First Lady

Day by day, it seems, there’s a drip feed of sad and salacious details of the breakdown of the relationship between French President Hollande and his partner Valerie Trierweiler. The motorcycle helmet, the trysts with actor Julie Gayet, Trierweiler’s hospitalisation, an alleged tantrum in which she broke some historical relics at the Elysee Palace, Hollande’s apparently brusque winding-up of his relationship with Trierweiler, the view of some that chickens are coming home to roost for the woman for whom Hollande left his former partner and mother of his children, Segolene Royal. My view is that at the end of the day, it’s sad to watch a relationship dissolve so publicly.

But it’s the issues around the post of First Lady that I find perplexing, given the reports that Trierweiler wants to hang on to her role and office of First Lady, as well as her charity work.

She doesn’t need to be First Lady to do charity work, but undoubtedly her profile as First Lady must have helped her have influence in some issues, because of her proximity to the President. And there’s the rub. There’s something ridiculous about a woman’s role that depends on her proximity to power, specifically because she in a relationship with that person. First Ladies can do a lot of good, but it’s crazy that Michelle Obama and others have to give up their careers to assume this politically “safe”, neutered role. It’s even crazier to want to keep it (if the reports are to believed) after the relationship is broken, as if it’s a normal job.

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