French women don’t get fat – but they might get lung cancer.
The image of the effortlessly cool, effortlessly sexy and – above all – effortlessly slender French woman is incredibly pervasive in media culture. Sharp cheekbones, Breton stripes, cigarettes and long, lanky hair seem as stereotypical and iconic as the baguette or the Eiffle tower. And yet this idea that there is some exotic breed of woman immune to body image issues is, of course, a myth.
Although French men have begun kicking the habit in droves, The Daily Beast reports that French women are far more reluctant to loosen the grip on their Virginia Slims. Why? The might get fat.
In fact, The Daily Beast argues that more women are dying from lung cancer now in France than ever before.
As a result, many anti-smoking ads have popped up, some of which attempt to address this concern:
“If I stop smoking, will I gain weight?” asks another advert, which has been given great play in various French media since Anti-Tobacco Day on May 31. The online advert leads to a website that doesn’t try to refute that many smokers add a few pounds, at least initially, when they stop smoking. But the site offers tips to help smokers gain less weight.”
Zelda Lily has posted before on the dangers of smoking to newborn babies, for instance, but it’s not as though the many, many diseases or complications that come from cigarettes are unknown to most people at this point.
But all of this, argues one anti-smoking consultant, may have nothing to do with weight or health: it has to do… with feminism.
French anti-smoking consultant Mathieu Daveaulli argues that cynical cigarette companies devised a devious plan to feminize cigarettes and brought it to France just after women won the right to vote in the 1940s. “Fifty years ago, a woman who smoked was seen as very vulgar, like a man,” says Daveaulli. “You didn’t see a woman smoking in the street unless she was a whore.”
In their advertising, cigarette makers exploited the emancipation of women by marketing cigarettes as both liberating and slimming, and Daveaulli argues that this, in part, has lead to a growing equality in smoking and death rates between French men and women many decades later.
The idea that advertisers could appeal to women by linking smoking with a sense of liberation doesn’t seem all that far-fetched when you consider that wearing pants in public was still technically illegal in the streets of Paris until a few months ago. Women view smoking as some form of feminist liberation because of those cigarette companies leading them astray. So, you ask yourself: What is the rate of female smokers compared to male smokers today? Just how many more women are smoking than men, due to their vain desire to be thin? How many men have given up smoking because it is the smart thing to do?
In 1950, 66 percent of all French men smoked. Today, that has fallen to 33 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of fumeuses has risen from 20 percent to 26.5 percent, and some experts fear that the rate of women smokers will (with some fluctuations, especially when cigarette taxes spike) merge with the male level.
So let me get this straight. Okay, the number of men who smoke has been cut in half. That is a lot, I’ll grant. But the number for women — even though it has risen — is still not even close to the number of men who still smoke after half have given up the habit!
So why aren’t we investigating why 33% of men smoke? Why, once again, are we treated to an article about women and their tragic body issues?