President Hollande insists that his relationship with Julie Gayet and Valérie Trierweiler is a private matter. News media in France respect this and call off their pursuit of the truth, like foxhounds before an impassible ditch.
From whence came this private, emotional sanctuary or redoubt? In brief, it was created during the French Revolution, which abolished the privileges of the aristocracy, the church, towns, provinces, guilds, and seigneuries.
The political revolution simultaneously centralized power in the form of the state and dissolved society into independent individuals. They are sides of the same process. Civil society is a society of private individuals. The state is a society of public citizens.
President Hollande operates within this framework. Like all French citizens, he leads a two-fold life, he is both a public and a private person. And his emotional, private life?
Although we tend to think of the Revolution as part of the Enlightenment of Reason, certainly up to 1794, it was driven by a wave of sentimentalism or moral sensations. The rational and emotional fused in the political thinking of the revolutionaries, many of which were women.
The Revolution shattered this fusion of the rational and the emotional. Henceforth, reason and interest were for the public realm of the state, and honour and emotion were relegated to the feminine, private realm of the household.
This is why French news media allow President Hollande his safe haven. So far.
Featured image: Women’s March on Versailles, 5 October 1789.