Life

Lessons you shouldn’t learn from French women

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French Women

Image: Nikonaft / Shutterstock

In the U.S., nearly anything labeled as French automatically gets a veneer of class and sophistication: French manicures, French doors, French wine, French toast (aka fried bread), etc. This assumption even extends to French people.

I’ve only spent a few months in Paris, but I can say some French women are every bit as wonderful as you’d suspect, but most aren’t because they’re humans like everyone else. Yes, taking your time to enjoy meals and knowing eight ways to tie a scarf lends class to a person, but let’s not forget the lessons we shouldn’t learn from French women.

Fascism

Image: Wikipedia

Marine Le Pen is currently the leader of the far-right National Front party, bringing elegance and warmth to hideous political ideas. Like other savvy politicians, she’s shucked off the less palatable parts of her party, that skinhead and Holocaust supporter contingent of her father, in favor of other xenophobic ideas with broader appeal in order to make the National Front mainstream. In a quote from The Atlantic, French political historian Michel Winock said, “Islam now represents the enemy, when it used to be the Jews for Daddy’s radical right.” On top of tapping into Islamophobia, Le Pen also wants something akin to a French Brexit and the deportation of legal immigrants if they’ve been unemployed for six months. While Le Pen is unlikely to become France’s next president, her party has found an enthusiastic base in more conservative parts of the country.

Don’t be like Marine Le Pen. Fascism isn’t cool, even when it’s softened and prettied up by a seemingly friendly French woman.

Strident Assimilation

Like other countries with a long, rich history of invasion and imperialism, many French people get angry AF if immigrants from former colonies show up and aren’t exactly like them. There’s one way to be French. You put that old cultural shit behind you! You’re French now! We are colorblind, thank you! If you don’t like it go back to Algeria, or whatever! (The term “immigrant” typically includes French citizens born in France who aren’t white. A neat way to be racist without mentioning race at all.)

From no “ostentatious religious displays” (hijabs) in publics schools to a census that doesn’t measure race, ethnicity, or religion, the French policy has been unity through enforced secularism and downplaying of diversity.

I hate to break it to you, but it hasn’t worked out that well. There’s still plenty of discrimination and poor minority groups often end up in crappy public housing at the edge of cities. Don’t try to use assimilation as a cultural cure all, even though the French swear by it.

Resume + Photo

If you thought writing a resume sucks, imagine including a headshot with every one, even if it’s just for answering phones.

It’s standard operating procedure to include a photo with your resume in France, which is something I don’t think I’ll ever understand, like their weird commercials.

But hey, remember that whole racism and anti-immigration thing? It applies to getting work, too! A few experiments have shown an anti-Muslim bias in hiring, and that was just using names. It’s not difficult to believe that the inclusion of photos allows for more visceral profiling instead of jumping to conclusions based on names alone.

Plus, what if you look kind of weird but are baller at answering phones? What then?

Even beyond my holier-than-thou finger wagging (I’m sure you’d find similar biases in the U.S.), no one in the U.S. wants your resume with a photo unless it’s for acting or modeling. Just because it’s normal in France doesn’t make it normal here. Most employers would be like, “Why are you showing me your face like this? Why?”

Pay toilets

While public urination is probably illegal in France, I saw a lot of it, and not just drunk college students. In broad daylight on a busy street I saw a parent tell her kid to just pee on an ornamental tree. But at the time the price of using the toilet was higher than buying a baguette. You can only blame so people so much.

You need exact change, too. I’m not sure if you’ve ever discussed with friends who gets to void their bladder based on what coinage available, but it is not fantastic.

So sure, if you want less disgusting public toilets you can charge per use. Once you paid your entry fee those things were fine. But if you don’t want everything except the toilet to be coated in a shimmer of piss, it’s best to try a different tactic.