Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Feminism gone too far?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, kisses Justice Minister Rachida Dati after delivering his speech at the Cour de Cassation, France's highest judicial body, Wednesday Jan. 7, 2009 in Paris. Sarkozy announced major justice reforms. (AP Photo/Francois Mori; Pool) (Francois Mori - AP)

The French Justice Minister returned to work attending a Cabinet Meeting 5 days after giving birth by Cesarean section. And oh, she was wearing stilettos. I hope women across the world rain down on this woman with criticism. What exactly is she trying to prove?

The Associated Press
Thursday, January 8, 2009; 2:02 PM

PARIS -- She's out of the maternity ward and into a Cabinet meeting, dressed in elegant black and stiletto heels _ five days after giving birth at age 43. Justice Minister Rachida Dati, single and guarding the daddy's name like a state secret, doesn't stop surprising the French.

They like her, even though she has fallen out of favor with magistrates, lawyers and reportedly her boss, President Nicolas Sarkozy, who propelled the ambitious daughter of Moroccan and Algerian parents to the lofty Justice Ministry as his emblem of diversity.

Even if the star power of the glamorous judge, partial to Dior clothes and expensive gems, is dimming among the power elite, she knows how to make a comeback.

Just hours after leaving a private Paris clinic Wednesday with little Zohra bundled in satin in her arms, the perfectly coifed Dati joined other ministers for the weekly Cabinet meeting, then attended Sarkozy's traditional New Year's address at the Court of Cassation.

The president greeted her with a big embrace.

Dati had said she would be off the job only briefly, but few guessed the hiatus after a Caesarean section would last but five days. Her week's agenda is full. Newspapers loved it, splashing Dati's return on their front pages and prompting reader debates about what message she is sending to other working moms.

Guessing the identity of the father has become a pastime for the press, and names of high-ranking personalities in France and abroad have been publicly offered up. But Dati is keeping her secret.

"I have a complicated private life," she said in September, her only public words of explanation.

Dati has built her career on defying the conventions of France, the traditions of her Muslim parents and her own humble beginnings.

One of 11 children who grew up in a housing project in Chalon-sur-Saone in southeast France, Dati's life has been marked by determination. She wrote letters to Sarkozy seeking a job and served as a spokeswoman during his presidential campaign.

Appointed to the Justice Ministry _ a top Cabinet post _ in June 2007, Dati became the toast of the town and graced numerous magazine covers.

Then the fairy tale began to sour with allegations that she had misrepresented a diploma, and was unprepared to handle the intricacies of her charge and her personnel. A succession of top aides resigned amid reports that Dati was too authoritarian.

Her determination in enacting major judicial reforms ordered up by Sarkozy pitted the nation's corps of attorneys and judges against her.

Dati's Achilles heel may have been her close relationship with Sarkozy's former wife, Cecilia, so close that Dati joined the presidential couple on a U.S. vacation.

The couple divorced in October 2007, and Sarkozy and his new wife, singer and former model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, vacation without Dati.

Still, the French like her. In a December poll, Dati ranked among the top 10 women of the year.

Media reports maintain that Dati could soon lose her job in the Justice Ministry. The leftist daily Liberation reported Thursday that Sarkozy has asked her to run in European Parliament elections in June.

She publicly reiterates her loyalty to Sarkozy, dubbed the "omnipresident" for his nonstop work style. As she says in a book of conversations with a journalist called "You be the Judge": "I study Nicolas Sarkozy ... and I assimilate him."