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Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election (REUTERS/Aziz Taher)

‘Radical right’

The rise of far-right women politicians may help woo female voters

By WITW Staff on March 3, 2017

The far-right is not typically synonymous with women’s rights issues, despite the fact that some of Europe’s most successful far-right politicians are women. Where left-leaning and centrist parties tend to throw their weight behind such policies as gender quotas in politics; equal pay and reproductive rights, the far-right has long opposed them. However, for French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, leader of the country’s far-right National Front party, the political currency to be gained in discussing gender issues is not to be missed.

Insofar as gender can be exploited in such a way as to form another critique against immigration, then it seems a useful tool by which L Pen can mount her broader attack on liberalism and the way it has, she argues, ignored the patriarchal encroachments of Islam. In an opinion piece for French publication, l’Opinion earlier this year, she wrote “I am scared that the migrant crisis signals the beginning of the end of women’s rights.”

It is perhaps little wonder that Le Pen is now seeking to embrace the women’s rights discourse, since a (somewhat improbable) victory in the upcoming elections will be largely dependent on her ability to capture the female vote. Her extensive re-branding of the party, embracing women’s issues and moving away from the anti-Semitic and homophobic agenda espoused by the party’s former leader, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, will prove vital to that cause.

According to a study published in 2015, which was carried out across 17 countries by Swedish and Dutch scholars, women are typically less likely to vote for what it termed the “populist radical right.” But this could well be changing as more women lead populist right wing parties. For the study found that it wasn’t the ideology so much as the representation of the radical right that was deterring female voters — what put women off were, they said, the far right’s “political style, occasional association with historic violence, stigmatization by parts of the elite and the general public.” Given that women are generally represented in a “softer” and less power-hungry way by the media, the rise of female candidates like Marine Le Pen may, according to Cas Mudde, a Dutch scholar of the European far right, actually be very good for the radical right in helping to woo female voters.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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