She might well be a seasoned politician, well-used to sparring with the best and worst of them, but the French minister of justice, Christiane Taubira, has had to face some pretty (perhaps not the best choice of words) odious comments over the past couple of weeks.
And, although opponents might claim otherwise, those comments have had nothing to do with her competence in fulfilling her ministerial portfolio and everything to do with her skin colour and origins.
|Add captioChristiane Taubira (screenshot FranceTVinfo)|
First up there was the infamous photo montage posted on the Facebook page of Anne-Sophie Leclere.
She's a candidate (or at least, she was) for the far-right Front National in next year's municipal elections and decided a touch of racism (although heavily in denial over such a definitiion when asked about it during a report on France 2's "Envoyé Spéciale") wouldn't go amiss.
Leclere posted a photograph on Facebook of a baby monkey alongside one of Taubira with the accompanying titles "18 months" and "Now".
"It's not racist," insisted the 33-year-old. 'The monkey in the photo remains an animal, the black [woman] is a human being," she said.
"I have friends who are black and that's not a reason to tell them that they are monkeys,' she continued in true FN fudge fashion, reiterating that she was not a racist but would "rather see Taubira on a tree among the branches than in the government."
The photo was eventually taken down. The FN suspended Leclere and dropped her as a candidate.
In the meantime Taubira, not exactly known for being one to mince her words, had reacted.
"We know what the FN thinks: the blacks in the branches of trees, Arabs in the sea, homosexuals in the Seine, Jews in the ovens and so on," Taubira said, describing the party's policies as "deadly and murderous".
It was a response which immediately drew the wrath of the FN with a call for Taubira to resign and the threat of legal action because, "Nothing justifies such an expression of hate against an entire party and its millions of voters?"
Really? Not even being compared to a monkey?
Sound the bell for the end of round one in the category racial slurs.
Where the FN left off, those other mild-mannered democrats - the ones still opposed to same-sex marriage - continued.
Last Friday Taubira was on a visit to the western French town of Angers as part of her Tour de France, if you will, to explain how the reforms she wants to introduce next year will make the country's judicial system more accessible for everyone.
It was an opportunity also for a hundred or so members of "La manif pour tous", the movement which had opposed same-sex marriage to express their unhappiness with the minister who had steered the legislation through parliament.
Yes, even though it's the law, they remain quite within their rights to demonstrate their disaccord.
But the manner in which they did so was what the local online news site Angers Mag Info suitably summed up as "pitiful".
They were there to greet her when she arrived at the town's Palais du Justice, and they brought their children along because, let's face it, they defend family values.
And they did that by chanting original and charming slogans such as "Taubira, casse-toi" (you may translate) or "Taubira, resign!"
Unruffled - well, over the months she must have become well used to such a reception - Taubira reportedly blew the demonstrators a kiss at the door of the building before she went inside.
But they were far from satisfied, changing position and upping the decibels somewhat as they continued shouting their "objections" and allowing the children to join in.
And that's really where any dignity their demonstration might have had, disappeared as the protest took a distinctly racist slant.
Because alongside "casse-toi" and "resign" the well-meaning parents taking part also allowed their children to fire off phrases through the megaphone such as "Taubira, you smell. Your days are numbered" with one 12-year-old brandishing a banana skin while shouting, "A banana for the monkey."
Apparently even some of those hardened chaps from the riot police were taken aback by the vitriolic nature of the language with one of them heard to comment that it "could be grounds for arrest as it constituted insulting a government minister.
The episode didn't go unnoticed by French parliamentarians though with both a former agriculture minister, Jean Glavany, and the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault paying tribute to Taubira and denouncing all forms of racism.
"When we, the country's elected representatives, hear racist comments being made, we must not remain silent," said Glavany.
"We must express both our shame and disgust."