reveals insights about the lives of real French women like Coco Chanel and Jeanne D’Arc who pushed the boundaries of stereotypes and did their best to liberate women from the constraints imposed on them by institutions and role expectations.
Through her writing on this topic, Le Moël herself joins the ranks of creative French women who push limits and create new realities.
*(Quote from article by Johnson, Susan, ‘QWeekend: What French women are really like’ The Courier Mail, 25 May 2015.)