For a long time dismissed from the scholarly world of books – it took them 350 years to enter the Academié Française, as Laure Adler and Stéphane Bollmann remind us in Les femmes qui lisent sont dangereuses (« Women who read are dangerous« ) – women have largely made up for their setback: today, they read on average 5 books more than men each year, and represent 53% of the market for novels.
Reading has become more and more of a feminine affair over the last thirty years: while essays, comics, science fiction and detective stories are by and large read by men, almost all of the other categories of books are bought by women as a majority. There are fewer women who never read, and amongst the French people who claim to read regularly, women read more books than men (INSEE 2005 <http://www.insee.fr/en/ffc/docs_ffc/ref/fhparit08h.pdf> ), all socio-professional categories and ages combined.
On average, the French have 2 hours of free time a day. What do they do with it? The answer varies, depending on the type of activity, because men and women don’t always share the same tastes when it comes to leisure!
Free time tends to be on the decline: despite the official reduction of the French working week at the beginning of the century, it’s more and more common to work at the weekend or in the evening and to never really switch off from work.
This is especially so for senior staff (a trend that has increased with the development of the Internet and smartphones which make staff permanently within reach). If the day was 2 hours longer, only 4% of French people claim they would spend it working because the majority would rather take time to live.
In « Sans amour » (« Without love », Denoël, 2011), novelist and essayist Pierre Pachet puts himself in the place of a 60-year-old woman and analyses her solitude and her renouncement of seduction after the changes that have left their mark on her body. Is it too pessimistic a view of a woman in her sixties?
« Older women aren’t born looking the way they are now« : this is the opening text from Pierre Pachet’s book. Throughout its 146 pages, he pays particular attention to the sadness of this inevitable descent from youthful beauty and the sadness of these women in their sixties who are betrayed by their bodies, sometimes by the death of their loved one which condemns them to loneliness. « The woman at 60″, the theme that returns throughout the book, is a parallel with the woman at 30 – one’s erotic limit during the 19th century, when life expectancy was 40 at the very most. The age when one is past their best has therefore extended by 30 years but it is no less fearful.