Kay: Ladies, Slip the Leash!

Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

How does this picture make you feel? It depresses me.

It’s a photo of the wives of the G7 leaders, currently meeting in France. (I don’t know who the dude is on the right, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that he’s an aide. Although he looks a little bit like Justin Trudeau.)

So the First Ladies and Dude are watching a performance by Basque dancers, although the First Ladies don’t look like they’re enjoying it much. They got dragged to a bunch of stuff on this cultural tour, including an inspection of the locally grown peppers, which they ate at dinner. I bet inspecting those peppers was a lot of fun. However, they did go to a wine tasting, so maybe they copped a few bottles for the hotel room later.

The G7 conference seems like it would be an excellent time for Brigitte and Melania, not to mention Akie, Cecilia, Jenny, and Malgorzata to slip out for a fun day of shopping and mani-pedis, or maybe check out the Louvre or La Cité des sciences et de l’industrie. They could pursue their own areas of interest and, you know, maybe bond. Unlike their husbands, back at the G7, who are more or less at each other’s throats. Peppers? Come on.

The other part of this photo that depresses me is that it’s the wives of the G7, not the spouses. (Well, there’s that Dude. Whoever he is.) Yesterday I went to see Maiden, a documentary film about the first all-female crew that sailed the Whitbread Race (now called the Ocean Race) in 1989. A race in which journalists and fellow competitors called the female sailors “girls” (although, like the men, the women risked their lives in the race), predicted they wouldn’t finish the first leg, mocked them, and called them names. That was in 1989, people.

And still today, thirty years later, six of the seven spouses of the G7 leaders are women. (Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, is married, but I couldn’t discover if her husband went along to the summit. He’s not in this photo.) Will there ever be a day when seeing women being something other than adjuncts or oddities feels normal?

Maybe I’m just being sensitive.

And maybe that’s why I write romance novels. A genre in which most of the writers and readers are women, where feelings and community matter, and the main characters are women who work toward their dreams and get them. In other words, where women are central to the action.

Yeah, that’s probably why I write romance novels.



5 thoughts on “Kay: Ladies, Slip the Leash!

  1. Re: wives. Well, there could be Angela Merkel’s husband, but according to Wikipedia he’s a quantum chemist who prefers to stay out of the spotlight. So likely no photo-ops and pepper farming for him 😉

    The dancing-and-peppers itinerary makes me facepalm. If spouses must attend these summits (and I suppose they must), then at least give them something useful to do. They are representing the most wealthy nations in the world. They’re not stupid. Couldn’t they set up a Spouse’s Foundation, have an alternate conference, and use their time and economic standing to do something to leave the world a better place? It could have a permanent staff, and even if they don’t really want to be actively involved, they could be photographed at its events and earn their spouses some reflected glory. Surely it would be better than the current schedule.

  2. First ladies of America are often shoved into a box. Oh, I remember the uproar when Hilary Clinton said something snotty about baking cookies. She went on to become Secretary of State, so I think she had a point.

    It would be nice to imagine that the dancing and the pepper viewing are covers for clandestine, top-level spouse talks . . . but again, we are talking about women fighting against societal restrictions. There is the point that they are unelected, so having them get together to view solar technology or review the health care systems in the host country would be a very strange political act. (Not to mention, leaders don’t always choose their spouses for their political brilliance. There *are* many brilliant spouses, but . . . .)

    Well, Boris Johnson’s girlfriend was excused from the fun by The Express because she had “work commitments”. LOL, I am not sure why they brought it up; she’s not a spouse, and she’s got other stuff to do, but I get a vague t’ch, t’ch feeling from them.

    Women next to power: it’s a really interesting dynamic. And it seems to me, first ladies of America have been floating to the top a lot lately. There’s a recent Drunk History episode on Dolley Madison, and I think another Drunk History episode about Edith Wilson, who basically became Woodrow Wilson’s gatekeeper after his stroke. They had to work inside socially constructed boxes to get their work done, but they did. But some steampunk genius should do an alt history about when Dolley Madison was made President . . . not gonna be me, so anyone reading should feel free to take the idea and run with it, if they so desire.

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