Marine Le Pen, the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front in 1972 alongside former SS officers and other collaborators of the pro-Hitler Vichy government of World War II, is running for the French presidency in 2017 on a platform that critics contend is based mostly on restricting immigration. In an attempt to soften the image of her party, which is arguably best known for anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, and fascist tendencies, critics, according to a report by BuzzFeed, say that Le Pen has now begun trying to emphasize her womanhood in interviews and promotional materials — and what’s more, they add, the tactic appears as though it may be working.
After the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, Le Pen wrote a column stating that she wanted to address the country not only “as a political leader, but also as a woman.”
“It is as a free French woman, who has been able to enjoy, her whole life, the very precious freedoms fought for long and hard by our mothers and grandmothers, that I want to warn about a new form of social, human and moral regression imposed on us by the migrant crisis,” she wrote. “I fear that the migratory crisis signals the beginning of the end of women’s rights.”
Despite Le Pen’s professed desire to defend “women’s rights,” only one of the 144 “commitments” made by her party’s platform promise to do anything of the sort — a pledge to “defend women’s rights against Islamism, which would take back women’s fundamental freedoms.”
According to Clair Serre-Combe, a spokesperson for Osez le Féminisme, a national feminist network, Le Pen had embraced the notion, but not the reality of feminism, in an effort to legitimize her anti-immigration stance.
“You can clearly see that her feminism — although it really hurts me to use this word on her behalf — her feminism is deeply racist,” said Serre-Combe. “She speaks of sexual violence only when the aggressors are foreigners.”
France, a fiercely secular country, has found itself torn over Muslim traditions such as the hijab — a point of contention that Le Pen has eagerly exploited. After an attack on a Bastille Day parade in July, several French towns banned women on the beach from wearing “burkinis,” full-body swimsuits designed for Muslim women, until the laws were repealed by France’s high court in August. In one case, a ticket issued to a Muslim woman said that she had been fined for not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.”
According to Marie-Pierre Badré, a member of the right-wing Republican party who serves as president of the French Center for Men’s and Women’s Equality at Centre Hubertine Auclert in Paris, Le Pen’s decision to embrace her femininity might be winning her more voters than left-wingers would expect.
“I think most women won’t say they’re going to vote for her. They keep it a secret. It’s not seen as feminist, not seen as an expression of gender equity, so women don’t say that they’re going to do it,” said Badré. “It’s exactly like how you got Donald Trump. Exactly.”
Read the full story at Buzzfeed.