5 Myths About French Women

Mireille Guiliano, the author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, has released a second book late last year called French Women Don’t Get Facelifts. As someone who is half French, and who has lived in France, I am always perplexed at the rest of the world’s fascination with French women. The main reason why I left France was because I was SICK of being a “French” woman – being a woman in France sucks. Here are a few myths about French women.

emmanuelle alt, french women, french women's eating habits, brigitte bardot, myths about french women

Emmanuelle Alt: she is thin (and she would probably be sacked from Vogue Paris if she gained weight) but she doesn’t exactly look like a 25 year old. She looks her age, and doesn’t wear makeup. Bravo!

1. When we talk about French women, we mean women from France. When we talk about French women, what we really mean is women in Paris. Because, as any French person will tell you, Paris is not France. France is actually quite a nice place. Paris is a city where your looks count for everything, and so you make sure you stay thin and beautiful for as long as possible, because the quality of your life and the way you are treated is DIRECTLY affected by your weight and appearance. That said, if you are beautiful in Paris, prepare to be whistled at, yelled at, and probably groped by random men if you are out on the street past 6pm wearing anything but a boiler suit. It’s basically a lose-lose situation.

2. French women don’t get fat. They do get fat just as easily as normal women, but most of them are scared into staying thin. It’s a priority for them not to be fat, because if they get fat, they won’t get husbands, jobs, and bank loans (I once got a bank loan because I was wearing stilettos and a skirt with a high slit. I can assure you the loan was not granted on the basis of my bank history.) They will basically be shunned from Paris society. Fathers, grandfathers (at least MY grandfather), friends, husbands, boyfriends, brothers, etc… will never hesitate to tell a woman she is looking fat. In fact, I’ve even had a friend whose co-workers (older women) told her she’d never get a husband if she ate croissants. So the pressure is on, and that kind of criticism is enough to make everyone stay thin. Losing weight is hard, yes, and so is staying thin. But you know what is even harder? Dragging yourself out of bed at 5am every day and dealing with kids, work, and taking care of a home and being busy until 8pm. Or waking up five times a night to feed a newborn. Or looking after an elderly parent. Or working a high stress job sixty hours a week. Or escaping a civil war and trying to look after your children in a refugee camp. But those things usually NEED to be done, whereas losing weight isn’t exactly a life or death situation (for most of us.) However, for women in Paris, it almost is. So they stay thin, lose their baby weight fast, and maintain a slim physique by drinking a lot of coffee, taking a lot of weird pills, and eating tiny portions. It works. They are generally quite thin.

emmanuelle alt, french women, french women's eating habits, brigitte bardot, myths about french women

Brigitte Bardot. She hasn’t had any plastic surgery, and therefore she looks her age. Big whoop.

3. French women can eat anything they want. Well, maybe this isn’t a myth, and maybe we can ALL eat anything we want, the key word here is PORTIONS. French women eat tiny portions. And yes, they also eat less processed foods than North Americans, but the trick here really is portions. And when they want to eat a five course meal, they will. But that will be literally the only thing they eat for the day. I accidentally put this to the test last summer in Sweden. My mother-in-law basically cooks everything with cream, butter, and potatoes (French style) so I decided not to deprive myself, but instead, to eat smaller portions. I came home and I had lost my baby weight. My friends in Paris all ate cheese, bread, steak, frites, and pastries, but none were fat. Portions, my friends, it is all about the portions.

4. French women look younger for longer. Have you looked at Brigitte Bardot? She doesn’t look like a teenager anymore. Like many French women, she looks her age (and by the way, there is nothing wrong with that.) Sure, they don’t get facelifts but that is because in France there isn’t a culture of being obsessed with young women (only thin women.) You can still be sexy and attractive at age 50, and I applaud them for that! They do take good care of their skin by using A LOT of products and potions, but don’t be fooled into thinking there’s a youth elixir in their water. On that note, French women look stylish for longer, because they still care deeply about how they dress at age 50 or 60, and even 70. And that is certainly something to emulate, as I find that in North America, once you hit your fifties, there aren’t many fashion brands whose aim is to make a mature woman look good. Ironic, since that’s usually when you need the most help, and when you have the most money to spend.

emmanuelle alt, french women, french women's eating habits, brigitte bardot, myths about french women

Francois Mitterand’s funeral, on the left is his wife, and second from the right is his mistress. Nice.

5. French women have it good. One of the most iconic and disturbing photos that sums up the way women are treated in France is this photo of Francois Mitterand’s (ex. President of France) wife and mistress standing side by side at his funeral. For some bizarre, UTTERLY INCOMPREHENSIBLE reason, unattractive French men often have mistresses, whereas their beautiful wives remain faithful. W. T. F. I met and flirted with SO many guys who had girlfriends. Cheating is normal there, it’s not really even called cheating. So, consider the fact that you have to stay thin, you’ll most likely be told you look fat by your husband, then he will cheat on you – and then tell me how great it is to be French. They might have cheese, perfume, Chanel, and the Riviera, but it’s certainly not paradise.

Image sources: Emmanuelle Alt, Brigitte Bardot, funeral.

  • http://www.imtheitgirl.com/ anya

    (Most) French women also smoke a pack a day which contributes to the “diet” — no, thanks.

  • Jill

    Hilarious and truthful post! Seriously, one of your best and easily the best thing I have read on a blog in awhile. I’m American and have a pet theory that if you just put a picture of the Eiffel Tower on any book, and it doesn’t matter what it’s about, it will sell in the United States. I am convinced of this! I used to get sucked into those kinds of “French women are the best” books, I will admit, but most of them are terrible (and ridiculous) so I’ve stopped reading them. I’ve decided to be happy that I am American and live in NYC, ha ha! I am waiting for the day somebody writes a kick-ass book about Italian style because I thought the ladies in Rome were FAR sexier, and more stylish, than Parisian ladies. As for Brigitte Bardot, I’m so glad she has left her face alone!

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Haha, yes, you are right that the Americans are obsessed with the French. I don’t know why…

  • Anthony

    OMG You are so RIGHT abou tthe cheating thing!!! I have dated two guys from ~Paris~ and they both thought sleeping with other men while dating me was not cheating. Like, I didn’t understand, they were so casual about it as if it’s normal. Had to dump both of them. Couldn’t handle the roller coaster.

  • Balsam

    very interesting article! I am not french but this was certainly very interesting to read. THANK YOU!

    I would like to gladly inform you that I have nominated you on the ‘Shine on’ blogging award, as I really admire and enjoy reading your blog:


    Please take a look at the post, hoping that you enjoy reading through my personal answers! and I look forward to read YOURS!

    p.s: Don’t forget to follow the rules which are to 1) Mention the blogger who nominated you with a link back to their blog. 2) Nominate 15 other bloggers that you admire and follow. 3) Answer the questions and have fun!

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  • Ona_in_Barcelona

    SO TRUE!!! And I will never tire of (ugly!) French men moaning to me about how French women only eat salads, while at the same time criticising all women from other countries for being fat. Double standard, mais c’est quoi, ca?

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Ah yes, I should have covered that topic in more detail: French men who tell women they are fat. #hate