From Brigitte Bardot to Inès de la Fressange, Caroline de Maigret and Léa Bonneau, the iconic parisienne (Paris woman) has been reproduced through generations of women hailed as archetypes of the French female.
“The Paris woman is the one of the most romanticised figures in the world,” said Lindsey Tramuta, journalist and author of a new book called “The New Parisienne”, published in July.
“There are very few cultural figures who have been marketed in this way,” Tramuta told The Local.
Tramuta, an American who has lived in France for over a decade and now has French nationality, found herself outraged by the way the Paris woman dominated the narrative of a city – and an entire country – that is so much more diverse.
Journalist Rokhaya Diallo is a prominent voice against racism in France. Photo: AFP
“The Parisienne says something crucial about how Paris constructs its own global identity,” Tramuta said.
The representation of the Paris woman is interconnected to the country's ongoing debates about race and discrimination, she explained, because so many women find themselves excluded from the reigning definition of what it means to be Parisian, and, ultimately, French.
“All the women I interviewed realised at one point or another that they would never fit into the mold, even though they were born and raised here,” she said.
“Paris is one of the most multicultural cities of Europe,” Diallo told Tramuta in her book.
“There's a whole image around the Parisienne that needs to be reconstructed because it's been a long time since she's looked like Brigitte Bardot or Edith Piaf,” she said.
— Lindsey Tramuta (@LostNCheeseland) August 12, 2020
Tramuta said it was important to broaden the definition also because foreigners often confuse Paris with France, and the two are very different.
The “new” Paris woman is not white, able-bodied, thin and straight, nor does she necessarily come from the city centre. (As Paris is becoming more and more gentrified, the lines separating the city centre from its banlieues (suburbs) are being increasingly blurred.)
“The New Parisienne” is a Romanian-born coffee roaster, a feminist podcaster, a female rabbi.
“The stereotype of the Paris woman is a compelling example to say lets be better about how we speak about women worldwide.”