Sunday 4 December 2016

French women do get fat, actually

With another 'French women are superior' book tipped to top the best-seller list, Frenchwoman Anne-Elisabeth Moutet debunks the myth, and says French women are as fat, unhappy and lonely as anyone else

Published 02/11/2016 | 02:30

Marion Cotillard
Marion Cotillard
Vanessa Paradis
Eva Green
Charlotte Rampling
Carine Roitfeld
Mireille Guiliano

Didn't you know? French women don't get fat. French women don't sleep alone. French women don't get facelifts. French women have secrets for perfect chic, for bringing up their bébés, for being fatale (whatever this means), and for teaching their children not to throw food, but to always say 'bonjour' to the lady. When one French woman does decide to sleep alone, she writes about the art of it and it gets translated in 12 languages.

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If you believe any of those bestseller-list staples, there is supposedly no task we Françaises cannot perform at a higher level than the rest of humanity, in five-inch heels and a Thierry Mugler cinched dress while humming 'La Vie En Rose' and cooking Poularde Albuferra for 12. In our houses you never trip over Lego bricks - only a team of photographers from Taschen setting up arc lights in the sitting room.

Another two of these blasted books have just come out, with two more planned for 2017. Yet this ridiculous cottage industry (a "cottage" the size of Leinster) has been churning since the noughties.

Many are actually written by blinkered American harridans living in the 7th arrondissement (the D4 of Paris). A couple have dared to explore the wild steppes of the newly rebaptised SoPi, or South Pigalle (once a boho haven and now about as authentic as the 1951 Montmartre built on MGM's backlot by Vincente Minnelli for 'An American in Paris') or the Canal Saint Martin area (ditto).

They all have in common a narrow, upper-middle-class view of the sliver of French society to which they confine themselves. The only French people they ever meet are the families of their banker or lawyer husbands; the only places they shop are Le Bon Marché on rue de Sèvres (read: Harvey Nicks) and chichi boutiques on Île de Ré (think Monkstown, Dublin).

Their kids go to the best lycées of central Paris or to eye-wateringly expensive private schools like École Alsacienne (Blackrock College) or the Collège Stanislas. Yet if they ever deigned to cross the Périphérique to budget-shop at a Carrefour supermarket, they'd see exhausted, podgy women failing to manage (when they even try), wailing children demanding fish fingers and frozen meals laced with sugar and palm oil.

Half of Paris's flats are now inhabited by singles of both sexes, who sleep alone more often than not. Horror stories of bolshy children unable to spell, staging brutal afterschool assaults against the teachers who give them bad marks, are an almost-daily staple of the morning papers.

As for the vaunted French elegance and self-possession, you only have to ride the métro at any hour to realise the fatuousness of the notion.

Of course we Frenchwomen will take any praise that comes to us. But the uber-cool myth makes most of us not called Caroline de Maigret prey to impostor syndrome - not a state of mind often associated with the French.

In truth, France's most popular clothes shop remains H&M, with Zara and C&A coming close seconds. Never forget that we are the second-largest McDonald's market on the planet, just behind America. And far from effortless love lives, we have messy relationships, complicated marriages, and about as much agency as Bridget Jones. Which is far from nothing, mind you; but poised it is not. © Telegraph

Do French women do  it better?

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"French women have been made beautiful by the French people - they're very aware of their bodies, the way they move and speak, they're very confident of their sexuality. French society made them like that" - Charlotte Rampling, actress

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"With French women you first see the woman and then you see the clothes. Imagine countries like Russia or China, even Eastern Europe. They don't have the culture of clothes so they want to show that they can afford to buy a Dolce & Gabbana bag, they want to show labels. In France you cannot see what labels we are wearing" - Carine Roitfeld, former editor-in-chief, 'Vogue Paris'

"The silhouette is the most important thing in clothes. Every French girl knows that. High-waisted trousers give you long legs and a pretty bum which, after all, is what we all want" - Lou Doillon, model, singer, actress

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"The real reason French women don't get fat is not genetic, but cultural, and if the French subjected themselves to the American extremes of eating and dieting, the obesity problem in France would be much worse than what has struck America" - Mireille Guiliano, author 'French Women Don't Get Fat'

Irish Independent

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