These days, the dominant image of the 'typical' French woman is someone with a penchant for elegant fashion and good food. But an older stereotype still prevails: that French women are more relaxed about body hair than we Brits.
This idea is thought to have originated in the 1940s, when American soldiers were stationed in France after WW2. In the States, women had been shaving their legs and underarms since the start of the flapper era, some 30 years earlier – but the practice of regular hair removal had only just begun to spread across Europe, with the rise in popularity of American-style nylon stockings.
In modern France, however, it’s a very different story. In a 2006 study, 83% of French women said they removed their leg hair, and 73% their underarm hair; some 77% of French people, meanwhile, considered it important that women remove body hair in order to be seductive. The stigma of being a hairy woman, it seems, is just as prevalent in France as anywhere else.
But now, modern French feminists have had enough – and they’re taking to Twitter to make a stand.
The hashtag #LesPrincessesOntDesPoils (“Princesses have hair”) was launched by 16-year-old Adele Labo, who said she had “suffered enormously” after being mocked at school for refusing to shave. Labo, who already runs a blog with photos of her natural hair, invited other women to share pictures of their own.
“I think society stigmatises women,” said Labo. “There is massive social pressure over body hair.”
Because what women choose do with their own bodies is always controversial, the hashtag swiftly became the top trending topic on French Twitter, with over 25,000 mentions. Depressingly but predictably, both men and women tweeted that the pictures were “disgusting” and the work of “feminazis”.
However, many others praised the hashtag as an important statement. Others simply uploaded pictures of their cats – because it is the internet, after all.
Main image (of French citizen, Sophia Loren): Getty