After Dominique Strauss-Kahn embarked on a reported three day “sex binge” culminating in the alleged rape of a hotel maid in New York City, it was Christine LaGarde who picked up the reins at the IMF. She’s the first woman to fill that role, a French woman with American ties. So what’s she like?
If her teeth are gritted, it’s impossible to tell. What lovely teeth she has – straight and white, they gleam out of a permanently, almost alarmingly, tanned face. Tall -– she’s 5ft 10in -– and slim, the 55-year-old Lagarde dresses with the casual élan of a Parisian, patriotically attired in Chanel suits and Hermès scarves, along with jazzy bracelets and fur-lined ponchos. Lagarde softens her rather severe black-and-white outfits with silk scarves, a string of pearls or a brooch. She has widely spaced green eyes framed by a silver bob. She still swims, but not in formation.
Well thank goodness she’s sexy. Actually, she might even be the World’s Sexiest Woman! Hooray!
An otherwise excellent portrait of LaGarde in The Guardian is marred by the stereotypical body pan down that so often accompanies profiles of women. The yellow journalism of celebrity reporting has seeped into profiles of powerful women. Rather than being shown her credentials, we’re first provided a litany of physical descriptors- her hair colour! Clothes! Jewlery! Teeth!
When will a woman being conventionally attractive and accomplished cease to be news or comment worthy?
Assumption that being physically attractive should be enough for a woman to coast on forever and continues to blow everyone’s mind when anyone has decided to be attractive and-. An attractive woman who is also funny? One comes around every five minutes or so, but every single time one does, it’s almost embarrassing the type of hullabaloo she causes. A smart woman who is conventionally attractive? Stop the presses! A hot female politician? Excuse me while my eyeballs multiply themselves and my heart beats out of my chest before I involuntarily make an AAH-OOH-GAH sound. And everyone knows a woman described as having a “great personality” is actually probably “ugly” or “fat” because if a woman were beautiful, some complimentary looks-related phrase would be the first thing that would be invoked in describing her.
If you’re beautiful enough, you shouldn’t have to worry your pretty little head about working. Look at Kim Kardashian and Real Housewives from coast to coast. Why fill your head with useless knowledge when you could just find yourself a nice man and settle down?
I’m not trying to make a case that it’s so very hard for beautiful women nowadays, but it is a shame that beauty is so highly prized that there always seems to be accompanying befuddlement when a woman decides not to coast on it, to use faculties aside from those genetically (or surgically) bestowed upon her to achieve her kind of success.
Imagine that the paragraph about LaGarde were written about newly-elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel-
If his teeth are gritted, it’s impossible to tell. What lovely teeth he has – straight and white, they gleam out of a permanently, almost alarmingly, tanned face. Not very tall, but well-built nonetheless – and musclebound, the 51-year-old Emanuel dresses with the casual élan of a Chicagoan, patriotically attired in Brooks Brothers suits and Hugo Boss ties, along with jazzy shoes and fur-lined ponchos. Emanuel softens his rather severe black-and-white outfits with silk pocket squares, pearl cufflinks, or a Rolex watch. He has widely spaced green eyes framed by a silver mane. He still dances, but not in ballet.
The piece concludes on the same crappy note on which it started- revisiting LaGarde’s looks.
She’s keen on the feminine virtues, then, without being po-faced. At the finance ministry she used to keep a collection of cartoons. Her favourite shows her in fishnet stockings, whipping a banker.
Whether it’s coming from a construction worker or a writer from The Guardian, if Christine LaGarde can’t escape the male gaze, what hope do the rest of us have?