France's "Woman of the Year": It's Madame Strauss-Kahn!
She's got his back!
I have to confess that I didn’t know the French even chose a Woman of the Year. But if someone had told me, I would have guessed that this year’s prize would go to Christine Lagarde, the newly-appointed chair of the International Monetary Fund, or – in a generous gesture to abused women everywhere – to Guinean-born hotel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo. Ironically enough, both women are connected to chronic French skirt-chaser and accused rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Lagarde is his successor at the IMF and Diallo is his alleged victim, which just goes to show what a long, sinister shadow the man casts upon his nation. But who would have guessed that this year’s honor would go to Anne Sinclair, DSK’s long-suffering wife?
Throughout the scandal, Sinclair, 62, has fought like a lioness for her husband’s freedom and reputation. The door of DSK’s jail cell had hardly clicked shut before she was flying to New York to organize his defense. She hired the best lawyers in the business, put up $6 million of her own money for bail, rented a townhouse for $50,000 a month, shelled out $200,000 for a private security firm, and became the perfect housewife to her priapic predator of a husband while she waited for his charges to be dropped. And Sinclair, a former journalist and talk show host, did all this long after her dream of becoming the First Lady of France had shrivelled to a nightmare.
But while the alleged rape of Diallo may have been DSK’s worst transgression to date, it was hardly his first and Sinclair has known all about his notoriously slippery zipper ever since she married him in 1991. Why has she put up with it all, particularly now that her husband has been disgraced beyond all salvation? “A politician has to know how to seduce,” she remarked following revelations about one of his incessant affairs. Perhaps her husband has some magical quality that remains hidden to the rest of us. If so, then she’s welcome to it.
The bigger question is why someone as abrasively self-effacing as Sinclair would get the nod as “Woman of the Year.” The website Terrafemina, which announced the selection, commissioned the CSA opinion survey institute to poll French women about who among them had the biggest impact on society in 2011. The winner, at 25%, was Sinclair, with the new IMF head Lagarde a close second at 24%. According to Véronique Morali, the president of Terrafemina, “For many women Anne Sinclair is both a heroine and an anti-heroine at the same time. Women identify with her or question their own attitudes based on her behavior.”
But not all French women agree on Sinclair’s merits. On Monday’s iTélé morning show, Eva Joly, the Green candidate for president, sputtered: “I find it unbelievable that she, in popularity, can outstrip a first-rate woman of politics, Christine Lagarde, who is a financial expert. This is a sad image of women.” When her interviewer asked what she thought of Sinclair’s steadfastness in defending her husband, she replied: “Does that make her a heroine? Anne Sinclair is not a model for women.”
The honor brings no financial rewards, but it doesn’t look as if Sinclair needs any: she is the heiress to a vast Franco-American fortune, and her husband is hardly a pauper. She herself is going back to full-time journalism. Already the author of one of France’s most distinguished blogs, “Two or Three Things Seen From America,” she is scheduled to take over the editorship of France’s branch of the Huffington Post next year.
By the way, in the same survey French men chose Lagarde hands down, with Sinclair nowhere in sight. And even the women who voted for her seemed somewhat conflicted about their choice. As one woman wrote in the website forum, “She’s got a lot of courage, even though I don’t understand her.”
That makes two of us, sister.