Harriet Walker: Sorry Valérie Trierweiler, you are cast as the femme fatale

There she stands, gloatingly triumphant, upper-leg seam on her tan tights brazenly displayed, the hussy

Share

English women have long been scared of their French counterparts. If not scared, then suspicious. And if not suspicious, then (go on, admit it) just a tiny bit jealous. They're well put together; they're immaculately chic; they're rail-thin despite breakfasting on croissants and Dauphinoise potatoes. How on earth do they manage it?

Well, they dress up because they're after your husband, and they burn off all those calories with their evil scheming, if we're to believe the Daily Mail's Samantha Brick on the matter. Yes, she's back – and she's got it in for France's new First Lady, the very figurehead of witchy Gallic wiles, according to Brick, who is, of course, renowned for being the woman who thinks she's more beautiful than anyone else she's ever met.

"I have lived in France for four years," Brick wrote this week, "and there are few who have a better insight into the sinister machinations of a Frenchwoman's mind than I do."

They are predatory and promiscuous, hostile and ruthless – and they don't like other women, Brick cautions us. She, of course, would know plenty about that. But even the BBC has stooped to it, too, a reporter referring earlier in the week to Valérie Trierweiler's having "stolen" François Hollande from his wife, the former Presidential candidate Ségolène Royal. As I recall, even Heat stopped using that particularly loaded verb when referring to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, for instance, about five years ago.

As a journalist and curtain-twitcher, I appreciate the succulence of this particular backstory; what goes on upstairs from, and next door to, the corridors of power is as intriguing as anything that happens in the situation room itself.

But how disappointing that, as one of the more enlightened French presidents of recent years steps forward to take his place, the Dark Ages should fall on the City of Light. I'm not talking about the Eurocalypse – or even about Eurovision – but about the all-eclipsing scorn and fear surrounding the new arrival's partner, Trierweiler, known to many as The Rottweiler, and – apparently – our latter-day She-Wolf of France.

There she stands, gloatingly triumphant over La Republic and le wronged former spouse both, resplendent in an entirely unprovocative white coat and knee-length black dress, cleverly captured by an opportunistic lens during a gust of wind that has brazenly displayed the upper-leg seam on her natural tan tights, the hussy. There she stands next to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, formerly the nation's foremost self-publicising, incendiary strumpet, now defeated and limply encased in an ill-fitting cheap suit that declares her all breastfeed and no fight. Gone are the Dior gowns of her heyday; Trierweiler probably wrestled them off her and poked her newborn in the eye for good measure.

Where has this vision come from? Is it simply that behind every man in power there lies a woman to manhandle and mythologise? Every so often, she's a media dream come true, such as Bruni, or a woman of the people, like Michelle Obama. Every so often, though, she's a Trierweiler. And then nobody knows what to do with her.

Trierweiler has so far avoided the limelight that comes with being in tow to a leader of men; she hung back during the campaign trail and has shunned the usual cutesy couple-shots that the Bruni-Sarkozys were so crazy for. You get the impression Hollande does not need to use his partner as a means of validation or vote-winning. And Trierweiler is a person in her own right, a journalist, a working woman – but how foolish of her to think she might be left in peace.

According to the stereotype, if you happen to be a French woman, you're either Manon des Sources or Belle de Jour, an ingénue or a femme fatale. We may think we have problems over here with gender perceptions, but just take a look at French advertising to see how the words objectification and floozy collocate just as well as, say, a naked woman and a brand of weedkiller or a cesspit rinse-aid.

But yesterday's photo op outside the Élysée Palace for Hollande and the female members of his Cabinet – all 17 of them – is proof that this is not really the abiding feeling within his country. It's the "Blair's babes" shot we managed 15 years ago. So how depressing, therefore, that the hyperbole being heaped upon Valérie Trierweiler is coming from our side of the channel instead.

Perhaps our inherent mistrust of French women stems from the heavily entrenched need in our own culture to be everything to everybody. In France, femininity is not a problem, and it can and does come with a side order of flintiness. In Britain, if you're anything less than soft and pliable, you're a harridan. You can be successful and serious or sexy, not both like Rachida Dati. Over here, you're either Holly Willoughby or you're Harriet Harman.

No wonder Samantha Brick dislikes French women so much; they're clearly much more secure than she is. There's a lesson to be learned here, and we won't find the answer by baiting The Rottweiler.

h.walker@independent.co.uk

Twitter: @harrywalker1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea