lundi 13 février 2012

Expat writers, threesomes and Cultural Identity

A reader thoughtfully pointed me towards this important piece of sleuth reporting for which I thank her.

I had mentioned on my Facebook page that I was set to implode should I read another review of Pamela Druckerman's newest fluff piece on the supposed superiority of French parenting. While she didn't write about Why French Women Don't Get Fat (that subject belongs to Mireille Guiliano), Druckerman's latest is built around a similar conceit: Everything We Do In France We Do Better Than You In The U.S.A.  And, according to the link, We Even Do Threesomes Better Than You.

Do you not just LOVE how Druckerman, in an attempt to be taken as a "serious writer" got Marie Claire to take down the link to the article? I certainly do.
Following the release of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, this is prime time for these sorts of pieces to appear; the romance of life in Paris has always been a favorite for publishers (and dreamers). That said, Real Paris is far from being the perfectly-coiffed city that these women depict. The sterotypes presented in most expat stories are reflections of their own privledged lives and the lives of the white, wealthy partners they married and settled down with in France. It is easy, or easier, to raise a well-mannered child when he grows up among the navy-blue wearing citizens of Paris' posh 16th-arrondissement. Maman can spend her days Not Getting Fat at the health spa while the nanny educates the child Not To Throw Food.

This genre of low-brow literature annoys me because it ignores the elephant in the room. Should any of these writers venture out of the wealthy arrondissements, or Provence as is the case for two of these women, they would see another face of France, a face which is very different in color and culture, but equally French. Take the RER out to the "93", home to the highest rate of criminal deliquancy in the Paris area, and you will also see French parents. But their method of parenting wouldn't make for a compelling article in Elle, would it, with those French parents ripping out the hardwood flooring the government has installed in their housing project to turn around and sell it at the flea market. Those French parents do not educate their children not to throw food; throwing food would be the last transgression those French parents would have to worry about. Foremost on their minds? Getting the drug dealers who squat their landing to go make their deals in another hallway of the cité.

Bringing Up Bebe:  Just not in Seine St Denis


There is one voice of balanced sanity in this cohort. Beth Epstein just came out with an excellent study of
French Cultural Identity called Collective Terms: Race, Culture, and Community in a State-Planned City in France. Of course that title isn't sexy enough to get her a headline in Marie Claire but at least she'll never have to ask them to take the story down.

8 commentaires:

  1. Did you catch Pamela's bit on the Today Show? It was ridiculous. This is such a generalization based on...what? I have no idea. Did she stay in the 16th for like a week and decided that French children are superior? I guess I'd have to read the book to locate her sources.

    Even on my little blog, I try to not make grand statements about Frenchmen as each person is their own person and handles situations differently. I don't understand how her agent/publisher didn't question this.

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    1. I understand she appeared wearing a beret. THE SHAME!

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  2. I smiled wryly when reading about Druckerman and the superiority of the French model for childrearing.

    I am not French, but my kids love asparagus, do not throw things and are polite and respectful to adults. No, they're not perfect, but they're both great guys. Rearing children who eat a wide variety of healthy foods and go to bed when it's bedtime is a matter of common sense, not being French.

    As someone who works with des Français de France, as they are known here in Canada, I am struck by their hautiness, mépris généralisé pour tout ce qui n'est pas français and general nastiness, cloaked in the excuse that they are "just telling the truth".

    I suspect you detect a note of dislike in my comments. You are correct. After being a huge francophile for most of my adult life, I finally came up against the quintessential Française and am now utterly disgusted with la belle France, or more precisely, with its inhabitants.

    I suppose I will have to go back to France and disabuse myself of the notion that the French are all stuck-up prats.

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    1. I go through periods such as you describe, NewMe. It's very cyclical for me (usually four-year cycles, in fact). I'll love everything about France, including the French, and then it will flip and everything about living here will irritate me (including the French). And I do agree with you that Parisian women do have a tendancy to ver towards the haughty; it seems to be their default setting when sitting in a room with other women. I do so miss have a good American female friend here!

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  3. I enjoyed enormously the frivolity of the topics in all the links and appreciated the sobering smack in the face reality of your perspective re. the less savory facets of life in France.

    Having said that, I WILL address the other topic because, well, let's face it, it is more fun and requires less analysis and the pressure to actually do something about the inequities that exist in our society, regardless of geography, sociology and political systems.
    Just wondering: is there anyone who believes that a partner who asks for a threesome is communicating something other than the fact that s/he wishes to have a dalliance with somebody new and has no way of doing so openly and with permission but to include the partner in this process? I also wonder how many men would be as hmmm "flexible" and "open minded" as women, when it comes to a threesome with another male, or even another female for that matter, were it the suggestion of the female partner.
    The level of cognitive dissonance we are capable of reaching, as women, seems to be a reflection of our socialization that men are not expected to achieve. How very close we are to our veiled sisters for whom many of us express sympathy...

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    1. It is every heterosexual Frenchman's fantasy to have a threesome--but only if it is a male+2 female threesome. That said, Druckerman's husband isn't French (he is British) but maybe this fantasy has gone global. In any case, if all members (ha! members!) of the party are consenting adults, I see absolutely nothing wrong with it, myself. Not my thing (I'm not a multitasker) but may be great for others.

      My issue with Druckerman is not the threesome, but the attempt to cover it up once her "bigger" book was published.

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  4. I agree with you completely. I believe that any activity in which consenting adults participate is perfectly fine. I limited myself to the comment about the male vs. female acquiescence re. threesomes with a same sex 3rd, as a playful swipe at men.
    The reason I did not even address Ms. Druckerman's self serving, profit motivated suppression of this experience was that it seemed redundant.
    Apropos of absolutely nothing having to do with the subject of this blog, I wonder if you might keep me from developing some major DTs. I believe that due to my ineptitude with technology, I cannot access your archives. I've read all of 2012 and I am sure you will not be surprised, based on my comments, to find that I am distressed to think that there is no more for me to read. I also enjoy focusing on one task at a time and have been happy and content to spend my time doing THIS. Please say I can continue :) I am down to 3 enjoyable blogs and I NEED material to keep me out of trouble; you know. like leaving unhelpful comments for bloggers who are not quite prepared to move forward.

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    1. dlamb--There are no archives yet. All the posts are visible--I believe at this point there are 26 of them.

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