For whatever reason, whenever I see a picture of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I immediately think of Bernie Madoff. Maybe it’s because they look vaguely similar, or maybe it’s because they both like to rape people, either literally or metaphorically—Dominique seems to prefer women, and Bernie, the children and grandchildren of Holocaust victims.
Bernie Madoff has already had his day of reckoning, but fortunately for those of us who love a good scandal, Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s public stoning has only just begun.
Unfortunately, the case of Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel maid who claims that Dominique Strauss-Kahn assaulted her in an elevator, seems to be going down the shitter, a reversal that might have brought the spectacle to an abrupt end if it weren’t for Tristane Banon, whom we will get to a bit later.
For it seems as if Nafissatou Diallo is nothing if not an unreliable witness. The woman apparently lied about details on her asylum papers (which she filed after getting gang raped in her native country, Guinea), but also cannot account for tens of thousands of dollars that have been deposited in her bank account in past years.
She may or may not have been running some kind of prostitution racket in the Sofitel where she worked, an accusation that is supported by a phone call she made to her boyfriend in jail two days before the incident in which she said something to the effect of, “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing, this guy has a lot of money.”*
*Update: Apparently that’s not what she said at all! Read more about how the authorities fed mis-information to the media via Jezebel.
All of those things obviously undermine her claims. But the airing of the depressing underbelly of her life also pisses me off, because I know that Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers are doing everything in their power to ruin the woman’s life by using her gender and sexuality as a weapon against her. She’s an easy target to defame for the vile, powerful man who, despite any alleged agreements they might have made, behaved like a monster towards her, and treated her like she wasn’t a human being.
I mean, granted, she might have been turning tricks (emphasis on the might), but she was genitally mutilated in her home country. She was fucking gang raped. She can’t read or write. She’s had to work demeaning jobs to support herself and her daughter. Can you blame her for hustling, if that’s even what she was doing?
Tristane Banon, however, won’t be so easy to undermine.
Tristane was born to upper class parents, both of whom had high positions in the French government. She was raised in a wealthy suburb of Paris. She is a god-daughter of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s second wife Brigitte Guillemette and a childhood friend of one of Strauss-Kahn’s daughters, Camille, who is receiving her PhD at Columbia University.
Tristane’s a journalist and a novelist who has contributed to Paris Match and Le Figaro, among other prestigious publications. She is pretty, and blonde, and slight. She’s in all the right social circles in the rigidly stratified French society.
In 2002, she was a fledgling, 22-year-old freelance journalist working on her first book, Admitted Mistakes, for which she was gathering quotes from famous people about what they had done wrong in the past. (Queue barfing gesture.)
As part of the project, she spoke with Dominique, who invited her over to his apartment for the interview, where he behaved, according to Tristane, like a “rutting chimpanzee.” He violently pinned her down, and tried to unsnap her bra and pull down her jeans. She escaped by kicking him in between the legs, and accusing him of rape.
At the time, she didn’t press charges against him, although she openly talked about the incident at dinner parties, to the horrified delight of high society.
In 2007, she recounted the story on the French television show 93, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the format of which sounds something like Bill Maher only instead of being filmed in a television studio, it is shot around a candelit table with wine. Seriously. Again, her captive audience was repulsed, but no formal charges were filed against l’homme monstre, who continued to ascend the rungs of French politics.
In 2008, Tristane wrote a novel called Daddy Frenzy. (No comment, just [period].)
Then, 2011 rolled around, and accusing Dominique Strauss Kahn of rape became all the rage. Tristane stepped forward (finally), and filed a formal complaint. The status of said complaint is in limbo, and apparently Strauss Kahn’s lawyers have filed a counter-suit.
I have no doubt that Dominique Strauss Kahn did everything that Tristane said he did, and probably more. I have no doubt that he’s done it to other women, and if he could, would do it to many more. I have no doubt that Tristane was traumatized by the event.
But come on, she really did her best to capitalize on it to make a name for herself. The scandal made her infamous. And is that really better, I ask you, than trying to scam Strauss Kahn out of some money for a blow job, like Nafissatou Diallo allegedly did in the Sofitel where she was working as a maid?
The fine differences, to me, seem to be in the mores of social class.
For you, Nafissatou Diallo, and for you, Tristane Banon. For standing up to a man who wields a lot of power. For subjecting yourself to the venom of the media. For calling out a misogynist who treats women like they are a lesser species. For doing the best you can with your lot in life, whether it be blessed or cursed. For hoping that someday, you put this behind you.
For you, Nafissatou, that you get some fucking money out of this, whether it’s dirty or not.
And for you, Tristane, that your next book be called “Daddy, Do You Love Me Now?”
For you both, for the awful ordeals you are both through, you are my somewhat suspect icons of the week.