It’s hard to find women in politics. Apparently this is mainly down to perception of women candidates, and how they are perceived to be treated – not the reality of how they are treated – but this area of study is not long in existence so results are bound to develop.
But the ones that make it to the top do stick out. Angela Merkel, who dashed my childhood ambitions of becoming the first female Chancellor in Germany. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the world’s first female Prime Minister from Sri Lanka, where the other side of my family was from. Theresa May, prickly and unpersonable, as well as thoroughly compared to her only female predecessor, Margaret Thatcher. There is one woman in particular who could soon join their ranks.
The curiousity really is about the coalition of voters that support Marine Le Pen. Populism by the old propelled Brexit into existence, and Trump benefited from a similar aged demographic group that were confronted with ideas such as transgender people and same-sex marriage after their formative years. Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, can count on the youth, who were born after the Union-secured contracts stopped being on offer. The old fear Le Pen, who may take France not just out of the Euro but also the EU, endangering their pensions.
Traditionally the National Front, the party she quasi-inherited from her father and Holocaust-denier Jean-Marie Le Pen, skews masculine with its voters. But youth unemployment is not sexist. If anything, it is urbanist, as those who live away from centres of commerce fail to feel its benefits.
And still, issues related to gender could be the saving grace for Le Pen’s efforts to become President of France. After Cologne’s New Year celebrations were overshadowed by sexual harrassment at an unprecendent scale by foreign perpetrators, Le Pen wrote an op ed in a French newspaper decrying how these men were bringing their outdated religious values with them, which clashed with the culture of their newly adopted home. It is sheer opportunism, but it’s not unappealing to women, apparently, if/as fringe views become more acceptable.
I hope Le Pen fails. It is incredibly likely she will go into the run-off vote in May, but she will lose then. But it saddens me that she will already have managed to enter popular acceptance to the point she goes into the run-off, and I wish it weren’t so. However it looks like France needs a shake-up and reform to actually tackle its systemic issues. Will they be able to accept changes, in order to “stay the same”?
(Photo credit goes to Olaf Kosinsky)