Marine Le Pen as the first female president of France: real progress for Women?

Polls make Marine Le Pen, the Front National leader closer than ever to replace President Hollande at the Elysée. Could this be a sign of progress for women across the country?

Let’s imagine it’s the  7th of May 2017, and for the first time ever, a French woman has won the presidential election and is now president. Marine Le Pen is currently celebrating with her supporters. In the next days, she would shake hands with now ex-President Hollande and will spend her first night at the Elysée palace, France’s presidential residence. A new page opens for the country that will know now their first glance at populism. But one issue remains very unclear among the commentators. Will her election be the sign of progress for women or not?

Not a very feminist program.

Marine Le Pen built her campaign on 144 engagements that were written in 24 pages. Regarding the rights of women one striking point comes to mind. The word “femmes” (women) appears only once in this whole document. It is part of one engagement, the 9th one that vows to protect women’s rights.

Défendre les droits des femmes: lutter contre l’islamisme qui fait reculer leurs libertés fondamentales ; mettre en place un plan national pour l’égalité salariale femme/homme et lutter contre la précarité professionnelle et sociale.

(Defend women’s rights: fight against islamism that shrinks their fundamental liberties; create a national plan for income equality between genders and fight against professional and social insecurity.)

One important issue to notice here is how Le Pen links women’s rights with her main goal: the danger of immigration, especially from Muslims.  

As well in this program, we can find 5 measures set up within a complete category to “eradicate terrorism and break the Islamic fundamentalist networks”.

On International Women’s Day, she was interviewed over this question by RTL. Once again, she linked the women’s rights to her main issue of immigration as she mentioned:

“There is a massive problem that nobody talks about […] it’s the decline of women’s rights linked with Islamic fundamentalism”

The veil in Lebanon

Marine Le Pen was in Lebanon for three days where she met several political and religious figures of the country. One of them was Grand Sunni Muslim Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian and this meeting became controversial. The National Front candidate refused to wear a white headscarf, breaking with the usual protocol. In a statement released moments after the event occurred, Mufti’s office “regretted this inappropriate behaviour in such meetings”. Nevertheless, this action has been welcomed around the country notably by one of her fiercest opponents, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who supported her decision, finding it “absolutely legitimate” to have done so.

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“ Her feminism is fluctuant”

Osez le Féminisme, a charity that aims to fight for gender equality, recently spoke about Marine Le Pen and her feminist vision.

Claire Serre-Combe, spokeswoman of the association, called Le Pen’s feminism as “fluctuant”, declaring that the National Front leader is “ far from having a vision for women. She simply wants to be a normal woman, but her project doesn’t hold any special feministic views. ”

“ Marine Le Pen can not be compared with Ségolène Royal (Socialist candidate in the 2007 elections).”  

Claire Serre-Combe points out that Royal’s campaign in 2007 was based on the idea that it would finally be a woman in power in France. This side of her campaign was the subject of many attacks according to Claire. She adds that we can therefore not compare Marine Le Pen with this situation, as she doesn’t proudly say she is a woman.

Marine Le Pen has a unique chance to reach the Elysée in May, however this may not be the symbol that would completely change the gender gap between men and women inside our society. Nevertheless, saying that her actions would create a step-back on feministic policies can be viewed as inappropriate. At two of the French borders, two women are leading their country (Theresa May and Angela Merkel) and although the fight for gender equality has not ended, the situation has not been worse. Is a symbol enough to change roots? Arguably not.

Credits : Jean-Paul Pelissier / File Photo / Reuters

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