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A woman looks at election campaign posters for French presidential election candidates Marine Le Pen Emmanuel Macron on April 29, 2017 in Meteren, northern France. (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)


Why French women fear Marine Le Pen

By Emma-Kate Symons on May 5, 2017

Global cheerleaders for Marine Le Pen often reproach her female critics for failing to do their feminist duty and embrace her because she is a woman politician. When Femen protesters disrupted yet another of the Front National candidate’s rallies, Paul Watson of the far right Infowars site said, “So-called feminists are trying to block people voting for a woman. She would be the first woman president of France. Let that sink in.”

But French women are fleeing the extreme right Front National candidate. Only 38 percent of women voters say they will back her in Sunday’s presidential election compared to 62 percent for the independent liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron, according to a Cevipof poll this week. Women are voting with their feet, because despite being a woman, Le Pen has nothing to offer them in France, Europe or on the world stage.

The heir to her father Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen’s multi-million Euro fortune, his political movement and his ideology, grew up like a princess in a vast manor house in Paris’s fancy western suburbs. She is only a feminist when it comes to her type of woman — white, French, Catholic-raised upper middle class like herself.

Just be careful you’re not a foreign-born or dual national woman, a recent or established immigrant, refugee, a Muslim or a Jew in Le Pen world.

The presidential candidate wants a moratorium on immigration legal and ‘illegal,’ from asylum-seekers to economic migrants and family reunion visa applicants. The Draconian measures would hit students, nurses, doctors, businesswomen, mothers, wives, daughters, and grandmothers. She will force dual nationals who are not European to give up foreign passports, stop Muslim and Jewish men and women from wearing even the smallest of religious head coverings in public, and abolish gay marriage. Her version of laicité, or secularism, is designed to demonize Muslim women, in favor of Christians, even if the twice-divorced Le Pen, who lives with her partner FN official Louis Aliot, is hardly a paragon of Catholic family values and virtue. Like the Islamists she feeds off, the FN candidate hopes for civil war and unrest across France because it serves her purpose of dividing people into irreconcilable separate groups and factions.

Instead of uniting, she wants to pit different groups of women against each other. Her party has gone after women journalists, in a chilling redux of the U.S. presidential campaign when Donald Trump relentlessly singled out female reporters who displeased him. One leading French broadcaster, Audrey Pulvar was suspended from her TV network for signing a feminist petition opposing the National Front — after Le Pen’s cabal complained and harassed her on social media. When it came to planning the presidential debate in which she performed abysmally, Le Pen’s party aides said they wouldn’t agree to a debate with a woman moderator they perceived as biased. It was a redux of Donald Trump’s campaign blackbanning of journalists like Megyn Kelly.

French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen speaks during a campaign meeting in Ennemain, northern France, on May 4, 2017. (HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Le Pen is ambiguous on women’s reproductive rights and has a hardline inner sanctum of friends and advisers who are Holocaust negationists and Hitler admirers.

On foreign policy, Le Pen is close to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who made it easier for men to beat their wives, and tolerates the persecution of gays in Chechnya. She also defends the record of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, recidivist user of chemical weapons on civilians, including women and children. Le Pen can’t stand other powerful women either. In Wednesday night’s brutal debate, she displayed a disturbing lack of knowledge of even her own confused policy regarding the future of France in the Euro, while heaping personal insult after ad hominem jabs on her opponent, Macron. Her embarrassing gaffes didn’t stop her from laying into one of her preferred hate targets: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “France will be led by a woman and it will be me or Madame Merkel,” she smirked after claiming that Macron would “subjugate” France to Germany. For years she has been taking aim at the long-serving German leader, casting her as France’s chief enemy. She invokes bellicose imagery taken directly from the two World Wars declaring Merkel’s Berlin is forcing France into “submission” and “humiliation.”

Le Pen’s faux feminism means she can’t even show some solidarity with women in her family such as likely next FN leader her niece, 27-year-old lawmaker Marion Marechal-Le Pen. (Aunty Marine dismissed Marion, a member of parliament of several years, as “inexperienced” and insisted she would not appoint her to a government ministry).

As Le Pen tried to soften her image and win over women voters in the campaign, she effaced all references to her father and even the political movement she leads, running on the cult-like platform of “Marine Presidente, and releasing photographs on social media of her cuddling cats in rose-hued surroundings. Putting a female face on her far-right extremism and nationalism, however doesn’t change the core National Front she inherited from her father. Among the most popular protest political posters are those featuring Marine Le Pen’s signature blonde coiffure with her papa’s face and glasses superimposed on her visage.

Women in France are not dupes. In this week’s presidential debate they saw how Le Pen fudged facts and invented tales to cover her ill-preparation and ignorance. She deliberately spread false news suggesting Macron had a secret offshore bank account, and had her apparatchiks out in force Friday night spreading rumors about the massive leak of hacked emails and documents from her opponent’s campaign.

A growing majority of French women voters recognize that despite her being France’s second woman candidate for the presidency, after Socialist Segolene Royal lost to Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, Le Pen is not the feminist leader they are looking for. She has no time for women who don’t look like her.

Macron may be the “default candidate” for 60 percent of the voters who are backing him, likely all the way into the Elysee Palace on Sunday.

But the idealistic 39-year-old former economy minister has surrounded himself with an impressive team of expert women of all walks of life in his strategic inner circle, including the acclaimed French broadcast journalist Laurence Haim, the former backer of center-right politician Alain Juppe Aurore Berge, and the Silicon Valley start-up entrepreneur Axelle Tessandier. He has an unconventional marriage with his former high school teacher who is 24 years his senior. In the June legislative elections, he is pushing to get women to run for office and has promised 50 percent of the candidates his En Marche (On the move) movement fields will be female.

Marine Le Pen in contrast surrounds herself with figures who like to organize pajama parties where guests dress up in striped concentration camp garb. On Thursday, when she was forced to rush out a side door of Reims Cathedral due to massive youth protests outside, Le Pen was accompanied by a former FN member who is a convicted arms dealer. Affirmative action in Le Pen’s Front National means simply promoting herself.

France’s women and men deserve much better.


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