Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette “You will do foolish things but do them with enthusiasm” (Colette-Goodreads). Sidonie- Gabrielle Colette is one of the world’s most influential female writers. “Her family fell upon hard times when she was a teenager, with the result that Colette married a man fifteen years her senior. ” (Storybites- Colette). During the difficult times her father, Jules, took her out of boarding school to continue her education in a public school. The books and articles she wrote were from a woman’s perspective in things like growing up,relationships, and the parisian dance halls.
Colette, along with other authors, used personal experiences as inspiration for her work. Things like her scandalous sexuality, her rebellious free expression, and the people that influenced her writing the most allowed for people, especially women, to better relate to what she wrote about. During the time period she lived in, many of the things Colette did were very scandalous and to some, even appalling. Her first husband, Henri Gauthier-Villars or “Willy”, was the first person to really encourage her to explore and express an open sexuality.
Willy being a well known and wealthy man, already as living that type of lifestyle having many relationships with many women. “… He took her to Parisian salons and introduced her to demimonde women” ( Britannica ). During their marriage, her took on many mistresses, mostly while Colette was writing her first four books, the Claudien Series. “.. He, Willy, took credit for the series, he was unethical and debauched, then Colette started sleeping with his mistresses while on the second book… she would soon leave him far behind” (Colette & Claudine). They divorced in 1906.
Following her divorce, she began singing and dancing in the Paris dance halls. There she met the daughter of the Duc de Morny, Mathilde, better known as Missy. Missy financially supported Colette and welcomed her into a society of different type of people. “.. opened up her underground world of beautiful men with long tresses and intense young women with fire in their eyes” (AMSAW). These people more so opened Colette to a lesbian sexuality with which she explored with Missy, leading to the two being together for five years and even living together while Colette worked in the dance halls.
Throughout the rest of her life, Colette had marriages and ffairs with various men and women. Ranging from Willy, who was fifteen years her senior, to various lesbian partners, even to her sixteen year old stepson during her second marriage. The affairs she had ended up having large roles in her books and everything she wrote. She would based the characters and situations off of actual people and actual things she did. Along with her scandalous sexuality, Colette also expressed herself very freely and wasn’t afraid of what the people in her society would think about the person she was..
She did this by often remembering something her mother would tell her, There is only one person in this world you can count on, and that is yourself” (AMSAW). She would refer back to this quote many times throughout her childhood and adult life. In the time she spent at the parisian dance halls, she did many rather unusual things that weren’t acceptable to the people of Paris. “… she appeared on stage, as she had done many times before. But this time was different. This time, she brazenly exposed one breast, later reenacting the event for a photographer’s lens” (AMSAW).
The photo itself created worldwide conflict, though not all of it was negative, the majority of it was. The photograph showed that womanhood and femininity had finally broken through the walls of what society wanted women to act like. “The photograph of Colette liberated millions of women throughout France and the world. It gave hope to sexual feelings that dared to reach beyond the normal” (amsaw). Along with the image, Colette, who at the time was very involved with Missy, took her into a Moulin Rouge production. “.
Colette played the role of an Egyptian mummy who unwrapped her bandages and kissed Missy – who played a cross-dressed role of the archeologist- boldly… ” (AMSAW). The scene had almost aused a riot, eventually being banned by the commissioner of the Paris police. Colette preferred to live “… in the most normal manner I know, which is according to [my] pleasure” (Colette & Claudine). Scandal, in the most simple sense, is in Colette’s blood. Lastly, the unique books she has written are mostly based off of what and how she became the woman she was.
As she was growing up, Colette’s mother was the one person she looked up to the most. Bringing her up “. amongst artists and political radicals in Belgium. ” (AMSAW), allowed Colette to have a very different outlook on society. She also took on her mother’s views of the social mores of the day. As a result of this, “She grew up sturdy and energetic, rambunctious at school and determined to set herself apart… ” (AMSAW). Colette had also said that her first husband, Willy, had greaty influenced her writing career.
Though it was rumored he would “… lock Colette in a rumor for hours each day refusing to let her out until she created more titillating scenes.. ” (AMSAW). The rumors were never confirmed by Colette or anyone else, so goes to say that rumors are simply just that, rumors. Willy was a horrible man and husband to Colette. He would often entertain his mistresses in his shared home with Colette while she was just in a different room. What he didn? t know though is that Colette had begun … Sleeping with his mistresses… (Colette & Claudine), while she was writing her Claudine Series, discretely proving that two can most definitely play at that game. She divorced from Willy in 1906. Following her divorce she went on to live and eventful life of affairs, scandal, and two other marriages. Her other marriages, though one didn’t last very long, the third was mostly successful. Though his name is never stated, he was a Jewish earl salesman but, during the Great Depression he lost his business. “Colette supported him financially and helped him hide out when Germany occupied France during World War II” (AMSAW).
Colette? s wide variety of relationships and rebellious attitude towards society created the woman many people looked up to and allowed for many others to at the very least, respect her. Bringing into perspective her ranging and open sexuality, the way she freely expressed her life and body, and the things she did and people she involved herself with who eventually extremely influenced the direction of her work, she allowed for any people to think outside of the restricted view many people had on what a woman was expected to act and be like.
Had Colette not written about these things, many men and women of the world today and of the past, many not have had the courage to come out about their sexuality, or to stop caring about what society expects people to act like. Many people you still be afraid to be themselves in a world so filled with judgement and the ideal of needing to be accepted. Every person has the right to be happy in their own skin. ” Be happy. It s one way of being wise” (Colette quotes).