IMF Head Drama Sparks Weird, Sexist Reporting

Or is it racist? I’m not sure.

On my seemingly endless commute to work this morning I heard several reports about the allegations made against the IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In all three reports that I remembered, and maybe this is why I remember them, I heard people saying something like this:

‘Strauss-Kahn has been accused of attacking a maid in his $3000-a-night hotel room. He was arrested in the first-class cabin of a Paris-bound flight.’

So far a little bit strange. For a man who is supposed to be telling countries how to spend their money (and a member of the Socialist Party), a quick trip to New York for him seems to be the same dollar figure as an African country’s debt. Anyway, this is where it got weird.

‘Even in France, where the population is very open/relaxed/tolerant of extra-marital sex…’

That line woke me up the first time I heard it. I’m paraphrasing but I certainly remember the words in the first half of that second sentence. It was such a weird thing to say and given that the allegations are of a violent sexual nature, it seemed awfully casual to expect that we’re supposed to think even the French won’t put up with it.

Strauss-Kahn is going to have an interesting trial. He’s on the cover of a number of magazines this week in France, being touted as the most-likely to succeed Nicolas Sarkozy. He was accused of rape by a journalist, Tristane Banon, in 2002 but apparently she chose not to press charges (update: she has since repeated the claims). More recently he had an affair with a colleague at the IMF whom he had made redundant. Details of another affair emerged with another woman, economist Piroska Nagy which forced him into a public apology.

So, he likes the ladies. It will be interesting to see what happens here but I hope the vaguely strange reporting improves and he isn’t somehow re-cast as The Great Seducer as he was dubbed by  Le Journal du Dimanche. And the non-French media might like to stop suggesting that the French people are fans of unfaithfulness and instead are able to separate a person’ private life from their public life.

Having said that, you’d have to question the judgement of a man who has had so many ‘indiscretions.’

One wonders if Strauss-Kahn had been a German or a Brit if a reporter would have made such a distinction. There’s plenty of casual racism surrounding French attitudes to marriage and extra-marital affairs and the British love to make jokes about this. It seems awfully unfeeling for the alleged victim. Rape victims have enough trouble getting their voice heard without the media wondering whether the French would put up with a possible-rapist President.


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