It’s hard to be a manly French dude.
Think about it. Aside from the universal pressure from peers and the media to be tough, masculine and devoid of emotion, French guys have a whole slew of other crap to deal with.
First is the language, which can be described as flowing, gorgeous, elegant and, at worst, pretentious – but to ears accustomed to harsher Germanic tongues, any attempt to seem angry or even rugged just winds up sounding silly.
Secondly, there’s that culturally mandatory scarf. You can be suave in a scarf, you can be stylish in a scarf – but manly? That’s tough to pull off.
Finally, French women are said to be cold. Stoic faces, muted colors and the click of heels that assert superiority with each step – everything about them is elegance and class, and very little is approachability.
So French men have it rough – and they deal with their plight the way anybody else would. And they grossly overcompensate.
One of the first tips given to a group of foreign students studying in France – particularly to women – is not to make eye contact with anyone on the street. And then, when the prevention tactic inevitably fails, it’s necessary to then be incredibly
forceful with your rejection.
This is usually only a problem late at night, if a woman chooses to walk alone through town.
At about 9 p.m. Friday, I was walking back to my dorm when I saw a petite woman bump into a young man, maybe 15 or 16 years old, who didn’t move to let her pass his group on the sidewalk.
She kept walking. They started yelling.
The shouts started off as impolite variations on “Please avoid nudging my arm in the future, kind miss,” escalating to “We’re going to rape you in an alley” when their jeers didn’t provoke a reaction.
She got faster. They got louder.
I, for my part, got pissed, and yelled a well-chosen variety of angry English phrases at them.
Sure, there was a language barrier. But I cuss like a beast, which apparently translates well – as evidenced by their only then walking away.
When I reached her, the woman was shaken, wondering aloud to me if anyone would’ve intervened if they hadn’t stopped issuing their threats – or worse, had acted on them.
“This is my third year in Aix, and this has never happened to me before,” she said. “In Nice, sure, plenty of times. But Aix is supposed to be safer.”
I will acknowledge that the cold women/much-too-forward men phenomenon is in part a devastatingly vicious cycle – but in a country where one in 10 women is a victim of domestic violence, 400 women a year are killed by their partners and 25,000 cases of rape occur annually, I find myself siding with my sex.
They’re cold for a reason.
Harassment, though, is never excusable.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve met my share of extremely nice guys during my time here.
All of them are just more victims of the fact that “dick” could be a lingua franca for men.