7 Things We Get Wrong About French Women — & 1 Thing We Get Right

Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
If you're completely sick of the so-called French girl craze, you aren't the only one. Actual French women are sick of it, too. The stereotypical Parisian, with her waif-like figure, perfectly mussed hair, and baguette strategically tucked under her arm, is not representative of the women who inhabit Paris.

They're actually more like Fany Péchiodat, founder of My Little Paris, the guide local women eagerly refer to almost daily to see what's cool to do in Paris. Péchiodat turned her love of finding hidden gems in her city into a weekly email for friends who were constantly asking about her favorite spots. Eight years, millions of views, and hundreds of subscription boxes later, Péchiodat and her team are embarking on their latest venture: A new newsletter, catered to American women, to tell them what being French is actually all about. "This is our take on the 'French Girl' lifestyle — but by real French women who don't necessarily fit into the 'effortless, skinny, chic' stereotype that is often presented to the public," she says.

Péchiodat's goal is to "refresh" the image of Paris and the Parisians that go along with it. "Paris is about so much more than undone hair and great clothes," she says. "The city is incredibly diverse and innovative, filled with creatives from all over the world who are reshaping the city through art, design, food, and ideas." Turns out, we've gotten a lot wrong about French women over the years.

Ahead, Péchiodat busts up a handful of myths about Parisians that we've come to believe — and lets us in on one thing we've had right all along. Click through, and then make sure to sign up for My Little Paris's newsletter for weekly lifestyle secrets from France. You may find you're more Parisian than you realized.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
No, French women don't have some kind of gene that keeps them from putting on a little weight when they indulge. "There's a joke that working at My Little Paris comes with three kilos of extra weight from all of the wine-and-cheese apértifs we have every time it's someone's birthday or going away party." Péchiodat says. "Or, you know, just a Wednesday."
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
It's actually quite the opposite. French women admire their American counterparts just about as much as we admire them. "Americans think big," Péchiodat says. "They have grand ideas, they allow themselves to dream and think beyond what might be possible." The French, she admits, tend to be a little more pessimistic. But that drive many Americans have is something Péchiodat says she extols. "That's exactly the kind of spirit that I want at My Little Paris," she says.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
The first time I ever went to Paris, my uncle warned me about how snobbish a demeanor the French have. "They think they're better than us," he told me. Péchodat says that this isn't entirely true, although the snobbishness and moodiness we associate with the French isn't a complete fabrication. "It's not necessarily a bad thing in my eyes," she says. "It's a French cultural thing — dissatisfaction."

She goes on to explain that complaining is their way of improving things. "That said, there's a right way to criticize," she admits. "It's all about implications, word play, and understatements." So what we consider snobbishness is just their way of getting shit done — they just do it a bit more subtly than we're used to.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Our image of the French woman is that of a lady in Breton stripes, skinny jeans, and, of course, ballet flats. Péchiodat says that French women have many more pairs of shoes in their collective closets than just this simple slipper. "For some reason, people believe we wear ballet flats 24/7," she says. "We don't." Alrighty then.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Sure, French women may not be signing up for Barry's Bootcamp and parking themselves in front of the weight rack for two hours a day. But women across the country are still active. Péchiodat herself enjoys cycling class like many of us here in the states.

There is one major difference between workout culture here and there. "You will almost never see [a French woman] walking around in workout clothes," Péchiodat says. She remembers being in New York and being surprised by the amount of women walking around in their leggings and sneakers. "Workout clothes seem like a badge of pride in New York," she says. "In Paris, I feel like people almost don't want you to know they exercise."
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Surprisingly, France as a whole may be more on board with feminism and women's rights than a lot of Americans. "In France, abortions have been legal for over 40 years; official documents no longer use "Mademoiselle," but "Madame," and employers are legally required to give at least 16 weeks paid maternity leave to women," Péchiodat says. We're still actively fighting some of these battles in the states. "More battles remain, notably in education, but I'm optimistic," she adds.

Péchiodat also says that she considers herself a feminist, and that the term doesn't have a negative implication in France like it does for some people in the U.S. "Feminism isn't a question I have to ask myself," she says. "It's just a self-evident fact — something I live."
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Traditional gender roles are still a large part of the culture in France, but Péchiodat says the tide is changing. "The startup culture in which I launched My Little Paris has always been dominated by men," she says. But the staff of MLP is 80% women, and five of the six founders are female. Women aren't afraid to be career-minded — something that wasn't always the case, even in a city like Paris.

But there's a long way to go in terms of equality among men and women, she says. For example, only a quarter of representatives at the Assemblée Nationale are female, even though the law requires equal proportion. Still, she is hopeful. "I feel like a lot of French women have a tendency to underestimate themselves, to concede to too many sacrifices, to minimize their ambitions," she says. "The mentality is evolving slowly but surely. We'll get there!"
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
The one thing Péchiodat did say is correct about French women is that they're as obsessed with beauty as we are. "This is one stereotype that's quite true!" she says. There's a huge emphasis on skin care in France — more so than makeup. "I think the fact that the French pharmacy is such a beauty resource speaks to that," she explains.

Want to make your makeup routine more like a French woman's? Péchiodat says one detail tends to be enough. "A bold, deep-red lip on barely made-up skin is the ultimate Parisian makeup look for me," she says. We couldn't agree more.
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