Elizabeth Day had a worth-reading portrait in the Guardian of Rachida Dati, the Former French Justice Minister and now member of the European parliament . Here is what I thought was the sugary excerpt:
There is part of me that wonders whether Dati will be offended to be asked about her appearance, but this turns out to be entirely wrong. She is only too happy to talk about her clothes. "For a long time, 'femininity' has been synonymous with 'triviality', but that is not the case at all," she says, her gold hoop earrings shaking slightly as she nods her head for emphasis. "Femininity is part of being a woman. It is part of my identity to preserve my femininity."
Later, Dati tells a story about having her photograph taken in the street earlier in the day "and when we looked at the picture there was a line of teenage girls behind me and all of them had their eyes down, looking at my shoes!" She laughs, her brown-black eyes lighting up with unexpected enthusiasm.
It is difficult to imagine a British female politician expressing the same unabashed candour about a love of fashion. When, two years ago, Dati attended a French state banquet in a slashed-to-the-thigh midnight blue evening gown, it prompted a period of rueful questioning in the UK press about why our own female MPs were so sartorially uninspired.
In Westminster the consensus appeared to be that in order to be taken seriously, it was best not to draw attention to the fact one was female. Dati does not approve: "I've always been like this, even when I was 15, 20, it was always important to me to be well-dressed. It's important for me to hold onto my femininity because it's authentic to me and, you know, I was asked not to. I was told by my predecessor [at the Ministry of Justice], Elisabeth Guigou, a very pretty woman, that it wouldn't be long until I gave up my high heels. Well, I never wanted to do that."
Something about that excerpt troubles me because I suspect that Dati can only even go there because she is "attractive" and that therefore she has the ability to use her femininity as political bling bling knowing full well the risks and the advantages especially when she is aware of the dangers of the perception that she was Sarkozy's Beurrette (Arab) and that she never deserved to be France's Justice minister. The point here is simple, but has to be carefully made because the context here is everything, which Elizabeth Day forgets to emphasize: Rachida Dati had no other choices but to be very feminine and to care about her physical appearance, her chic clothes, her jewelry, all of it when it became an acquis to those who mattered (King Sarkozy and his court) that she didn't have the substance to be a political figure. I'm Sarah Palining her, to the contrary, I argue that she reached the top also because she was a symbol and that, thus, she has to keep on being a symbol to remain visible, relevant, and attractive. It's unfair, but life is too often tough, brutish and bitchy for ambitious women. Dati is smart and is using all the tools that she has not to become disposable the most potent of which is her femininity. What bother me is she gets praised for being feminine because it is seen as proof of substance and of courage when it isn't, for that matter, it is also not a proof of frivolity, lack of sophistication, dumbness, or inculture. Nowadays, femininity is political bling bling, it is a little bit like the American flag that American politicians wear on their suits/clothes to wear their patriotism on their sleeves (Obama refused for a long time to do that until he decided that he would rather be president that a principled senator trying to educe American on the unimportance of symbols).