Cherchez La Femme

Meanings of “Cherchez La Femme”

 The phrase “Cherchez la femme” means to seek or find a woman and the literal translation is to look for women. It is mostly used in the context of a mystery, such as finding a culprit, who is a woman. The phrase, mostly used in detective novels, talks about finding a woman who’s a love interest of an antagonist or a protagonist; or she might also be an antagonist.

Origin of “Cherchez La Femme”

The phrase “Cherchez La Femme” was firsts used in The Mohicans of Paris written by Alexandre Dumas, a French novelist. The novel was published in 1864. The phrase in the novel goes thus: cherchons la femme. John Lately has translated this phrase in 1978 in English as “Where is the woman? Seek her” or “Find her.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Cherchez La Femme by Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis

The Chinese are an old, old race,
In mystic lore exceeding wise.
Accustomed thro’ the year to trace
Their nation’s fortunes in the skies.

No mere male deity can shake
Their stolid and celestial calm.
Saturn nor Jupiter can wake
Their fear or cause the slightest qualm.

But now in trembling fear they go,
Such is their knowledge of the stars.
When Venus threatens well they know
She’s far more dangerous than Mars.

The above stanzas talk about the power of femininity by using mythological figures such as Jupiter, Saturn, and others. However, it is Venus which brings upheaval in the order. What the poet means here is that femininity is the major cause of whatever happens with the masculinity or whatever masculinity does. In other words, the phrase has almost the same meanings here.

Example #2

Cherchez La Femme Gloria Estefan

Tommy Mottola lives on the road
He lost his lady two months ago
Maybe he’ll find her, maybe he won’t
Oh, oh, never, no
He sleeps in the back of his gray Cadillac, oh my honey
Blowing his mind on cheap grass and wine

Oh ain’t it crazy baby, hey
Guess you could say hey, hey
This man has learned his lesson, oh hey

Now he’s alone
He’s got no woman and no home
For misery, oh, oh
Cherchez la femme
Miggie, Miggie Bonija’s very upset
She’s sick and tired of living in debt
Tired of roaches, tired of rats, I know she is ooh

These lines shed light on the life of Tommy Mottola that he lives on the roads in his Cadillac and that his act of living on the roads must be crazy. However, the third stanza states that as he is alone, he must be without his wife and home. Therefore, it means that the reason for his living out of home or homelessness is the female or his wife who has been fed up with living in debts. The phrase clearly shows the power of femininity.

Example #3

Willem de Kooning Nonstop: Cherchez la Femme by Rosalind E. Krauss

Krauss beautifully sheds light on the art of Willem de Kooning, who led the expressionist movement through his abstract paintings during the decade of the 50s. Krauss is of the view that his paintings, specifically about the abstract femininity, baffled his critics, who often were on the verge of calling him a misogynistic artist. However, Krauss is of the view that Kooning has been an artist par excellence. The only thing is that he used to finish abruptly instead of giving more time to the finishing touch. Otherwise, his power lies in the project of masculinity which calls for the same phrase “Cherchez La Femme.”

Example #4

Cherchez la Femme: New Orleans Women by Cheryl Gerber

This phrase has been used in its reverse meanings in this book. The book does not urge the readers that they should find femininity. Rather, the book has presented around 200 great women figures of New Orleans who inspired other women. The book not only presents their contributions to feminism and 2017 March, but also shows their photographs and cultural backgrounds, demonstrating how they have brought diversity. As it is about the best female figures of that region, the book has used this phrase as its title. It is one of the best books to include in the library.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “The construction of this minaret does not seem his inspiration. Rather, you should go for Cherchez la femme behind it.”

Example #2: “Every action of John Dudrit could be traced to his saying, Cherchez la femme.”

Example #3: “He does not believe us. Whenever we have done something good, he always says Cherchez la femme.”

Example #4: “He does not look good that day. However, his predictions Cherchez la femme are always true whenever he speaks about his friends.”

Example #5: “Cherchez la femme is true even if there is a woman missing. In fact, it implies that Cherchez la femme should be there.”