Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

“And no wonder Paris, land of novelty and distraction, is the greatest city of the flanuer – that aimless stroller who loses himself in the crowd, who has no destination and goes wherever ca-prise or curiosity directs his or her steps. ” These wanderers observe Paris from the inside, bringing insight on the history of this “Sin City”. The transformation of acceptation from these Parisians creates a whirlwind of foreign concepts never seen in France, or in anywhere else in the world. This country became a birthing ground for the out of the norm mind-set to flourish.

Advances in a cosmopolitan attitude were rare during this time period yet the city of Paris changed drastically through its emerging social groups, culture, and limitations on the behavior its citizens held. In the early stages of Paris, the Parisians rejected several groups including blacks, and gays; specific social groups became more apparent while playing an important role in changing the landscape of the environment within the city. These new apparent groups created a variety of cultures which spread more so than in any other country at this time.

Slave trading was not outlawed again in France until 1815 and slavery itself was not definitively abolished in French colonies until 1848. The Revolution had, however, at least established the principle of human equality and abrogated all hereditary privilege. ” France acquired an equality law, but unlike many other countries adopting this blacks were welcomed by many, especially by the women of Paris. “Soon the success of black American soldiers with French women infuriated the white Americans, and white racist antagonism against their own countrymen puzzled the French.

This alludes to the reader that the way French culture perceived blacks was very different; racism was diluted. “In those postwar years the African American presence in Paris began to include more and more artists, writers and intellectuals and not just preformers. ” For instance, a black jazz musical named Sidney Bechet found refuge in France from America and its racist background. “The public loved him – partly because he has a French last name, partly because he spoke volubly in a mixture of Creole and heavily accented French, but mainly because he was as friendly as he was gifted.

Maybe they also liked him because he was mysterious, concealing his true thoughts under a veneer of bonhomie…” Parisans disregarded his skin color, and only payed attention to his true talent as a musical. This accepting attitude towards those of a different race was needed to implement that cosmopolitan idea. Sexuality played a critical role to the rising of social groups as well. Like blacks, gays were ridiculed but soon became a more widely accepted culture within the city of Paris. “In the 1920s gay Paris became more and more conspicuous.

On the rue de Lappe, near the Bastille, and on the rue de Montagne St Genevieve, near the Pantheon, large gay balls were frequently given. On Mardi Gras and halfway through Lent, ‘Magic City’ balls were held on the rue Cognacq-Jay, and huge crowds of gawking straights gathered outside to watch the entrances made by drag queens and kings. But these balls were only most visible manifestation of a gay life that had become highly organized since the turn of the century. Bars, nightclubs, and saunas all catered to the public with ‘special tastes’. ”

Not only were the gathering of gays accepted, but those who were straight were wildly intrigued by their presence and how they held themselves. The spectacle of this unknown world made this atmosphere more intriguing. Paris paved a way for gays all over the world in the hopes to become given a better reputation as a community. These predominate social groups of this time period flourished and assisted as a cosmopolitan city, but the street culture contributed as well. The up and coming cosmopolitan culture of Paris produced a street life, grinding against the typical Christian morals.

Prostitutes were given the freedom on the streets and their very obvious presence was not given a second glance. “An observant flaneur, he studied the habits of the city’s thirty thousand prostitutes, its multitudinous beggars and the six thousand children abandoned every year, its soldiers and police” Sexuality was now open to people of all sexual orientations that swayed from the typical heterosexual ideals. Paris became a city for sex; women sold their bodies for money, especially to stay financially stable. Along with the streets being filled with prostitutes, young abandoned children and beggars covered them as well.

This shows that many parents did not have the access to the resources in raising a child. Although their welfare system was up and running, it still did not effectively take its citizens out of poverty. This atmosphere is needed for a cosmopolitan atmosphere; the range of the wealthy and the poor create a variety of people on the streets, accepting all of course. Social classes came from both extremes, In the terms of police force, many were not up to authority standards. Controlling any kind of unacceptable behavior was unheard up, and in result, it caused an even more tolerate reaction among its citizens.

This domino affect allowed cosmopolitanism to thrive. There were very few limitations implemented on those who did not fit the social norm of this time period. A writer named Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, went against the grain in her writings as well as her life style. “One aspect of Colette’s life is how modern it sounds to today’s reader. She ate sushi at the turn of the century, had a facelift in the 1920s, hired an acupuncturist, kept her wild hair permed her whole life, rejected religion, flouted most of society’s rules – and ate with such relish and so little guilt that she ended up weighing 180 pounds.

Her way of life was a turning point in the limitations those felt against them. Colette wasn’t ridiculed for her choice in food, beauty, or even religion. The atmosphere Paris transformed into created a birthing ground for the non-traditionalist; many were able to freely decide even the smallest choices that caused a cosmopolitan attitude. Many different cultures were utualized for the enjoyment of others like Colette eating sushi. The entire community was given the freedom to think and feel what they wanted. Everyday life resembled this through the flanuer.

The flaneur is by definition endowed with enormous leisure, someone who can take off a morning or afternoon for undirected ambling, since a specific goal or a close rationing of time is antithetical to the true spirit of the flaneur. ” Wandering became a routine as did observing those, especially Parisians, grinding against the grain. This was needed to create a basis for the cosmopolitan life style, a crowd of citizens that applauded the exotic spirit. They spent hours of going “wherever the wind blows. ” Parisians witnessed the rise of blacks, gays, non-religious, bad behaviors in culture such as prostitutes and homeless children.

The opportunity for those living within this “Sin City” was the acceptance given by the audience from the streets. Equality for experimentation of all social groups, religions, and sexualities contributed to the cosmopolitan atmosphere. Overseas, about 3,000 miles away, The United States of America lacked in equality. Gays were not allowed to “come out of the closet. ” Blacks were segregated from whites; opportunity lacked in their everyday aspect of life. The “normal” citizen cringed at anything other than their typical Christian morals.

Culture varied from city to city, but the amount of acceptance nation-wide did not compare to how Parisians treated citizens. Towards the beginning of Paris, it was more similar to America, but as time went on, the citizens realized how exceedingly tolerate they could be. “The French have such an attractive civilization, dedicated to calm pleasures and general tolerance, and their taste in every domain is so sharp, so sure, that the foreigner is quickly seduced into believing that if he can only become a Parisian he will at last master the art of living.

Paris intimidates its visitors when it doesn’t infuriate them, but behind both sentiments dwell a sneaking suspicion that maybe the French have got it right, that they have located the juste mileu, and that their particular blend of artistic modishness and cultural conservatism, of welfare-statism and intense individualism, or clear-eyed realism and sappy romanticism – that these proportions are wise, time-tested and as indisputable as they are subtle.

Cosmopolitan is defined as familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures; acceptance paves the way for this in Paris within social groups, culture, and opportunity in behavior in the streets. Change is not always taken well, but in this case of Paris, seamlessly, it did. Endless possibilities romped about the streets of Paris, a “Sin City” of Europe’s time.