The maid from Guinea

When we’re not besieged by news about how still IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is on suicide watch, how his various French supporters claim the whole thing is a conspiracy (he won’t get to run for President anymore), that he was upset about being on a ‘perp walk’ (that’s the practice of parading celebrities in front of the media when they’re booked at a police station; the former French cultural minister Jack Lang said it was like ‘lynching’); that Strauss-Kahn loves his daughter and is not a gorrilla, we notice how some members of the media are gleefully hounding his alleged victim. To the effect that the woman, an immigrant from Guinea in West Africa, is now in hiding. At some point, her lawyer Jeffrey Shapiro was forced to deny that she had an “agenda” and that she did not know who Strauss-Kahn was.

The tabloid New York Post, based on circumstantial evidence, ran a cover story today claiming she is HIV positive; a claim which her lawyer denied. How The New York Post introduced this false claim:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have more to worry about than a possible prison sentence.

Ben Stein, a rightwing American columnist:

I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics, stealing airline tickets from me, stealing money from me, throwing away important papers, stealing medications from me. How do we know that this woman’s word was good enough to put Mr. Strauss-Kahn straight into a horrific jail? Putting a man in Riker’s is serious business. Maybe more than a few minutes of investigation is merited before it’s done.

But the tone in US media–where Strauss-Kahn does not guarantee ratings, especially on TV–pale next to the commentary by the French media. There the media has identified the alleged victim by name.  Apart from repeating the HIV positive claims of The Post, they also include gems :

In the paper “Le Parisien,” an Indian taxi driver–interviewed in front of the hotel where the alleged assault took place– said that she has “large breasts and a nice ass.”

The original reference:

Un chauffeur de taxi indien décrit à quelques journalistes postés devant le Sofitel ce que se disent les employés de l’hôtel et qui est repris tôt ce matin dans la presse américaine :« le voiturier m’a dit que cette femme de ménage était une trentenaire très jolie, qu’elle avait de gros seins et de belles fesses.

And this from RMC.FR, a radio station:  “The [defense] lawyers were surprised…when they saw a young woman who was very unattractive/not too seductive.”

The original:

Les avocats auraient été surpris, lors de la comparution, de voir arriver une jeune femme très peu séduisante.

If she were, indeed, “seductive,” whatever form of appearance or behaviour that may constitute such a descriptor, I wonder how the media would have jumped to frame her as an agent in her own brutalising.



Neelika Jayawardane

Sharp-tongued literature professor. Senior editor at Africa is a Country.

  1. I am surprised no one in the mainstream media has explored the colonial relation between France and Guinea and how as Fanon described it, Strauss-Kahn obviously looked on the hotel chambermaid with the colonial gaze. Anyone who doubts the connection between colonialism and sexual exploitation need only look at the murals of the "Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie" in Paris. This flikr gallery has a few shots . Call me a Puritanical American but the images of topless African and Asian women serving their colonial masters is disturbing. I would love to get a good set of photos of these images before the French get politically correct and whitewash evidence of how they sexualized imperialism.

    1. @KTRU Chris: our thoughts precisely. I would add that the discourse surrounding the so-called "Hottentot Venus" (Sara Bartman) is basically repeated here: highly sexualised body parts (therefore inviting sexual gaze), and yet, repulsive to the European sensibility.
      (Bartman's skeleton and a plaster cast of her were on display in the Musee de l'Home till the 70s, and her remains were only returned to South Africa in the 2002, after a campaign, and personal requests by Mandela.)
      Thanks for the links to the images.

  2. The whole story has several very disturbing aspects, but let me just point out the obvious hypocrisy of the statement "Putting a man in Riker’s is serious business." If we take this as a sort of figure of speech, the prison industrial complex throws ‘men into Riker’s Island’ with absolutely no impact to the night sleep of any rightwing columnists or many others, as long as those men are not high profile (or if they just happen to be Black). If we take the statement literally, then it is very accurate. It indeed is serious business. Crooked and inhumane act of business. That is what prison industrial complex is. The amount of profit is tied to the mount of prisoners. One of the undersides of not just United States, but many other countries as well. I know I wrote a bit on the side of the actual topic at hand, but this quote made it feel necessary.

    1. And you're right to bring it up. Stein continues his article with this:

      "In life, events tend to follow patterns. People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example. Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes?"

      He's asking for convictions, clever man, and the prison-industrial complex tends to reflect the racialization and gendering of so-called deviant behaviour/criminality, not justice. Stein helpfully reminds us convictions have little to do with 'crime' and a lot more to do with who the wealthy and powerful and white want to lock up and how to maintain profits… and it's certainly not going to be one of their own (who, yes, committed a crime a hell of a lot more violent than drug possession or prostitution).

  3. "THE FRENCH CONNECTION" has not been adequately explored by the politically correct media, here in the USA where in fact you are guilty until proven innocent. So, if in fact the maid is french speaking, then it lends so much more credence to the possibility that this whole thing is a setup! Because to entice, it is helpful to speak the language. If Mr. D. S.K was prone to do this abhorrent thing, and this was his practice in hotel rooms, he would not wait for someone who speaks French. Of course just because the woman speaks french does not mean for sure it was a setup, but it does increase the odds quite substantially. The USA now has to administer justice to these two who are not from the USA, not American citizens, not born here. Just save the taxpayers some money and send this case to either of their home countries for adjudication.

  4. The right, yes, the French, sure — but our good friend Alexander Cockburn over at Counterpunch some how decided that now was the time to start accompanying their columns with photographs, starting with an image of DSK's victim. Cockburn himself seemed to get off on the details.

  5. I think the maid consented to sex because she didn't tell Strauss-Kahn she was HIV positive to stop him from making sexual advancements. She probably hasn't had sex with a man in the last twelve years and was turned on by the seducer Strauss-Kahn, so she kept quite about her illness and enjoyed herself while murdering Strauss-Kahn. It's a criminal act not to inform a sex partner about being HIV positive. Everyone knows that her husband died of HIV in Guinea and the HIV epidemic is widespread there. It's only obvious she has HIV because she lives in an apartment complex specifically for HIV patients. If Strauss-Kahn had sex with his wife when he got out of Rikers jail, now his wife is also infected with HIV. I think the maid is a hurricane causing total destruction. I also think Strauss-Kahn should give her a million dollars because she is poor and he should blame himself for having contracted HIV for not being more selective with the women he has sex with. Donald Trump always had sex with beauty pageant winners who were clean.

  6. They say that after the attack Strauss Kahn left the Sofia hotel in a hurry, leaving his cell phone behind. They were trying to make him look guilty, but they can't explain why he called the hotel to inform them that he had forgotten his cell phone and they can't explain why he told the hotel security that he was located at the airport on his way to France. If they try to say that he was scared that his personal information was on his phone and in the room, that is not true because the hotel knows the room was registered to him. If they try to say that he gave the hotel security his location because he tried to look innocent, that is not true because he is a high priced lawyer and he knows the laws of France and he knows he would stand a better chance in France than in the U.S. because France does not have extradition laws. The fact is that he had an important meeting with the German chancellor and he had overslept and missed his flight. If Strauss Kahn would have raped the maid and if he would have been guilty, he would have never called the hotel to ask about his cell phone. He is a smart lawyer and he would have left to France quickly without calling anyone or saying where he was located because France does not have extradition laws and he would be safer there. Another inconsistency in her story is that she made a statement to the police about Strauss Kahn that is definitely not true. She told the police that Strauss Kahn said this: “No, baby. Don’t worry, you’re not going to lose your job. Please, baby, don’t worry.” The word baby in reference to a woman is American street slang not French street slag and Strauss Kahn is a highly educated lawyer and does not speak in that manner. She told the police that she told Strauss Kahn that she didn’t want to lose her job for having sex with him, but that can’t be true because it’s impossible that anyone can find out if the sex occurred in a private room. Her statements are not consistent with true facts. She said she was dragged across the floor, but that can’t be true because Strauss Kahn is old and he does not have the physical build to drag that much weight across a floor. She said she slipped on a news paper bag in the room, but that cant be true because a newspaper bag does not produce enough friction to cause a slip. It’s very odd that Strauss Kahn has never done that to a maid before even though he spent half his life visiting expensive hotels. Why would he have sex with the maid if he was in a hurry to catch his plane flight. It is not out of the realm of possibility that she could have injured herself and put her blood on the bed sheets trying to falsify evidence. The blood would have to belong to Strauss Kahn to look believable and then it’s possible that Strauss Kahn might have cut himself and cleaned himself on the sheets. Strauss Kahn could have masturbated on the sheets and the maid could have found the semen and smeared it on her dress or her private parts. DNA evidence found in the room is not strong evidence because hotel clients constantly leave DNA evidence in their hotel rooms and it is not an uncommon situation. If DNA evidence is found in an alley then the evidence is more credible. They say that a room service employee cleared Strauss-Kahn’s room and found the room empty minutes before the maid entered and investigators say that Strauss-Kahn could have hid from the room service employee weighting for the maid, but the investigators can’t be telling the truth because the service employee would have found luggage in his room or heard the man taking a bath in the shower and the maid was not very attractive to make Strauss Kahn go through all that trouble. Strauss-Kahn is not a mind reader and wouldn’t know if the service employee is the maid or not and he would have come out. It’s possible that Strauss Kahn had sex with the service employee and not the maid and the DNA evidence he left behind was from sex with the service employee. They say that he asked women on dates and that makes him guilty, but that is not true because men that don’t rape women always ask women on dates. Why didn’t she tell a male employee right after the attack, so they could prevent him from leaving the hotel. Why did she weight for him to leave the hotel to report the incident.

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