Myth of the month: French women don’t shave

Written by Diane on. Posted in France myth of the month, on life in France

Do French women shave? Aside from French people being slim and rude, another myth floating around about French people, well women, is that they don’t shave! Hairy armpits and legs are everywhere, right? Wrong.

So do French women shave?

Read on for my thoughts on this French myth of the month!

Let me start off with a little anecdote from when I lived in New York City. I was at a popular midtown nail salon on afternoon getting a pedicure when a woman came in, sat down and started to roll her pants up for a pedicure next to me. What I saw made me do a double take although I seemed to be the only one who was kind of horrified at the sight of her hairy legs. This was not the type of leg hair that was awaiting a fresh wax, but long, unkempt, never tended to leg hair like a man’s. The nail tech just did her job like it was nothing. Now, if I had been a foreigner just visiting New York on vacation and getting a pedicure next to this woman, I might be inclined to think that Americans don’t shave their legs. Major generalization, yes, but that’s how these things start…. French shaving cream

Where did this myth about French women not shaving come from?

It seems to have originated in the 1940s when GIs were stationed in France just after WW2. Although times certainly have changed, the stereotype is still there.

So back to France, YES French women shave.

I’m sure many women choose not to (all over the world) for whatever reason, but I assure you that shaving is all and well in France just like it is in the US. In fact, waxing is actually a bigger deal here than shaving is and salons all over advertise their waxing specials year round. It’s actually quite affordable and if you can put up with a little pain, it’s the way to go and so very French.

So shaving, as with a lot of things, just boils down to personal preference.

What’s your take on shaving?

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Comments (12)

  • French Girl in Seattle

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    Good one. I do not come from an affluent family, and yet I have always known all the women in my family (me included) to wax their legs as far as I can remember. As you point out, waxing in France has always been affordable. When I studied in the US during my college years in the 1980s, I could not believe waxing was only available in a couple of high-end spas or hotels in town (and way out of my budget.) I hated having to shave my legs for a whole year. Interesting stereotype. Can you imagine how brave so many of the good G.I.s were during WW2 to marry all these French girls and bring them back home where their neighbors likely nicknamed them “Yacks” or “Yetties” :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Veronique, yeah waxing hasn’t really caught on for the majority in the US. Maybe it’s the pain, time it takes to grow out or the price. But yup, French women do seem to love it! Thx for commenting!

      Reply

  • Arnaud

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    I’m sure this myth comes from people who are annoyed by the other cliché that every french woman are beautiful. Not from the WWII. It’s a reaction.

    Reply

  • Emu

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    You’re asking for reader’s take on shaving, so here’s mine: I openly admit I don’t.
    Well, I have several reasons for it. First, I’m asexual, so I have no desire to be sexually attractive. Second, I’m a feminist and I rebel against the idea of all women having to look the same, of an “M” in ID equaling hairy legs and an “F” in ID equaling smooth legs. People have a right to be more diverse. Third reason: I suffer from rather severe allergy and any attempt to remove my leg hair just irritates the skin. I always had a terrible rash after waxing. My mother doesn’t accept my view and she kept trying to convince me to do laser – she said that yes, it may hurt, but later one doesn’t have to worry about depilation anymore – luckily, I’m already at the point where I can say: I really just don’t want to have smooth legs.
    I don’t dress in a too conventional style – I love hippie clothes and I for example hardly ever wear a single-color shirt; I also dress very modestly when it comes to “percentage” of exposed areas. I just don’t like showing too much due to my asexuality and allergy, for example a comfortable neckline for me should be not lower than the collar-bone. So I also wear almost exclusively long pants (yes, also in the middle of the summer) and occasionally long skirts. However, I sometimes wear capri pants just to shock people with visible leg hair and calf muscles. ;)
    Emu – a 30+ woman in Poland

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi! Thanks for sharing your perspective. Hair removal is a funny thing — a societal “norm” that most American women conform to, a big money maker for shaving product companies and something men come to expect. But not everyone has to take part and it’s our right to do as we please, so again, thanks for your comment!

      Reply

  • William

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    I really hate this. “Stop your slander! French women shave! It would be so gross if they didn’t.”

    No, it’d be just fine if they didn’t.

    Reply

  • Caroline

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    The French didn’t wash or shave much in 1944, they had little or no soap (rationing) and had to do with home made replacement, ashes and fat that couldn’t be eaten, things like that. Metal was rare, razors were at a premium and if men could have a shave in a barber shop women didn’t have that available. They also had nearly no food left which led to the stories that they were not nice or generous towards US troops expecting fine wine and good food (the front line soldiers got the wine hidden from the Nazis, the rest got nothing as there was nothing left).
    With the French bashing that went on and on after the Irak disagreement all those old stories were dragged out and brushed up and presented as truth. I have to admit that it can sometimes be tiring for a French woman to hear Americans ‘jokes’ about it. I’m bookmarking that page to send back to them. Thanks for it. :)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Caroline, thanks for your insight. Many stereotypes are rooted in history and this one was no exception. Thank you for stopping by!

      Reply

  • Lloyd

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    Honestly, the whole notion comes from French porn: it was always super skinny and super haiiry emotionless women. Same reason we all think Germans have HUGE hairy triangles!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hahahha, thanks for your insight Lloyd! Will take your word for it. Bon week-end !

      Reply

  • Ramesh

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    Women shaving their body parts was much more promoted by the Americans than anyone else. Shaving is not natural but something promoted by society when it became more modern.

    Reply

  • sysvash

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    Wow/ lol/ all said and done/ there’s nothing better than a soft smooth woman/ lickable/ a

    Reply

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