A new book by an American raising her kids in Paris is being met with skepticism, and some charges of stereotyping, by the actual French mothers it so highly praises.
A Parisian mother watches her children at play / AP
Pamela Druckerman, in her new book Bringing Up Bébé and her lengthy and much-circulated Wall Street Journal article titled "Why French Parents Are Superior," isn't just the latest woman to tell American mothers that a different culture does it better. It's also the latest in a long line of books to tell American women, more broadly, that whatever the problem is, French women do it better. They don't get fat, they don't sleep alone, and apparently now, according to the British title of ex-pat journalist Druckerman's new book, their kids don't throw food.
Americans are eagerly picking over every last scrap of Druckerman's argument, which is, essentially, that the French say "no" to their kids and combine parenthood with balanced adult lives. But what do actual French women think of this stuff? Once they look past the flattery, not much.
Sure, the French reaction online to Druckerman's argument includes a fair amount of gloating -- a natural reaction to being told you're good at everything. But mixed in among the sense of superiority, some French women are wondering what on earth she's talking about.
Chief among the gloating responses is the interview that magazine France-Amérique conducts with French essayist Nathalie Monsaint-Baudry, author of a book about American-French interaction from the French perspective. Asked if the French woman is a female model "for the Anglo-Saxons," she responded simply "Yes. She is naturally feminine. The American woman is 'female.'" And she largely approved of Druckerman's outline of the childrearing division. "In the United States, houses are so 'child-proofed,'" said Monsaint-Baudry, "that one has the impression that it's the parents living with their kids, [not the other way around]." The interviewer then inquired whether Druckerman is right that the French meal, wherein even tiny children behave, is perceived as sacrosanct by Americans. "Yes, they admire it," declared Monsaint-Baudry. "Our 'three course meal' is incredibly sophisticated.'" She added that French "humanism" distances French women from "the Chinese mother and the polemics of last year."
Triumphant responses and matter-of-fact reporting aside, quite a few French folks seem to think Druckerman's overstated her case, and that, more broadly, Americans need to chill out with the French stereotypes.
Antoine Oury at book site ActuaLitté notes The New York Times' complaints about "generalizations" in Druckerman's book. "It's hard to call that wrong," Oury admits. The company Druckerman keeps, "as an American journalist exiled in France and currently speaking six languages -- like Hebrew -- surely isn't representative of the methods and educative resources of the majority of the French population." Oury does take a moment to defend Druckerman, calling it "funny (or disturbing)" to see American critics using Druckerman's earlier Lust in Translation, about arranging a threesome, "to discredit her." (To be fair, Rachael Larimore at Slate's XX Factor wasn't trying to call Druckerman a bad mother: she correctly guessed that the disappearance of an article about the threesome was a publicity stunt, and also suggested Druckerman's manic campaign to produce said threesome at her husband's request betrayed an approach that, whether in marriage or parenthood, might have slanted her view of American women and balance.)
But even Oury ends by saying that "what one deplores the most remains the general tenor of Druckerman's observations."
France TV Info takes it further, saying "more and more the myth of the French style of life is irritating." The author, Julie Rasplus, runs through the recent American gushing about French seduction, cuisine, and now parenting, and points out the counter-arguments.
"Viewed from the United States, French women are close to perfect creatures," agrees an article at L'Atlantico.fr. But "the French bourgeoisie Pamela Druckerman was living in don't necessarily reflect global reality," it points out. "Americans, reassure yourselves: little terrors exist in France, too."
There seems to be some agreement from French commenters across the web on that point. A post from Elisabeth Guédel-Treussard at French Morning, though largely approving of Druckerman's book, sums it up. "Pamela Druckerman has never encountered me in a Parisian Monoprix or a New York Whole Foods. If [she] had, she would have seen my kids tearing around on foot to grab candy and wouldn't have written that 'French children don't make scenes in the supermarket.'"
When President Obama left, I stayed on at the National Security Council in order to serve my country. I lasted eight days.
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“No… it’s a magic potty,” my daughter used to lament, age 3 or so, before refusing to use a public restroom stall with an automatic-flush toilet. As a small person, she was accustomed to the infrared sensor detecting erratic motion at the top of her head and violently flushing beneath her. Better, in her mind, just to delay relief than to subject herself to the magic potty’s dark dealings.
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The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.
It’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.
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A new report explores why those who benefitted from Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion supported the man who promised to reverse it.
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Neil Gaiman’s remarkable new book has triggered a debate about who, exactly, owns pagan tales.
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The polymath computer scientist David Gelernter’s wide-ranging ideas about American life.
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Earlier this month, McGraw Hill found itself at the center of some rather embarrassing press after a photo showing a page from one of its high-school world-geography textbooks was disseminated on social media. The page features a seemingly innocuous polychromatic map of the United States, broken up into thousands of counties, as part of a lesson on the country’s immigration patterns: Different colors correspond with various ancestral groups, and the color assigned to each county indicates its largest ethnic representation. The page is scarce on words aside from an introductory summary and three text bubbles explaining specific trends—for example, that Mexico accounts for the largest share of U.S. immigrants today.
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The Heimlich maneuver, in the nearly 50 years since Dr. Henry Heimlich established its protocol, has been credited with saving many lives. But not, perhaps, as many as it might have. The maneuver, otherwise so wonderfully simple to execute, has a marked flaw: It requires that choking victims, before anything can be done to help them, first alert other people to the fact that they are choking. And some people, it turns out, are extremely reluctant to do so. “Sometimes,” Dr. Heimlich noted, bemoaning how easily human nature can become a threat to human life, “a victim of choking becomes embarrassed by his predicament and succeeds in getting up and leaving the area unnoticed.” If no one happens upon him, “he will die or suffer permanent brain damage within seconds.”