What do you get when you combine cultural stereotypes, sex and gender? You get books like Debra Olivier’s What French Women Know. Don’t get me wrong, people try to get published every year, millions of them, but -according to the English Lit majors I know – they struggle while frivolous books -like ‘What Women Know About Love, Sex and Other Matters of the Heart – get published.
Then there are matters that relate to courtesy and respect, or the lack of it -when authors behave badly, namely Debra Olivier avoiding crediting another author, which to me -if a text is identical to another – is plagiarism.
Yet, the massive PR machines behind books that like to easily box women’s sexuality via cultural stereotypes, via books such as Olivier’s, conveniently overlook things like that, and unfortunately get away with it. They also get away with the gender and sexual stereotypes they sell.
I tend to wonder about people who read books that have such long, culturally specific, titles. You can’t refer to Debra Olivier’s book as some kind of anthropological work. It’s pure drivel that perpetuates sexual stereotypes, that subtly tells women how to sexually behave ‘like French women.’ I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when reviewers fawn over books like this in other countries. What is more pitiful? The review or the fact that the ignorant reviewer thinks Carla Bruni is French (when she is Italian). The reviewers rush to generalize, and Olivier’s rush to profit from cultural generalizations is an indication of the frivolity. Personally, I think the book titles are a giveaway. So imagine my shock when I saw this book being hugged by a female undergraduate at the uni cafeteria. I thought, ‘What?’ If I had seen the book flat on a table, I would have ‘accidentally’ spilled hot coffee all over it.
Now this is just a simple hunch, not based on any scientific logic or anything, but I’m guessing that there are plenty of French women who don’t appreciate stereotypes, just as there are other women -who are still being paid less than men – trying to find fulfillment and fairness within their careers and relationships. Books like Olivier’s don’t do us any favors and – this is for the literary friends I have out there – indicate that publishers are concerned with one thing: profits. So write what you want, send it to every agent you can, because someone is bound to like it. If books with culturally stereotyped titles get published…
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