The World’s Most Powerful Women: August 9

Aug 09, 2017

Valentina Zarya here, filling in for Claire this week.

Brigitte Macron, wife of the French president Emmanuel Macron, will not be given an official “first lady” title or her own budget, the French government said Tuesday. This is not a deviation from French customs—there has never been an office of the first lady—and wouldn't ordinarily be news, except for the fact that the president had insinuated during his election campaign that he would give his wife an official Élysée role.

Earlier this week, activist Thierry Paul Valette launched a petition against the creation of the office of a Première Dame. “There is no reason for the wife of the head of state to get a budget out of public funds,” Valette wrote, arguing that the French public had elected Macron—not his wife—to public office. Giving her an official title, he argues, is nepotism. As of early this morning, the petition was just shy of 300,000 signatures.

Employing family members is currently a hot-button issue in France. During the campaign earlier this year, center-right candidate Francois Fillon was embroiled in a scandal involving his wife and children, whom he had hired as parliamentary assistants.

Yet Valette's argument reads less as a protest against nepotism and more as a denunciation of the influence Brigitte Macron reportedly has on her husband, a matter that the president has openly discussed: “When you’re elected president of the Republic, you live with someone, you give your days and nights, you give your public life and your private life,” he told French broadcaster TF1 in May.

While a spouse's influence is to be expected, the French populace seems uncomfortable with the particular level of engagement Brigitte has, with headline after headline calling the president's wife the "real" power behind her husband's electoral win and the person who keeps him "on track."

Perhaps if she has stayed in the shadows and played the typical role of president's wife—that is to say, purely ornamental—the opposition against her might not have been so fierce.

-@valzarya

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Carla wants accountability

Carla Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general who went on to be the prosecutor for the international tribunals that investigated atrocities in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, has resigned from the UN’s independent commission of inquiry on Syria due to the Security Council’s inaction to hold criminals accountable. "I give up," she said Monday. "I can’t any longer be part of this commission which simply doesn’t do anything."

WSJ

Another all-male cabinet

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has unveiled his new cabinet—and it is entirely comprised of men. During his re-election campaign, Rouhani had focused on women's rights and promised equal employment opportunities and access to services if he was re-elected. Critics now accuse the president of going back on his word. There has been only one female cabinet member since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.

BBC

THE AMERICAS

Manifesto destiny

James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the anti-diversity "manifesto" that went viral over the weekend, has been fired by the company for "perpetuating gender stereotypes." Meanwhile, the company's CEO Sundar Pichai responded to the 10-page document in a letter to employees, saying that "to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK."

Fortune

Kirchner's comeback?

Argentine ex-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced June 24 that she would be attempting a political comeback by running for a senate seat in elections Oct. 22. Because of the way the country's electoral system works, the primary polls, which are taking place this coming Sunday, will a strong indication of who the eventual winner will be. Polls currently give Fernandez a lead of about 5 percentage points.

Bloomberg

ASIA-PACIFIC

Meet Celina

Meet Celina Jade, the star of Wolf Warrior 2, which last week became China’s biggest ever box-office hit. The Hong Kong actress has flown largely under the radar until now, partly because she's choosy about the women she wants to depict. “It really comes down to the stories and the characters,” she says. “I’m not really interested in playing decorative Asian roles."

South China Morning Post

Arrangement game

Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala has created a board game to raise awareness about arranged marriage. In "Arranged!," a deck of cards pushes the plot forward. As male suitors are scattered randomly across the board, there are three female protagonists and one “auntie” who attempts to marry off the girls to every boy they can find. The goal of the game is to escape an arranged marriage and find true love.

Guardian

IN BRIEF

Google’s gender problem is actually a tech problem

Fortune

Punch with Pakistani girls at a Karachi boxing club

BBC

Men have always used 'science' to explain why they're better than women

Gizmodo

Boston workers hurled sexist, anti-Muslim slurs at Padma Lakshmi’s 'Top Chef' staff

Fortune

PARTING WORDS

"Women in [tech] should collectively consider their legal options. Top among these would be class-action discrimination cases against employers."

—U.S. attorney Anita Hill in an op-ed for the 'New York Times.' Hill became a national figure in 1991 when she accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

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