Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Don't call me SHE

It turns out that the First Lady of Tunisia has the same rule as my mother.

"Don't call me SHE," my mother used to rage at us. This was usually in response to such sullen comments from us daughters as, "She says we have to eat this crap before we can leave the table," or "She says no, we can't do it."

"Don't call me SHE," my mother raged so often it has become a family joke.

Reading a copy of the English-language Tunisia News I have to think Leila Ben Ali has the same rule. In a story about her thoughts about the status of women on the occasion of Aug. 13 Women's Day she is referred to the first time as Mrs. Leila Ben Ali, wife of the President of the Republic, and in subsequent references she is:

*the spouse of the head of state
*the wife of the head of state
*Mrs. Ben Ali, Tunisia's First Lady
*the spouse of the head of state, Mrs. Leila Ben Ali
*The spouse of the president of the republic (without capitals in this reference)

And no where in a long article is she ever called SHE. I think the Women Who Bore Me would love that.

The Tunisian press, which is not as free as the Algerian press where journalists complain about oppression, is very very careful to show respect to the powerful president.

I think the result is a lot like the writings of the old Pravda. People must get adept at reading for nuance and between the lines. Here's excerpts from an interview the president did with Al-Hawadeth, a Lebanese magazine, that Tunisia News reprinted. The occasion was the 20-year anniversary of his taking over the presidency -- still called The Change.

Answering a question on the results of the process of the Change and the "secret" behind this success, President Ben Ali stressed that Tunisia have managed in a relatively short period of time to materialize a societal project whose foundations have been consolidated through successive deep reforms aimed at anchoring the rule of law, preserving human rights and liberties and promoting pluralism and the society of dialogue, consensus and solidarity...

Answering a question on the numerous calls launched in Tunisia from the street and various levels requesting the President of the Republic to run for a new term of office, President Ben Ali expressed the pride he takes in the valuable confidence that the Tunisian people with its various components and categories and in all regions, is expressing through its organizations and associations, underlining that the people's commitment to the choices, programmes and policies adopted during the past two decades can only consolidate the believe in the noble mission he assumes and prompt him to further enrich the gains and achievements accomplished for the people and the country.

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