Parisians Join US Women’s March the Day after Trump Inauguration

There is usually a honeymoon period after a US presidential election, a time when the new guy can do no wrong; when Americans are happy with their choice and they allow him to get on with the business of governing the country.  However, the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, will have to be content with the honeymoons he has already experienced with his three wives. The unprecedented mass “Women’s March” protests

Women's March took place in more than 60 cities globally.
Women’s March took place in more than 60 cities globally.

held all over the world the day after his inauguration made it perfectly clear that the new woman in his life, the female American electorate, will be watching him very closely.  No honeymoon in sight for the new President. (In fact, his third wife, Melania, has already left Washington DC to return to New York to take care of her “Mom” duties.)

For a man who has tweeted his way into the Presidency, it seems only fitting that the Women’s March Movement started with a social media facebook invitation.  Teresa Shook, a retired attorney and resident of Hawaii, invited forty of her friends to a March on Washington with one little click.  Twenty-four hours later, that one click turned into a group with thousands of names.

The DC crowd itself was estimated at about 500,000 participants; over 700,000 people participated in Los Angeles (the biggest turn-out).  More than 5 million women activists around the world, including 7,000 women in Paris, used the morning after the inauguration to come together and “send a bold message to the new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”

A sea of pink as thousands of women sported "pussyhats".
A sea of pink as thousands of women sported “pussyhats”.

If you saw any of the Women’s March photos, you most likely noticed a sea of pink hats bobbing on the horizon.  Those hats come from the Los Angeles based “Pussyhat Project,” where knitters first began crafting little pink caps with cat ears as an angry rebuttal to Trump’s 2005 offensive remarks about grabbing women’s genitalia.  Many of the celebrities who attended and performed at the Marches wore a pussyhat as a symbol of protection of women’s rights.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of the stars in attendance:  Helen Mirren, Gillian Anderson, Jane Fonda, Charlize Theron, Cher, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Fran Drescher, Felicity Huffman, Amy Poelher, Madonna, Ashley Judd, Michael Moore and Scarlett Johansson.  When you consider that celebrities were conspicuously absent from the Presidential Inauguration ceremony and celebration, you have an idea of how divided the USA has become.

But you might wonder why French women (and men)Getty.A-demonstrator-carries-a-sign-reading-Pcame out in support of this American demonstration.  I mean, what happens in the USA stays in the USA, right?  Wrong!  Quite a few women who were interviewed at the Paris March stated that the subject of women’s rights concerns the whole world.  The French have seen female reproductive rights put into jeopardy once again in Poland, Spain and Portugal when those neighboring countries elected conservative leaders. France will be electing a new President this spring and women are worried about the National Front Candidate,

Marine Le Pen, coming into power.  Mme Le Pen is an avid supporter of President Trump. At a recent, unprecedented meeting of Europe’s rightwing party leaders, she was quoted as saying, “His position on Europe is clear. He

National Front Presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, is an avid admirer of Donald Trump.
National Front Presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, is an avid admirer of Donald Trump.

does not support a system of the oppression of peoples.  2016 was the year the Anglo-Saxon world woke up. I am certain 2017 will be the year when the people of continental Europe wake up.”

It’s strange that the organizers of the Parisian Women’s March also alluded to Trump’s election as being a wake-up call for France.  We’ll just have to wait and see which side wakes up first.

Mad Dogs and Frenchmen – Animal Drama on a Parisian Sidewalk

Dogs are rock stars in Paris.  They are conversation starters and inseparable companions for over 300,000 dog owners here (that’s about one dog for every 7 people).  Dogs are the real “social animals” in this fair city.  They actually make people talk to each other.  A recent magazine poll states that around 40% of the French consider their dogs more important than their lovers!  Now that’s saying something.

I recently witnessed just how “social” dogs can be when I observed a French lady and a Frenchman tie their mutually cute dogs to a couple of shopping caddies outside a local supermarket. You see, it’s not legal to bring your dog into a food store and many customers just leave them outside.

Charley with a "Y" and Brigitte - before they got all excited.
Charley with a “Y” and Brigitte – before they got all excited.

(That’s actually not legal either; but like I said, dogs are rock stars.)  The man and woman, who had just met, exchanged small talk about their dogs’ names.  The bigger dog was named Charley, with a “y”, the man explained – as if the dog really cared about how its name was spelled.  The smaller dog, the lady’s pet, was named Brigitte, after Brigitte Bardot, the most famous animal advocate in France.  The dog owners instructed their pets to say “bonjour” to each other while they themselves exchanged flirty little glances.  I definitely thought those two (the humans I mean) would hook up later on, once they had brought their groceries and dogs home, but, as fate and “social animals” would have it, that was not to be.

The man and lady separated in the market and went about doing their individual food business.  Suddenly, from the outside, we all heard the crunching of metal against metal and a very angry male voice screaming obscenities in French.  Dogs were barking wildly and the flirty pet owners ran out of the store to see what was happening.  I did the same; I could sense something blogworthy was about to happen.  I was right.

It seemed that, even though the dogs were tied to the caddies, the caddies were not secured.

The scene of the "Dog Day Afternoon" in Paris.
The scene of the “Dog Day Afternoon” in Paris.

So, once the dogs got through saying hello to each other as their owners had requested, they got a bit excited (just like their flirty owners had).  One of them broke loose and the other followed. However, they were both still attached to their respective empty caddies.  It was a hysterical scene to see their shopping carts rolling around haphazardly and hitting the side door of a new, black, shiny Porsche Cayenne SUV that was parked next to them.  The dogs panicked as the car owner started screaming.  So they moved more quickly and the metal kept screeching against the car.  Quite a few scratches and a couple of good-sized dents made their appearance on that vehicle before the pet owners could get a hold of their dogs.

Charley with a “Y” and Brigitte were finally released from their caddies and under the control of their respective owners but not before considerable esthetic damage had been done to the Porsche Cayenne.  The car guy now redirected his screaming to Monsieur and Madame; saying how they would have to pay for the damages.  He was getting the forms out of the glove compartment to report this incident.  Monsieur immediately said that Charley had nothing to do with it; it was all Brigitte’s fault.  Madame glared at the jerk she was flirting with ten minutes before.  She raised her voice as well.  There was no way she was going to fill out any form.  Accidents happen, that’s it.  She pulled on Brigitte’s leash and ordered her to sit quietly (at least the dog listened to her).

This heated discussion went on for a while with the supermarket manager and a cashier joining in the argument.  Car guy asked me if I could be a witness but, thankfully, I had only looked at the dogs and the owners before the side door smashing.  I was in the market when the dogs broke loose.  The angry man said he would call the police.

The Angry Conversation that the Doggie Drama started.
The Angry Conversation that the Doggie Drama started.

“Go ahead,” Monsieur answered.  “See what good that will do you!  You should have parked somewhere else.”

“The dogs should have parked somewhere else.  You have no right to leave your unattended dogs on the public sidewalk!”

The three adults involved in this doggie disaster got nastier and nastier.  Monsieur took out his cell phone to take a photo of the man and his car’s license plate.  Madame took a photo of Monsieur’s dog; he did the same to her pet.  Car guy took photos of his damaged side door and also of Monsieur and Madame.  I didn’t manage to get a photo of anyone (I’m technically challenged).

In the end, the police were called but Monsieur and Madame went their separate ways with their pets before the officers of the law showed up.  They were both enraged and went off in different directions.  No cell phones numbers were exchanged and no groceries were bought.  The closeness I thought they would have shared thanks to their dogs dissipated in the gray Paris sky.  So, in this case, the Parisian dogs did their part as conversation starters.  They just didn’t know when to stop.

Pigalle – The Legendary Parisian Playground

My own version of a “Paris by Night” tour always includes a stroll around Pigalle, the most intriguing area of the French capital. I take my tourist friends there for a good, inexpensive meal on one of the side streets; a visit to the bistro on rue Lepic where the movie “Amelie” was filmed; or a jazz concert in an authentic two-hundred-year-old acoustically perfect “cave”. We stop for the obligatory photo session in front of the Moulin Rouge. We do not pay the exorbitant entrance fee. We take a seat on one of the sidewalk terraces nearby and I give my tourists a decadent history lesson about the most famously infamous cabaret in the world. Now this lesson is for you.

More than a hundred years ago, the Pigalle area, and especially the Moulin Rouge was a living movie, filled with amazing characters from all walks of life and social circles. The Moulin Rouge (literally translated as Red Mill) was built in 1889 by Joseph Oller

Joseph Oller, one of the driving forces behind "La Belle Epoque".
Joseph Oller, one of the driving forces behind “La Belle Epoque”.

and Charles Zidler. By the way, Joseph Oller was also the inventor of “pari mutuel”, which is basically bookmaking.   He built the racetracks at Maisons-Laffitte and Alma and his betting structure was the predecessor of today’s French state-controlled betting system, the PMU, or Pari Mutuel Urbain – but that’s another story.

Anyway, when betting became illegal, Joseph concentrated on developing music halls and theatres, investing in the Moulin Rouge and other well-known venues such as the Olympia and Salle Pleyel, which still exist today. The Moulin Rouge became the temple of music and dance, the home of the French Can-Can and THE place to go for an evening of daring dancing and risqué relaxation. It was immoral maybe, especially for the beginning of the 20th century, but the Moulin Rouge exuded a joie de vivre that was no less than euphoric.

French can can
And yes, they Can….Can!

The army of young ladies who performed there were skilled, free-wheeling, flexible artists – almost acrobatic in their approach to the Can-Can – jumping and splitting as easily as giant rubber bands. They were gaily provocative, waving their white skirts in the air and showing their clingy underwear, a bit of skin and black garters. All of this was quite shocking at the time and a bit comic when you think of the topless, practically nude dancers who work there today.

There were many loyal customers of the Moulin Rouge. The most famous one, the French artist, Toulouse Lautrec, had his own table. He never paid for anything and immortalized the ambiance and clientele of the Moulin Rouge with his sketches and paintings. He was inspired by a couple of legendary Moulin Rouge dancers – Jane Avril (who was known for being discreet and nimble) and Louise Weber, nicknamed “La Goulue” who could take off a man’s hat with her foot while dancing!

The dancer "La Goulue" getting ready to do her famous hat trick as depicted in this famous Toulouse Lautrec lithograph.
The dancer “La Goulue” getting ready to do her famous hat trick as depicted in this famous Toulouse Lautrec lithograph.

The Moulin Rouge had its ups and downs; closed from time to time; burnt down in 1921 but was rebuilt soon after. It was known as “Pig Alley” right after WWII, when it was the epicentre of the Parisian red light district. It is just a tourist business now, without the energetic “joie de vivre” that was there at its origin. People are bus loaded in for the show at eye-boggling numbers. Each revue runs for 10 – 12 years and costs between 7 to 9 million euros to produce. The present revue is called “Féerie” which translates to “Extravaganza”. The next Moulin Rouge review will start just before Christmas 2015. The new show will be called “Flash”. For some unknown reason, every Moulin Rouge show begins with a “F” (no comment here).

There are other daring establishments to visit in Pigalle – things like erotic supermarkets and raunchy peep shows. I recently (and for the first time, really) went to the Musée de l’Erotisme on the Boulevard de Clichy. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was surprised at how boring it was. The place itself was more like a gallery of phallic carvings and religious artwork from India, Japan and Africa – interesting but not really exciting. No “joie de vivre” there, just a historical account of fertility symbols and erotic skeletons. There were some exquisite relics but, frankly, the Louvre is a better buy for the money.

Pigalle, where the adults come out to play.
Pigalle, where the adults come out to play.

The real fun in Pigalle lies in just walking around with an open mind (and your wallet safely out of pickpocket reach). Imagine what it was like over a hundred of years ago with bawdy laughter, music, dance, wine-tinged camaraderie and no tourist buses. Imagine Pigalle as a Parisian playground, an adult amusement park, the first of its kind and the only one worthy of becoming a legend.


The Bare Facts about the 2015 Cannes Film Festival

I was at a dinner party in Paris this past weekend and the topic of conversation turned to the 68th Cannes Film Festival which is currently happening in the south of France. One might suppose, therefore, that we were discussing boring intellectual stuff or the current whereabouts of Michael Moore but all we could get excited about was underwear – and boy did we get excited!

It all started with Sophie Marceau’s latest wardrobe malfunction and the debate that followed as to whether or not it was premeditated. Ms Marceau, a French actress, was climbing the stairs that lead to the Festival Theater (she is one of this year’s judges) and, as she was trying not to trip over her long, white dress, she lifted it. The dress, just like a curtain, opened to showcase her simple, nude-colored knickers.

Classic immortalization of nude knickers.
Classic immortalization of nude knickers.

The photographers were ecstatic and, in two seconds and two thousand camera clicks, her underpants were immortalized. Too bad the lingerie brand name was not sewn on the front – that would have been quite a cheeky publicity stunt!

Now, this was not the first time that Sophie Marceau’s wardrobe acted on its own, so to speak. In 2005, on the same carpet, one of her dress straps collapsed and the whole world could see her nipple. (Do you remember when that happened to Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl and she practically had to give a public apology? Well, no need for that in France. Nipples are normal here – no one gets all hot and bothered over seeing one – or at least they don’t admit it.)

There was also another film star who exposed her pink panties to the planet at Cannes. That was Diane Kruger, the German actress, who

Ms Kruger's pretty pink panties see the light of day at Cannes.
Ms Kruger’s pretty pink panties see the light of day at Cannes.

was wearing a Dolce & Gabbana dress and, for some reason (a premeditated one, one might ask?), she was asked to pose for pictures on a wall. Her dress was short; the wall was high and voila! Her rose-colored knickers saw the light of day and the camera flashes of thousands of fans.

Nowadays, we call these underwear incidents wardrobe malfunctions but is that what they really are? They could be fashion statements; they could be publicity stunts; they could be accidents or they could be totally ignored. Why are we even highlighting these glitches when they happen? How about this for a thought? The Cannes Festival is 68 years old. Do you think that if an actress flashed her boob 30 years ago that would make headlines? Don’t you think that, out of respect for the actress, the photographers would have looked the other way?

Let me just give you an example. Imagine that, 60 years ago, Ingrid Bergman came to the Cannes Film Festival and her dress strap dropped. I know you’re thinking that she would have been wearing a bra but, seriously, would a photographer worth his salt actually publish a photo that would embarrass the actress?

Would Ingrid Bergman have a wardrobe malfunction?
Would Ingrid Bergman have a wardrobe malfunction?

Could you even think imagine that Ingrid Bergman would have a wardrobe malfunction on purpose? I think we would all agree that the answer to that is no…a definite no.

Wardrobe malfunctions are recent female star phenomena. This is hardly a male subject. The male outfits at Cannes are pretty standard and sometimes even too “relaxed”. But the men’s wardrobe “functions”. It doesn’t fall apart on the red carpet. It might fall apart during the after-parties but that’s a story for another blog.

The Cannes Film Festival women’s evening wear is plunging lower and lower and covering less and less. Transparency is in. Here’s a case in point. The day after flashing her underwear, Sophie Marceau showed up

No accident with this nipple flash.
No accident with this nipple flash.

in a sexy black dress that showed off her nipple — again. This time it was not an accident. This was just her wardrobe – functioning as she wanted it to function.

So, the point of all this? Who knows? I am just “what-if-ing” out loud. What if we didn’t care about private body parts going public on the red carpet? What if we just cared about film as an art form? What if we just cared about actresses as artists? What if the Cannes attendees had to wear a uniform? Would that be too weird? Maybe. But certainly not as weird as waiting for that stray nipple to pop out of nowhere and become almost as famous as its owner.

A Parisian Old Lady with an Attitude

She didn’t see my crutch when she tapped me on the shoulder but when she did finally notice it, she tried to get me on her side, the “nasty” one. “She” was a dressed-to-the-nineties little old Parisian lady who was sporting a beautifully carved cane, a Gucci jacket and a very expensive hairdo.  I’ll call her “Eglantine”, an old French name that means “needle” or “thorn”. You’ll find out why later.

It was Saturday morning. I was in Monoprix, a French supermarket chain and I was standing in the priority check-out line meant for pregnant and/or handicapped clients.

The scene of the attitude.
The scene of the attitude.

Eglantine saw me from behind and pushed her cart in front of me thinking I was not handicapped. She noticed her mistake and promptly barked in loud-enough-for-everyone-to-hear French, “Don’t you hate it when these non-handicapped people take your place in line?” I was not looking for trouble; I was just buying toothpaste and dental floss so I ignored her. But, then again, I’m not French and the other customers were. A shouting match followed; giving me a live lesson on how senior Parisian ladies can take care of themselves and anyone else who gets in their way. Here’s what happened.

The first lady in line had 2 small children and could have been pregnant. Eglantine looked her up and down and clicked her tongue in obvious disapproval.

“What?” said the young mother. “I have every right to be in this line and don’t you dare look at my children like that!”

Eglantine was ready with a quick reply. “I was not looking at your children. I don’t like children (none of us doubted that). Are you pregnant? Because if you’re not pregnant, you cannot be in this line! Look at the sign.”

The "sign" that Eglantine so proudly pointed out.
The “sign” that Eglantine so proudly pointed out.

The young mother told Eglantine that her body was none of the old lady’s business and then flipped her off as she stormed away pulling her kids behind her. Eglantine then lit into another lady customer who looked to be in good shape – too good a shape to be in our line. That lady lowered her eyes immediately and made room for Eglantine to put her purchases on the belt. Eglantine thought she had won but the fight wasn’t over yet. We had another round coming.

The elderly, cane-less lady behind me objected raucously to Eglantine cutting in – she told the cashier that no one should give in to such a “disagreeable” person. And, in any case, she just had a gall bladder operation and she was really tired.

Eglantine's trump card.
Eglantine’s trump card.

That’s when Eglantine took out her card – her pink government-issued card that proves she has a declared handicap. She slammed it on the moving belt and shouted something that roughly translates to “Oh yeah? Well, my handicap trumps yours. So, show me your card or shut up!” The customer sighed and raised her eyebrows. The rest of us followed Eglantine’s rather strong advice. We all shut up while we waited for her to pay and go away.

But, as soon as Eglantine was out of hearing distance, we had an animated discussion about how nasty she was and how we should have checked her card. It might have been a fake. Well, even if her card had been a fake, I can assure you that she wasn’t. Eglantine was a nasty, arrogant self-centered lady. And, even though she was an impeccable dresser and her make-up was reminded me of Jane Fonda, she was still old and still nasty. No saving grace. No grace at all.

How Lean and Mean French Ladies Stay That Way

That French women are stylish, slim and simply beautiful is painfully obvious when you walk around the streets of Paris. They make looking good look easy but, believe me, it’s not. In the 25 years I’ve lived in Paris I have met many French women and indulged myself in countless conversations with them about how they stay so thin.

Just saying no - a simple and efficient gesture.
Just saying no – a simple and efficient gesture.

The overwhelming response is that they “Just say No” over and over again. And they actually mean it.

Let me give you an example. One of my work colleagues, Catherine, was complaining about the three kilos she had recently put on. (Of course, I couldn’t see those kilos; she was as svelte as ever. But, she knew they were there and she was not happy.) Catherine went to the doctor’s for a series of tests and, when she was convinced there was no medical reason for those extra kilos, she went to work on getting rid of them. Lunch was a daily litany of vegetables only–no cheese, no bread (!), no soda, no dessert. Snack at break time might be hot water for a change but no chocolate, no nuts, no nothing. It worked–the pounds quickly melted off her; her self-denial got her where she wanted to go.

I know some people think that French women eat balanced meals and that’s how they stay so fit.  They probably do – about two-thirds of the time.  However, during holiday season and vacations, they eat just like the rest of us – too much.  But then they use negativity to handle the situation.  They have a strong self-denial mindset.  We Americans, however, are trained to be positive.  We don’t go on diets; we don’t deny ourselves.  We don’t say no to second helpings.  We try to eat balanced meals for a while and then slip back into old, fatty habits.  We also encourage each other; we publicly acknowledge that it’s OK to be a “little” overweight – let’s say 5 to 10 kilos over our ideal weight.  For a French woman’s standards, one kilo over the line is akin to going out in public with a cold sore – totally unacceptable!

These lean ladies are also mean ladies.  They will make remarks when you’re getting fat (or fatter).  They will tell you that you “should do something” about it.  They will giggle sarcastically when you drink a Coke since you are enforcing the stereotype of the fat American.  They will make comments about your fat kids too and go into warning mode about it’s your responsibility to make sure they don’t turn out like you.  They are ruthless in their fight for skinniness.

French Health Minister
The ever-so-skinny French Health Minister, Marisol Touraine

French women also get weight-watching help from the government, even without asking.  A law was passed last week which bans free unlimited soda refills in public restaurants.  The fast food chain “Quick”, the first hamburger restaurant brand of European origin had installed a soda fountain in their establishments and will now have to dismantle them.  Marisol Touraine, the French Health Minister (herself a very skinny lady), said the law was created to fight against commercial measures which “entice customers and encourage them to consume unhealthy products excessively”.  In France, water is the only essential drink and the only one allowed in school cafeterias (soda vending machines were banned in French schools way back in 2004).
You might remember when, in 2012, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban soda servings larger than half a liter.  It was ruled unconstitutional; a hindrance to our freedom to choose.  France is taking away that choice altogether in their country and no skinny French citizen is even blinking an eye. That’s because it actually helps mothers keep their children away from sugar, sugar and more sugar.  Just one more statistic – the average Frenchman drinks 45 liters (quarts) of soda a year; whereas the average American gulps down 170 quarts per year.  Given the new law in France, that statistic will most certainly decrease – but the American one will most certainly keep rising.  We just can’t say no.

And that's all there is to it.
And that’s all there is to it.

So, if you’re looking for a French lesson in losing weight, look no further.  Just do as the French ladies do – start saying no and keep repeating it until you’re at your ideal weight.  Take a lesson from Coco Chanel who coined the phrase, “Elegance is refusal.”