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WikiLeaks: Catty Embassy Gossip Directed at Azerbaijan’s First Lady

A misogynistic attack on Mehriban Aliyeva, an accomplished, independent woman who serves as a stylish role model for young Muslim girls.

by
Norma Zager

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January 30, 2011 - 12:00 am
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With all the horrific and disturbing headlines exploding before the world’s eyes on a daily basis, there is something almost comforting in knowing that in many quarters, gossip remains the order of the day.

Rather a sweeping statement, I concur, but its truth is verified when one reads the WikiLeaks documents.

The knowledge that the U.S. State Department is populated with a cadre of Liz Smith wannabees is information I could have happily lived without, but isn’t it comforting to know that as we are busily fighting terror and battling religious extremists for our very survival, the government gossips are cattily tearing Azerbaijan’s first lady apart from head to toe?

The comments were juicy, and I am certain a welcome aside to the usual hard-core political issues our State Department faces hourly, presumably. The Guardian reports on U.S. embassy cables released by WikiLeaks:

Aliyeva is dubbed more “fashion-conscious and daring” than the “average woman in majority-Muslim Azerbaijan.” …“The first lady “wears dresses that would be considered provocative even in the Western world,” it says.

There was also a derogatory mention of  Aliyeva’s cosmetic surgery. These are the tamer and nicer comments taken from official U.S. diplomatic cables.

Should I be happy this gossip created a brief respite in their tedious care-worn day? Or should I be shocked at the inappropriate behavior this displays toward a nation that is genuinely and steadfastly friendly to the United States, Israel, and our allies?

I choose the latter.

As a journalist who is adamantly opposed to censorship and any impediments to free speech, I still can’t help but be appalled by the backbiting beauty salon barbs our officials delivered toward Mehriban Aliyeva and her nation, Azerbaijan, and their contemptible attitude.

If she were to walk about dressed in rags, unkempt and looking saggy and baggy, their comments would have surely castigated her for a lack of self-esteem. Even for refusing to show oneself in the public forum with a regal and attractive demeanor.

Jackie Kennedy was the darling of the world and she certainly presented herself as the most elegant and couture-driven fashionista of any past or future first lady.

Written by a man, the gossip-ridden official U.S. dispatch is a typical representation of the misogynistic inadequacy of someone who likely wouldn’t dare to criticize his own wife’s/partner’s fashion choices, yet feels comfortable enough putting that in an official correspondence to the U.S. secretary of State. Of course, nowhere in the embassy cables emanating from Azerbaijan is there any reference to male politicians’ clothing or style.

Even more disturbing is that the official recipient of a cable is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, having broken through several glass ceilings herself and readily complained about being a target of sexism in her career, should have been appalled by such malicious nonsense. What would she think of a foreign embassy spending time during major international crises discussing her fashion and hair styles or, perhaps, her predecessor’s skirts?

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