Diversity in Paris: Part One “The Parisian Woman”


Diversity Within Paris

The Parisian woman; who is this illusive, illustrious character? According to the vast majority of what we see on social media, films and series she is youthful, white, and impossibly slender. It may come as a surprise then to find out that Paris has over 150 nationalities represented within its population and is the most diverse city in France. Knowing what percentages of the population each of these nationalities represent is not possible as France’s public policy follows a “color-blind”model and does not keep statistics on race or religion. This model was reinforced after WWII as the Vichy regime had used these sorts of statistics to deport the country’s Jews. France keeps statistics only on citizens and immigrants, which is how we know that 15% of Parisians are of foreign nationality and 20% are foreign born with the most common nationalities being Portugal, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, and China. It would only take a minute of walking around Paris to realize that the city of light is home to so many cultures, languages, and backgrounds; a diversity which is intrinsic to this city’s identity. 

The Powerful Parisian Woman 

This is not a subject which can be easily summarized but what is important to know is that the image of the Parisian woman only as white and slim is harmful, and neglects the reality that there is no one Parisian woman. The Parisian woman portrayed in the media must evolve to reflect these realities and to include the diverse women who make Paris what it is. Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo says that, “The Parisienne maybe represents 1% of the Parisian population, in a certain neighbourhood. But she’s the one we see time and time again and that’s a real problem.” In The New Parisienne : The Women & Ideas Shaping Paris, this classic archetype of the Parisian woman is reevaluated to include the powerful, intelligent, diverse women making Paris what it is. The book includes profiles of women like Lauren Bastide: feminist powerhouse, writer, and podcast host of “La Poudre” and Leïla Slimani: Franco-Moroccan writer, journalist, and diplomat to Emmanuel Macron.  Recently, 11 of 16 top city jobs in Paris were filled by women and Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris was listed as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020. 

So Who is This Parisienne?

Though the “Emily In Paris” type woman with a beret and perfect red lipstick can be spotted in Paris, the reality is much more interesting. Take a walk around Paris’ many neighborhoods and have a chat with some of these women and you will realize that Parisian women are special, they do have that certain “je ne sais quoi”. They are beautiful yes, but they are also unique and do not hide behind that which makes them different. And whether she chose Paris as her home or has lived there her whole life, I have yet to meet a woman in Paris who is not without confidence and gumption. 

with love,

Danielle Barich

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