The city of Grasse, on the French Riviera, is a smell above the rest. The town is known as the perfume capital of the world—and with good reason. Grasse is responsible for producing iconic scents for everyone from Chanel to Louis Vuitton. The town is currently home to over 60 perfumeries—the oldest of which dates back to 1747—and fields of flowers that have birthed the world’s most famous fragrances. Join us as we journey through what might be the best-smelling city on the planet.
Millions more meals can reach those who need them.
In 2016, France banned supermarkets from destroying or discarding unsold food products, requiring them to donate instead to food banks or local charities.
The law was written by Parliamentarian and former food industry minister Guillaume Garot, who believes that food waste is a national health and safety issue, akin to wearing a seatbelt. The campaign itself was the product of a grassroots movement by anti-poverty and food waste activists which eventually became a petition, lead by local councillor Arash Derambarsh.
Now that food waste has been outlawed in French supermarkets, Derambarsh has set his sights on European and ultimately global policy revisions around the issue. “Food is the basis of life, it is an elementary factor in our existence,” he told the Guardian.
While Derambarsh became a councillor to help people, he reports being called “naive and idealistic” because of the policy he hoped to implement surrounding food waste. “Perhaps it is naive to be concerned about other human beings, but I know what it is like to be hungry,” he said.
“When I was a law student living on about €400 a month after I’d paid my rent, I used to have one proper meal a day around 5pm. I’d eat pasta, or potatoes, but it’s hard to study or work if you are hungry and always thinking about where the next meal will come from.”
Now, grocery store managers in France with a 400 sq meter or larger footprint must sign contracts with local charities and food banks promising their edible expired items, or face a €3,750 ($4,500) fine per infringement.
According to Jacques Bailey, head of Banques Alimentaires, a network of french food banks, 5,000 charities rely on food banks, who in turn, receive almost half their donations from grocery stores. Under the law, these food banks are receiving larger amounts of better quality food products, enabling them to better reach the the people they serve. According to Bailey, an increase as small as 15% in donations from supermarkets will result in 10 million more meals served every year.
And yet, required donations are not the only way that France is fighting food waste. In 2014, Intermarche, one of the country’s supermarkets began selling produce that was deemed too “ugly” to sell at other markets. These “ugly” or misshapen produce are perfectly safe to eat, but have blemishes make them less marketable to consumers, resulting in their disposal before even seeing the grocery store isles. This initiative is particularly effective, as fresh fruits and vegetables are the most difficult items for charities and food banks to come by, and are necessary to a healthy diet. Intermarche’s initiative reached 13 million people after only one month of being implemented.
About a third of food produced is wasted worldwide. France has narrowed the food it wastes to 66 pounds per person every year. In comparison, Americans waste 200 billion pounds of food per year - 40% of all food produced in the country. The waste problem in America is partly due to the lack of regulation surrounding expiration dates, which are often selected at random and do not always reflect when items are safe to consume.
The rest of the world has a lot to learn from France’s policy. NPR writes that communities and governments worldwide are now reaching out to Garot, hoping for information that would help them reproduce France’s law in their own countries. Ultimately this change needs to be made, because, as Garot emphasized, supermarkets are not just businesses, they are places where humanity must be respected.
EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. While not writing she explores the nearest museums, reads poetry, and takes classes at her local dance studio. She is passionate about sustainable travel and can't wait to see where life will take her.
If you want to visit the Chapel of Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe, aka, “Saint Michael of the Needle,” you’ll have to climb up—way up. Located in France, the chapel is perched atop a distinct volcanic plug rising nearly 300 feet in the air. Dedicated to Michael the Archangel, the church was commissioned in 951 by a bishop who wanted to commemorate his 1,000-mile journey back from the Pyrenees Mountains. Today, thousands of visitors make the trek up 268 steps to witness the chapel and its stunning panoramic views.
The sexual assault debate in the City of Love.
Last October in the US, a media firestorm erupted in response to many prominent actresses coming forward to accuse producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. In the days after the story broke, women across the world were invited to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment using the hashtag #MeToo. In the safety of numbers, inumerable women came forward to share their experiences, exposing their bosses, CEO’s, and elite, powerful men to the scrutiny of society. But this is all old news. While the movement has had incredible success in America, it has had a different reception in other cultural climates, namely, France.
The French have historically taken a different perspective on sexual allegations than Americans. Take, for instance, the shock and horror Americans expressed when news of President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky broke, versus the “c’est la vie” air expressed by the French in response to President Mitterand's affair with actress Julie Gayet.
In early January, French actress Catherine Deneuve joined 99 other well-known French women in an open letter to the #MeToo movement. The letter posed a critique of #MeToo, comparing it to a Stalinist “thought police,” and arguing that “what began as freeing women up to speak has today turned into the opposite – we intimidate people into speaking ‘correctly’, shut down those who don’t fall into line, and those women who refused to bend [to the new realities] are regarded as complicit and traitors.” To the crafters of the letter, #MeToo represents a “hatred of men and sexuality,” an American brand of anti-feminine, anti-male feminism. The letter also included an unfortunate phrase regarding men’s right to “pester women.” To some in France, the #MeToo movement seems like little more than a wave of American puritanism, an encore to the McCarthy era witch hunts.
Not surprisingly, the letter exploded on social media where it was condemned as an example of internalized misogyny or, more extremely, rape-apology. Devenue and other signers were largely viewed as out of touch with reality, as glamorous older women whose privilege allows them to forget the fraught workplaces of millenials, or the students who walk home alone at night.
While the writer’s statements do pose a kind of reality check to the #MeToo movement, their statements on men’s so-called right to “pester women” and emphasis on men's role as the seducer, emphasize their experience of an older culture in which male subjectivity was a natural right. While the writers paint a rosy picture of sexual freedom apart from what they see as an American-inspired wave of “puritanism,” the emphasis on female objectivity and passivity, of being pursued, has no point of reference in the worlds of ordinary French women. Sure, women enjoy to flirt and be flirted with (as do men), but to claim a grey line between this and assault smacks of the predatory sexism that sparked the #MeToo movement in the first place. “If that’s your fetish, if that turns you on, there’s a problem," Rania Sendid, a medical student at Sorbonne University told NBC. "She doesn’t speak for me.”
Nevertheless, according to feminist and historian Michelle Perrot, the writers, “are triumphant free women who show a certain lack of solidarity with the #MeToo victims … But they say what they think, and many people share their point of view. The debate is real and must be recognised.” Despite being hailed as outdated or out of touch, the Devenue letter was signed by many millenials. Thus, the divide seems as much ideological as generational.
While the letter was perhaps poorly expressed, it did draw on the fear of many French women that #MeToo represents a brand of moralist, antisexual thinking that is more oppressive than freeing. In some eyes, the movement seems to have morphed from assault victims seeking justice into a culture of revisionism. In an interview with the Atlantic, 55 year old event organizer Jean-Julien Pascalet said that, “we suffered for a long time from religion, which imposed a moral order — saying, 'that’s good, that’s bad.' If we go back to that … it would be terrible, it would be an Orwellian society.” Others object to the trial-via-media occuring in America, saying that disagreements belong in court, not a public blacklist.
In opposition to these points of view are those who recognize that the media blitz of #MeToo was a last resort for women. Due to the statute of limitations, threats, or simply a lack of resources, it is incredibly difficult to even get a rape or sexual harassment case before a court, let alone receive a favorable verdict. Activist Rebecca Amsellem told NBC that the writers of the letter, “don’t represent all women in France,” saying that, “the problem is that the legal system has failed women and has failed victims.” Pauline Verduzier, a French journalist specializing in gender issues, told NBC that, “The statement said if men don’t have the right to be pushy or flirty without asking, without making sure that it’s OK, it’s the end of seduction because seduction is based on men conquering women," she said. "This is not the future; this is the past. This is wrong. Everything in this statement is not for freedom, it’s the opposite.”
The often-overlooked initiator of the public letter, Abnousse Shalmani, is a 41 year old French-Iranian who grew up in Tehran until her parents were forced to immigrate to Paris in the mid 80’s. She is also a rape survivor. In the midst of the uproar over the letter, Shalmani appeared on radio to say that, “we do not dismiss the many women who had the courage to speak up against Weinstein. We do not dismiss either the legitimacy of their fight. We do, however, add our voice, a different voice, to the debate.”
EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. She has worked as a volunteer in Guatemala City and is passionate about travel and social justice. She plans to continue traveling wherever life may take her.