Naked in Paris


Warning: If you don't like naked, sensual advertising pictures or if you have a problem with suggestive text, please do not continue to read.

OK, having handled that part I presume you can handle the rest.

I recently visited Paris. Contrary to my prior travel to Europe on business, this time I went with my family, using up some of my frequent flyer miles. Going with children to a place they haven't seen before is an interesting experience. For everyone. They see things with different eyes and notice things you didn't even think of.

Like the naked images surrounding everyone in Paris. The first question my nine-year old had to his mother was why there were so many naked women on magazine covers. I hadn't noticed, but I guess they don't cover up those covers in Paris the way they do this in the U.S. and the magazines are in every kiosk, on every street corner. His mother explained that there was a different culture in Paris, and that women didn't always wear all their clothes. My son was happy with that.

Having been sensitized to the issue I suddenly discovered an outdoor ad for Nivea, or something Nivea sponsored, that looked very naked and upside down. I concluded that this was not the way Nivea advertised in the U.S.


We also spent a lot of time in the Paris subway. One reason for this was that cab drivers in Paris don't like to pick up a family of four. More than three people and no cab would stop to pick us up. So we used the subway.


There was only one issue in the subway. The walkways were plastered with the image below for an American movie. When I say plastered I mean the same image repeated for a hundred yards. And, you guessed it right; my nine-year old had a question about that poster as well. He asked why a half-naked woman was standing on all fours, chewing a hamburger. My wife quickly explained that this was pretty obvious. The woman had dropped her hamburger and just picked it up. My nine-year old was pleased with that explanation but also wanted to know why the other woman had such a large rear end. My wife patiently explained that the woman had eaten too many hamburgers.


So I started thinking that maybe people in Paris are different, putting up these images all over the place with no way to shield young eyes.

But once we came back home, my wife showed me the ad below from Bazaar. A very womanly magazine. And lo and behold, the ad wasn't very different from the Nivea-sponsored outdoor poster we'd seen in Paris. My wife also pointed out that if this woman had not advertised a handbag, but perhaps a car, the ad would have been perceived as very sexist by many of the Huffington Post readers.

Harper Ad-3.jpg

I wasn't quite as forgiving and assumed that a lot of readers would be offended by that ad anyway, and many of the other images in this post (especially a reader named Suzanne), but that she and everyone else would read this blog anyway, just to make really sure that they were offended. And then perhaps look at the pictures one more time, to get their juices going, before replying.

Finally, I concluded that perhaps those people over in Paris and us in the U.S. are not so different, considering that ad in Bazaar. We all find upside down women quite appealing.

But I do think the children in France grow up faster. Because by the age of nine, naked upside down women is something they've seen on ever street corner.

What they haven't seen are evening news with three-year olds shot because daddy didn't get a beer.

I think I prefer the French outdoor posters to our indoor violence.

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