Francoise Gilot — Pablo Picasso’s muse of 10 years and mother to two of his children, Paloma and Claude — has drawn fire for comments she makes in a new book about the “dilemmas, benefits and demands of womanhood,” co-authored with American feminist writer Lisa Alther.
Speaking about the dilemma of unwanted male attention that began in her teenage years, 93-year-old Gilot remembers, in About Women: Conversations Between a Writer and a Painter, how her father advised her to find a way of refusing without overtly saying no. “To take offense all the time makes every relationship disagreeable… Each time a man says something to me, if I take it as an insult, I’ll be insulted several times a day by strangers I’ll never see again. Whereas if I smile vaguely and go my way, it doesn’t cost me very much.
“There are probably fewer rapes in France because people are less repressed. If a man whistles at you and you smile, that oils the social wheels and eases the tension between the classes and sexes.
“It’s a kind of give-and-take that acknowledges that the other person exists, so in that sense it’s not treating another person as an object.”
Alther, a friend of Gilot’s for 25 years, strongly disagrees about the way men and women interact on the street, which Gilot attributes simply to the “eroticism of life.”
Alther argues that American women “resent being turned into an object, knowing that any clod on the street can assess them physically or sexually, often in unflattering terms,” while comments in the street are “often delivered with the intention of demeaning.”
The outspoken Gilot fell out with the father of her children 11 years after their relationship ended, when she published a memoir: Life With Picasso.
Read the full story at the The Guardian.