Says writer Elizabeth Ohene, "Every revolution, every hated dictator, indeed, it seems every leader must have its femme fatale, the Lady Macbeth figure who is held responsible for the problems of the regime." Do we smell a scapegoat?
What inspires Ohene, of course, is the case of the despised Leila Trabelsi, wife of Tunisia's deposed leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. As she puts it, Trabelsi — sen as venal and imperious, and accused of filching millions from the Bank of Tunisia — "fits the role of the villain of the piece as perfectly as her designer clothes fit her." Of course, Ohene is not suggesting that Trabelsi is blameless, any more than were Imelda Marcos, Elena Ceausescu or Maryam Abacha. But as the focuses of virulent public hatred, they're a noteworthy phenomenon. As Kim Willsher put it in the Guardian last week, "Every revolution has its femme fatale, the Lady Macbeth figure blamed and vilified – fairly or unfairly – for the woes of a downtrodden nation."
"I wonder if it is possible for a man to become autocratic without a strong woman by his side?" Ohene wonders. But it also suggests the question, is it possible for an autocrat's wife to remain blameless? In a funny inversion of the political campaign, in which a wife is seen as humanizing and appealing, she's credited with the same negative power when the politician abuses his power. It's a strange combination of insult and accordance of respect — and, as Ohene observes, as old as Marie Antoinette.
Greedy First Lady! – Leila Ben Ali, Tunisia's most hated woman [ArticleTrend]
Viewpoint: She Who Must Be Obeyed? [BBC]
Leila Trabelsi: The Lady Macbeth of Tunisia [Guardian]
Leila Ben Ali ' The Stylist ; Accused Of Controlling Tunisia [AllVoices]