by Jess Rempe
Bonjour mes amis!
I have been putting off writing my first article from Paris because I kept waiting for something huge to spark my inner feminist hypergraphia, but alas, nothing huge has happened, thus I am going to share my observations of my first week in Paris.
Impression One : At the orientation, our professor gave us a few cultural and safety tips. He suggested we don’t stand around at night regarding a map and to have our keys ready when we enter our buildings. This was especially important for us females. We, girls, were also told it would be better if we did not wear skimpy clothing because it essentially would appear as though we were asking for attention. This was then followed by a small story about a girl who went to France a few years ago and was harassed by a man who grabbed her butt. When they went to report the man to the police, the police were less than helpful, pointing to the girl’s outfit as the reason she was harassed. Here it is the female’s fault if a male cannot keep his body to himself, which is not all that different from the mentality of the United States.
This idea (and probably many other cultural reasons) seems to manifest itself in the everyday dress of the Parisian women. I rarely see the women wearing dresses and skirts, and even colors. While it definitely is more practical and even chic to wear jeans, pants and fifty shades of neutral, I cannot help but wonder if the fashions are partial a shield against unwanted advances.
Impression Two : The French are much less freaked out by the human body sans clothes and even sex. There are many carefully placed items in ads and hints of sexual innuendo in the commercials. Even walking down the street, there will be magazines featuring a topless woman at the newsstands. Also the recent Cannes winner, Le Blue est une couleur chaude, features a ten minute sex scene (the discussion surrounding this scene is one for another blog), which will likely be edited before the movie ever reaches the United States. (I have always found it a bit bizarre that movies featuring gross amounts of violence can be PG or PG-13, but one hint of genitals and the movie is suddenly rated R. And sex? Heaven forbid we actually show people who love each other.)
Impression Three : I have yet to be in a situation where I feel unsafe here, even when I took the night bus and walked home, but I know a few of my other friends have had difficulties with men asking them questions and have felt unsafe. (The only thing I have gleaned from this observation is that I either have a great “don’t talk to me” face or an undeveloped sense of fear. Most likely a combination of the two.)
Overall, even though France seems more liberal about the body, maybe there is not really much of a difference. There may be more nudity, but it seems to be more for the straight men than anyone else.