Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I posted the other day about being approached by a group of young women when I was walking down the street, and how I was so surprised to be approached by women that I actually stopped and talked to them.

So now I'll put that in context. The streets of Paris (particularly in the residential, non-touristed areas) are lined with men who sit at tables outside bars or lean against the walls of buildings, for apparently no purpose other than to observe and evaluate women as they walk down the street.

These men - these young men, old men, apparently perfectly normal men who may not even have a psychiatric disability - murmur their assessments of us under their breath so that only we can hear them. Sometimes they leave their vantage point to sidle up to us to say it in our ears. They want us to know - not the whole world, just us - that they have found our appearance pleasing.

Unlike that breed of men in the anglophone world who make comments to women on the street - construction workers - there is no laughing, whistling or yelling. The Parisian men pass their comments quietly with a straight face, with a demeanor that is deadly serious.

Why do they do it? I have never once seen a man successfully initiate contact with a woman using this tactic. It is the biggest mystery in Paris. I have asked several Parisian women if they know what these men are trying to achieve, and even they don't know. I asked one how to respond. Can I flip them off or tell them to go fuck their mothers? I was told no, they would be highly offended. Because, as I mentioned above, to these men it is a deadly serious business.

Don't they do it where you come from?, a friend asked. No, they don't. To me this phenomenon is truly a foreign custom. And as someone who is usually more than happy to adopt French customs, I'd like to try it myself.

So I am attempting to get together a group of Parisian woman to join me for an afternoon or two of leaning against walls, sitting outside bars, and making comments about (attractive) men as they pass by. It has not been difficult for me to compile a list of the things I think we should say:

"Vous ĂȘtes charmant." (you are charming)
"Beau cul." (nice arse)
"Mignon." (cute)
"Joli." (pretty)
"T'as une amie, toi?" (do you have a girlfriend?)

There will be no pointing or giggling; we will be quiet and deadly, accompanying our murmurings with smoldering looks. Our efforts will be recorded and shared with the world viaYouTube, and in so doing it is my fondest hope that our example will inspire other women to get out on the streets of Paris, and express their feelings about the hitherto unappreciated male arses in our streets, neighbourhoods and parks. Women of Paris, unite! We have nothing to lose but our afternoons.

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At 7:07 pm, Blogger Ben.H said...

You're going to make comments? I thought that's what your cards were for.

At 4:40 am, Anonymous Conor said...

A brilliant idea! I hope it becomes a worldwide phenomenon.


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