Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Sunday, 31 July 2005

Alone Time

I haven't had a face-to-face conversation (or a longer than 5 minute phone conversation) with anyone in 30 hours, which is the longest stretch since I escaped Nebraska in May. I feel so much calmer. I have a solution for Cola's visa problems. I've done some chores I've procrastinated on for ages (but not cleaning the bathroom.) I feel more secure in my identity. And I read French or Foe from cover to cover. Apparently the insane gender binary / male dominance of the language that I so love (a group of 999,999,999 women and one men is gendered male as a whole) is reflected in the culture. I'll be expected to flirt with men every time I step outside, according to this book, which also gives instructions on how to behave if the ambassador of argentina invites you to dinner.

It's only for a year. I want to move someplace where I'll be expected to flirt shamelessly with women. I'm good at that. Well, better, at least.



Jean Sirius said...

polly platt is regarded with derision by americans living in paris. it's possible some of what she writes may have been applicable 15, 20, 30 years ago. most of french or foe is utterly useless, expect as historical research.

and you are not expected to flirt with anybody. hell, i don't think i observed any *french* women flirting.

the language is what it is. they're stupid rules, many of them, but i don't think you can say that france is more sexist than the u.s. it's just sexist in different ways, in ways that are more obvious to you because you're coming from outside. like, um, fresh water and salt water fish. we don't notice our own flavor of water, but it's all patriarchy.

i'm just worried that if you go in with a chip on your shoulder your experience will be less enjoyable than it might be. and there's *so* much to enjoy there.

goat said...

what jean said -- except about the book itself (more on that in a minute). in fact on balance i would say that imho american culture is the more deeply sexist one (don't forget that the french made equal rights explicit all over the constitution and civil code as soon as women got the vote. where's the ERA?).

also, since when are americans expected to act french, by anyone? i've said this before, but you could live in france for the rest of your natural life and no one would ever expect you to act french. in fact, judging by my experience growing up watching the way my mother was treated by americans, i think the french are much less likely to expect immigrants to conform to their culture than americans are. i really don't know where you're getting this idea that the french are culture fascists who're going to harm you in some way if you don't conform. nothing in platt implies that.

try to keep an open mind.

as for platt being useless -- i wouldn't have sent cola the book in the first place if platt were useless. she includes things about the aristocracy and businessmen which are obviously useless to normal people, but i assume that has to do with who she knows in france and who was taking her classes. just ignore those bits.

platt has a much better understanding of the french as a whole than any other american writer i've ever read, or my mother has ever read, on the subject (and let's not forget my mother's been teaching civilization courses for the last thirty-plus years, and never ceases doing research). her reflections on cultural differences between the two countries are usually sound on at least some level. she's entirely right about many (probably most) of the basic attitudes, on the deepest level, being fundamentally different, and part of your issue here imho is that you're coming to all this with assumptions based in being an american, a cultural experience very different from being french. i should know.

french culture and gender/sexual attitudes there are a hell of a lot more complex than saying "oh god the french are a bunch of horrible sexists who gender the language and who will pick on me for being gay and genderqueer". way to be reductive. at least wait til you've actually lived in the country before you start believing these things. you're just freaking yourself out, and being reductive about other people's cultures is often damned offensive.

Les said...

What Platt said that struck me as sexist, was that women weren't considered full citizens with the right to open their own bank accounts until the 1970s. That and the constant flirting. (I don't want to flirt with het boys any more than they want to be flirted with by each other.)

I was also particularly annoyed by her own writing. I found it problematic that the sad ending of the story of the family that moved to america ended with the daughter marrying a moslem man and destroying her family. oh no, misegentation! boo fucking hoo.

A book about moving to Manhattan that was written for high powered businessmen would probably be just as problematic and filled with class/whatever issues, since the US is no feminist / worker's paradise. And, as the US has no culture of education or of worker's rights, we'd probably come off a lot worse. This is what I've been thinking. Also, the Ivy League schools weren't co-ed until the 70's and you couldn't get birth control or an abortion until around then either, so it's probably a draw. Platt's writing makes the French look bad, but, like a hypothetical book about Manhattan, I'm guessing it's more a reflection of her own stereotypes, prejudices and social class. Her sexism, racism and heteronormaitivity is probably not any more generally reflective of Paris than it would be of New York.

As for whether or not my worries are "offensive," that's an exercise left to the reader. Those who frequently find my issues offensive are encouraged to find alternative reading material.