Because the British press don’t care at all about French politics, it was only when listening to the usually-excellent From Our Own Correspondent podcast that I heard that a) the French president Nicolas Sarkozy is divorced (I know, I’m so out of the loop!), b) he’s been seeing the former model and musician Carla Bruni and c) they may be getting married.
While this is only marginally interesting in itself, the FOOC was particularly irritating in the way it not only reported on the way the French press has handled the ‘romance’, but the way it reproduced almost exactly the same tone.
In short, Bruni has been dubbed a ‘man eater’. She’s had a long and interesting love life, no doubt – which has included Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, the philosopher Raphael Enthoven with whom she has a son and Donald Trump. The press is absolutely obsessed with the fact she’s had lots of lovers, particularly of the famous kind. So I was a bit surprised to learn from The Sun that the stuff with Jagger and Clapton happened nearly 20 years ago, although of course they were breathlessly reporting it as news last month. ABCnews has a photogallery. Although those are the only ones I’ve seen mentioned, the fact that she’s labelled a “man eater” says it all in terms of how her behaviour is interpretted. I was particularly disturbed to hear John Laurenson describe the average first lady as more “long suffering than long legged”, as though the two are mutually exclusive (although whether long legs are meant to protect against suffering, or the slightest hint of marital woe shortens women’s legs is not clear).
The most problematic bit of the podcast coverage of this affair came near the end, when Laurenson comments that Bruni’s history is some sort of “just revenge” for the first ladies who will have come before her, and suffered from the practice of French presidents taking on mistresses. So, what does that mean exactly? The question I have is this: would a man’s sexual history be presented as part of a campaign in the so-called sex wars, as this seems to do to Bruni? Considering that Sarkozy has been labelled a “hot bunny” (which apparently means “bed hopper”) in the French press suggests to me that this might not be ‘revenge’ so much as a good match in sexual attitudes. Presuming that Sarkozy isn’t the sort of man to apply the ‘one rule for me, another rule for my wife’ double-standard.