Today’s entry is by guest blogger Katherine Churchill, a student in my AP French class. Merci, Katherine!
Ranking with baguettes, berets, striped shirts and cigarettes at the top of the list of salient French stereotypes are rumors about French hygiene. Personally, my oh-so-ignorant self has always wondered the following delicate question: do French women, in fact, shave their legs?
Despite having studied French for seven years, I have only spent a total of seventeen days in France—which, if you think about it, is a pretty limited amount of time during which to decide how to phrase such a question without coming across like a bumbling American buffoon. I briefly considered casually brushing against someone’s leg while in France; however, my limited understanding of social faux pas does include the knowledge that touching strangers is not socially acceptable in nearly any culture or country. Hence, and alas, the answer remains a mystery to me.
According to my less-than-reputable sources (i.e. yahoo answers, word reference forums, etc—you may be surprised, but scholarly journals don’t generally cover issues of body hair removal), French women do, in fact, shave. Most of them, anyway, depending on age and social factors. Generally, I’m given the impression shaving behavior doesn’t differ between the United States and France. In order to back up my questionable research, though, I went to the most discerning source I know: Brian, a former French camp counselor of mine and French womanizer extraordinaire. According to Brian, the idea that French women do not shave is a myth that comes from 1940’s GI’s in France who, naturally, became romantically involved with French women. These women, however, were busy with wartime activities, and so didn’t have time to shave. And so a stereotype was born.
Long story short, French women shave. This is actually an unfortunate fact, given that I find shaving tedious. I was hoping to quit it once I move to France with my future (as-of-yet unfound) wealthy, handsome, French husband. In fact, one could say I find that shaving “est rasoir” – the conjugated form of the expression être rasoir (EH-truh RAHZ-war), which translates to “to be boring.” Literally translated, the expression is “to be a razor;” how apropos!