Friday, July 22, 2011

Feminist literature meets the Parisian life

One of life’s little joys is being part of a book club that address those relevant issues. Another joy is visiting Paris and when life doesn’t provide the time or money, reading books about the City of Light is the next best thing.   

not quite but almost!!
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir is my current Feminist Book Club read and a bit of a heavy one. The narrative of women as the ‘other’ reminded me of my undergrad days (sigh) in cultural/gender studies. I was interested by the history of the biology and gender debate that she provides, especially that in the seventeenth century female reproduction was seen as an extension of those of men and reminded readers to separate gender from biology. At 750 pages it will be a challenge to finish it before uni goes back and where the opportunity to read any other than the easiest of novels will be limited.

Paris, je t'aime
The previous book club read was from the Author of why French women don’t get fat, Parisienne Mireille Guiliano brings us Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire and it is aimed for young women who want to make it big in business and public sphere.

While a lot of her suggestions are common sense, it good to be remained of the importance of dressing well, the “thank you note” and business dinner etiquette, it doesn’t really challenge the barriers that prevent women from climbing the ladder.

It is as if she’s saying ‘this is how it is and this how you work the system’; it would have been great to have more analysis on how to challenge the system and to make real change and not just how to work within it. For example, in regards her discussion regarding appearance, it would have been great to have some advice on how to be known for more than how we look on the outside.

I found her discussion on the importance of mentoring interesting, especially how women are less likely to mentor than men. Why the reasons for this are many and varied but it reminded me of the EMILY’S List mantra – When Women support Women, Woman Win!!

Florence, I also love you
Ok, ok, Every Day in Tuscany is not Fem Lit or about Paris but would a great book to take with you on holiday or a source of escapism if you are (like me) unable to go on vocation at this precise moment in time. It is brought to us by the same author (Frances Mayes) who wrote Under the Tuscan Sun. A good reminder of the great things in life: food, family, friends and fun!!

Finally, La vie Parisienne by Janelle McCulloch is a beautifully written book about life in this great city. It is a fabulously nostalgic book of such a romantic city that brought a tear in my eye and it's lovely photos that made me want me to hop on the next flight.

There are many books about Paris (especially by Australian Journalists) and, alongside Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French, this has to be one of my favourites. Like Turnbull, she “gets” the city and tries to really understand what makes it tick and especially parts of the city’s iconography.

She writes in some detail about Paris’ obsession with looking chic and concludes that most humans have doubts (to varying degrees) about their existence and too much pressure is put on clothes to make us feel confident, different, sexy or professional. She argues that they have become the brunt of all our insecurities.

I could relate a little to what she calls the “Paris Syndrome”, where outsiders arrive expecting it to be an extension of their romantic ideals while being met by not so pleasant taxi drivers and shop keepers and been surprised by it. But Paris is an easy place to fall in love with and things get blown out of proportion when you get swept off your feet.

I loved the description of her apartment and who cares if it is the size of a post-it note? It maybe small and puny but it is in PARIS. It had a jazz club across the road, a cafe down stairs, and an English book shop around the corner; what more could you possibly want?




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