Women and the 2017 French Presidential Elections

16 May 2017

The first round of the 2017 French presidential election was held on April 23rd. Only two candidates in eleven were women:
Marine Le Pen, 48, a former lawyer, president of the National Front, a party founded and once led by her father, considered right wing
Nathalie Arthaud, 47, a professor of economics, spokesperson of Lutte Ouvrière, left wing.

Depending on your environment and political trends, some people might have think very funny to remind you Françoise Giroud’s famous saying: “I’ll believe in gender equality the day an incompetent woman will be appointed to a position of power”. Not so funny when the future of a country is at stake and when women are fighting for their ideas!

The composition of the campaign teams was a failure regarding gender parity. The left-wing candidates were the ones who did better but without achieving parity.

The positions of the 11 candidates on women’s rights were different, from a couple of lines to a full chapter in their programs. Some of them clearly showed a major concern for women’s rights and the achievement of gender equality. Some others preferred playing on the religious issues we’ve seen in France for a few years now, i.e. on one hand the Islamic threat on women’s rights and on the other hand the Catholic proselytism against some women’s hard-won rights.

An IFOP-ELLE survey shows that women’s vote was similar to men’s vote. That trend that appeared in 2012 is now confirmed. 73 years after granting the right to vote to French women, gender equality making progress, differences fade. Even if concerned about women’s rights, very few women voted for Nathalie Arthaud, a communist very favorable towards women’s rights.

May 7 is the next step: a run-off election between the top two candidates, Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! and Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN). Lucky you, when you’ll be reading these lines, you’ll know the results.

Would Marine Le Pen winning the presidential election be a victory for feminism?

The question does not leave indifferent.

Laurence Rossignol, Minister of women’s rights stated that it would be a failure for women.
Elisabeth Badinter, one of France’s leading feminist theorists, stated that it might be a victory for feminism but not for democracy.
Claire Serre-Combe, spokesperson of Osez le féminisme keeps on repeating that you can’t dissociate the content from the person.
According to Rebecca Amsellem, founder of Les Glorieuses, should Marine Le Pen be a candidate of a party with other values, young women could consider it as a victory as our first female President. Now in Rebecca’s opinion, for the last 13 years, Marine Le Pen’s actions rather undermined women’s rights. MEP since 2004, Marine Le Pen only voted for 4 of the 43 texts aiming to improve women’s status, voted against 17 times and was absent for the other texts.

Christèle Marchand-Lagier has been studying for the last 15 years a sample of women voting FN. According to that sample, women voted for Marine Le Pen because of her ideas and values. The fact that she was a woman or the daughter of her father did not have an impact on that sample.

According to Camille Froidevaux-Metterie, professor of political sciences, the victory of Marine Le Pen would not be a victory, but an important symbol.

Indeed, the answer to this question is not an easy one.

However, would the mere fact that Marine Le Pen is treated as political rival and not only a woman be the real victory of feminism?

And you …

And you, before voting, did you get interested in what the candidates did for women’s rights and gender equality? Did you read their programs on these issues? Did it influence your vote?

And what about women around you?

No matter who will become president on May 7, more than 75 % of the voters did not vote for them at the first round. So, the next critical step is the legislative election one month after the second round of the presidential election. Then we’ll have a better view on how and by who France will be governed in the years to come.

Rather than crossing our fingers, let’s go and vote! Do not forget: French women's Right to Vote was the first major victory of the 20th century towards men-women equality!


coach, editor and translator for the PWN Paris Newsletter

For more information, some articles in French:
ELLE, “Présidentielle : ce que votent les femmes”: http://www.elle.fr/Societe/News/Presidentielle-ce-que-votent-les-femmes-3474446
HUFFPOST,  “L'élection de Marine Le Pen à la présidentielle serait-elle une victoire pour les femmes?”: http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2017/04/27/election-marine-le-pen-presidentielle-victoire-femmes_a_22057883/
FRANCE 24, “Égalité homme-femme : les candidats à la présidentielle manquent d'audace”: http://www.france24.com/fr/20170419-presidentielle-2017-france-egalite-droits-femmes-parite-salariale-programmes-candidats
OSEZ L’EGALITE, “La parité dans les équipes : à méditer avant de voter”: http://egalite2017.olf.site/parite-equipes-a-mediter-de-voter/
LE MONDE, “Les droits des femmes, figure obligée des candidats à la présidentielle”: http://www.lemonde.fr/election-presidentielle-2017/article/2017/03/08/les-droits-des-femmes-figure-obligee-des-candidats-a-la-presidentielle_5090972_4854003.html
LA CROIX, “Droits des femmes, les propositions des principaux candidats à la présidentielle”: http://www.la-croix.com/France/Politique/Droits-femmes-propositions-principaux-candidats-presidentielle-2017-03-08-1200830258
LIBERATION, “Droits des femmes : qui propose quoi parmi les candidats ?”: http://www.liberation.fr/elections-presidentielle-legislatives-2017/2017/03/08/droits-des-femmes-qui-propose-quoi-parmi-les-candidats_1553061

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