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“Self proclaimed feminists” and the new editor of Huffington Post France

This is a chance for me,” said Ms. Sinclair. “The Huffington Post gave me a chance.” (The New York Times)

I love chances! I do! I do! Especially when they vindicate the downtrodden, the ones that have been beaten up, those who are finally rewarded with a possibility, with an opportunity. Anne Sinclair, newly appointed editorial director at The Huffington Post in France got a chance. Anne Sinclair, the wife of former IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn who is now under public scrutiny because of how the silent support of her husband reflects on her new role as head of a major media outlet.

In the days preceding the press event where Arianna Huffington introduced her to media, Ms. Sinclair gave an interview with French magazine Elle. She didn’t have many kind words for those she described as “self proclaimed feminists”:

“I am a feminist, I always have been; I always will be. I have been part of all of the battles, on abortion, on equality at work, on the dignity of women here and elsewhere, on the role of women in public life. I think I have done at least as much as packs of ‘feminists’ for the advancement of women in men’s fields…

“To be feminist is to battle for all that; it is not to interfere in the private life of other women, to decide in their place what is or isn’t moral.”

Raise your hand if you are a self proclaimed feminist! Or have you been appointed in your feminism by a higher authority? How does this even work?! I am now confused! But leaving aside my confusion, I tend to agree with Ms. Sinclair on the “not judging women for their private choices”. So, I am not going to judge her for sticking to a husband who has been involved in a very controversial accusation of rape. However, I do have to ask how someone who is, to use the same rhetoric she poses on us, “a self proclaimed feminist” and a socialist, able to support a man who used to head one of the most noxious financial institutions in the world? I will not judge her because of what she deems to be “private matters”, but I have to ask how she manages to reconcile her personal politics with her husband’s (and her own) praxis.

Moreover, Ms. Sinclair is now in charge of a media outlet with a global reach that has to be measured in the millions of readers per day. She is now, officially, managing mainstream world views, our mainstream world views. Back in July, amid the peak of the Strauss-Kahn case, I wrote about “Systems that force us to lie”:

Why is nobody holding Dominique Strauss-Kahn accountable for the lies that the IMF told those of us who were subjected to their policies and adjustment plans? Those lies that promised prosperity, development and abundance but instead led to misery, broken lives and even death? Why are the survival related lies of a chambermaid punishable by denial of justice whereas the lies of the alleged perpetrator are rewarded with a political career?

Back then, when I asked “Why is nobody holding Dominique Strauss-Kahn accountable?” I was specifically talking about mainstream media. This management of mainstream world views, of ideology and rhetoric is not innocent, nor is it removed from the consequences it carries on our daily lives. So, I have to wonder about the ethical constructions that allow someone like Ms. Sinclair, one of such managers of ideology, to remain married to the guy who brought so much suffering to vast regions of the Global South. How does someone who claim to be concerned with matters of “the dignity of women here and elsewhere” reconcile her politics with the fact that she is married to a man who has been, for the most of his career, in the business of spreading indignity. In the interview for Elle quoted above, she proclaims:

Under the headline “Anne Sinclair: ‘I am neither a saint, nor a victim. I am a free woman’”

These systems that force us to lie in order to survive carry the implication that some people are free while others are permanently bound by their oppression. Those who must lie in order to survive are bound to the consequences of their lies if they are ever found out. Of her ordeal dealing with the treatment of the rape accusations by media, Ms. Sinclair had this to say:

“To be an object of speculation, of permanent harassment to know what is happening in my home, has something about it that is Orwellian, totalitarian.”

I would tend to agree with her, especially considering how European mainstream media promotes these exact same tactics to control immigrants and ethnic minorities. Those, too, are the permanent object of speculation (is X group a threat to our culture?!); permanent harassment (should burqas be banned and the women who wear them punished accordingly?) and a vigilant attitude towards what happens in people’s homes (which language does X group speak at home? Should this be forbidden?). But obviously, the new head of The Huffington Post France is only affected by these tactics when they impact on her personal life. According to her world view, she should not be bound by the systems that force us to lie.

From the feature at The New York Times:

She dodged a question on whether she would support the Socialist candidate François Hollande for president of France and denied that she had played a role in her husband’s plans to run for president on the Socialist ticket. “I wasn’t invested in the candidacy of my husband,” she said.

From Anup Shah’s analysis of Structural Adjustment as a cause of poverty:

As detailed further below, the IMF and World Bank provide financial assistance to countries seeking it, but apply a neoliberal economic ideology or agenda as a precondition to receiving the money. For example:

  • They prescribe cutbacks, “liberalization” of the economy and resource extraction/export-oriented open markets as part of their structural adjustment.
  • The role of the state is minimized.[…]

Governments therefore must:

  • spend less
  • reduce consumption
  • remove or decrease financial regulations

I do not have enough caps locks to emphasize how this is THE OPPOSITE OF SOCIALISM! (moreover, this is the point where my frustration reaches such a peak that it could only be adequately expressed with an animated GIF of my head hitting the desk repeatedly).

These are the economic measures and structural adjustments that her “self proclaimed socialist” husband was promoting as head of the IMF. So, while Ms. Sinclair would like us to think that she is beyond judgement for private matters, I believe we owe it to our “self proclaimed feminism”, to hold her accountable for remaining with a man who has done nothing but spread inequality for the women she so claims to defend and support. While she seems to operate under the assumption that we should be guided by the principle of “Private vices, public virtues”, I have to point out that while she has the privilege of declaring herself “a free woman”, many do not as a result of her husband’s policies. And those will continue to be judged on the basis of the world views that Ms. Sinclair will now be managing and promoting on behalf of The Huffington Post. If these world views are as “socialist” as her husband’s politics have been, we might need to re-define the word altogether. And since we are there, we might have to redefine feminism as well, for it surely does not fit Ms. Sinclair’s egoist demands for privacy and respect for her choices while she remained married to the man who had no respect for the dignity of people who live in nations of the Global South.


  1. Plop wrote:

    A note from “Le Monde” revealed that some years ago DSK was caught with a prostitute (nothing illegal, but policemen made a note and some journalist saw it. Note has been destroyed at the beginning of the inquiry). I’m absolutely sure that Anne Sinclair knew what her husband was doing – having affairs.
    So maybe she trusted him for not raping the maid ? She remained silent on this, i understand why.

    (Why I don’t get is why mainstream media – LE Monde, too – quoted the sentence where DSK said he hates prostitution, as it is obviously wrong. (And seriously, a master of the world who has NO clue that the young girl willingly wanting to sleep with him *might* be paid for that… Kof ! Kof !)

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  2. Meredith wrote:

    I find it interesting that Ms. Sinclair claims to be a free woman and then puts herself prominently in a system (i.e. the media) that necessarily involves power and control of others–including her, as she’s certainly not at the top of the chain by any means. Moreover, how does she expect to have a “private” life in such a role? And how can she condescend to say her “private” life should be protected from scrutiny and allowed to remain private when she’s supporting an institution that doesn’t afford that privilege to others?
    Oh, wait. I know. It’s because of all her privilege. Ugh.

    As a side note: if you have the time and inclination, could you please actually make a GIF of your head hitting a desk repeatedly? Think how I could use Tumblr to spread your knowledge and insights. I see it now: Image description: an animated GIF image of social justice blogger Flavia Dzodan repeatedly hitting her head against a desk. And then clicking the GIF links to whichever particular post of yours I think applies to the GIF’s use.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  3. Bernadette Fagan wrote:


    Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink
  4. Other Becky wrote:

    Flavia, the amount of work, thought, and research you put into your pieces here never ceases to impress me. As always, you have given me a lot to think about.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  5. latinist wrote:

    Well, I always have my feminism proclaimed by a herald, who travels at least a bowshot ahead of my horse, holding aloft a banner displaying my feminist crest (a suffragist rampant, with the motto “dux femina facti”), and accompanied by a trumpeter playing the Indigo Girls.
    “Self-proclaimed,” forsooth! What am I, some loutish yeoman?

    Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink