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The labels of a politician's wife

Miriam González Durántez is married to the British deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg She prefers to elude the limelight, but now she is doing her bit as a female role model

Miriam González Durántez with her husband, Nick Clegg, on a recent visit to a school in Scotland.
Miriam González Durántez with her husband, Nick Clegg, on a recent visit to a school in Scotland.RUSSELL CHEYNE (REUTERS)

Miriam González Durántez does not conform to the stereotypical image of a British politician's wife. The partner of Nick Clegg, who is the deputy prime minister and the leader of the Liberal Democrats party, prefers to stand discreetly in the background, attending events only when strictly necessary and focusing on her three children and her job as a successful lawyer.

But when it comes to discussing female roles in society, Nick Clegg's wife does not hesitate to make herself heard. In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph, González Durántez lamented the "absurd and demanding labels" that women have to deal with in their lives.

"If we do not have children, people assume we are frustrated. If we stay at home taking care of our children, it is said we are 'not working.' If we have a job we are portrayed as part-time mums and sometimes even as bad parents," she told the British newspaper.

"If we succeed in our professional lives, we're branded as 'scary;' if we follow fashion we're 'shallow;' if we like science we're 'geeks;' if we read women's magazines we're 'fluffy;' and if we defend our rights we're 'hard'."

If we have a job, we are sometimes portrayed as being bad parents"

Her statements came ahead of a new national campaign called "Inspiring Women," which will bring female role models from various professional fields to schools to help young girls choose a professional future for themselves.

González Durántez, who is from Valladolid, says she is "not surprised that with such a flurry of labels, many female role models refuse to stick their necks out."

This does not apply to her, however. González Durántez publicly came out in defense of a Spanish woman during the last soccer World Cup, which was won by Spain. In a letter to the editor of The Times, she asked the newspaper to apologize to Sara Carbonero, a television reporter whom the paper accused of distracting her boyfriend Iker Casillas, the captain of the Spanish national team, during matches.

The problem of being typecast is something that González Durántez has experienced firsthand. Ever since her husband joined the UK's coalition government in 2010, her own personal decisions have been publicly questioned. Certain sectors of the British press praise her elegance but criticize her independence. She refused to take her husband's surname when the pair married, and made it clear from the beginning that she would not be taking time off from childrearing or her job to support her husband's political career. Unlike Samantha Cameron, who dropped her post as creative director of luxury goods specialists Smythson to become a part-time consultant the moment her husband became prime minister, González Durántez maintains her partnership at the European law firm Dechert LLP. "We both like our jobs," said Clegg during the electoral race.

Miriam has been familiar with politics ever since she was a child. Her father, José Antonio González Caviedes, was a senator for the Popular Party and the mayor of Olmedo, where she and her husband continue to spend the summers with their three boys, Antonio, Alberto and Miguel. The couple met while studying in Bruges, and lived for several years in Brussels. They fell in love when Clegg asked his future wife to teach him to dance flamenco.

People who know Miriam personally describe her as a superwoman who achieves excellence in anything she tries her hand at, whether it is work, academic results, cooking or playing the piano. They also say they would not be at all surprised if one day she decided to pursue politics herself.

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