The new French president is set to deliver on his campaign promise to ensure that half the candidates his party nominates for parliamentary elections are female.
In a speech in January, Emmanuel Macron said, “Women currently represent 53 percent of the electoral body, so it’s unacceptable that they make up less than 30 percent of those elected to the National Assembly.” His 13-month old party, recently renamed “La République en Marche,” is taking a decisive step towards redressing the balance.
Macron’s stance on gender equality has been in the news for personal reasons too. A few days after his victory, he spoke out publicly against the “misogyny” fuelling the media’s obsession with his wife, Brigitte Trogneux, who happens to be 24 years his senior.
“If I had been 20 years older than my wife, nobody would have questioned my relationship’s legitimacy for even a second,” he said.
“It’s because she is 20 years older than me that lots of people say, ‘This [relationship] can’t be tenable, it can’t be possible.”
(As a counter example, 24 years is the same age gap between Donald and Melania Trump.)
Macron’s feminist credentials have been called into question though, after a performance featuring “scantily clad” female dancers took place on stage in the celebration before his victory speech.
Some feminists were quick to decry the performance, questioning the validity of his feminist rhetoric in light of this choice. Activist Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu, spokesperson for the feminist campaigning group, “Osez le Féminisme,” took to Twitter to condemn the “hypersexualisation” of the female body, asking whether this is how Macron’s “great national mission for women’s rights” will really begin.
The new president's commitment to women’s rights will be under heavy scrutiny — and the proof is in the policy. Pursuing gender parity in parliament is a start. Countries in the so-called developed world have lagged behind other nations when it comes to gender equality in politics. In the last parliament, only 29% of MPs in the UK were female, while women hold 64% of seats in the lower house of Rwanda's legislature. Britain ranks 48th worldwide when it comes to parliamentary equality. When it comes to gender equality in politics, can places like Britain and France still be considered “developing countries”?
Macron’s initiative is an attempt to ensure the “fraternité” in France’s national motto extends to the sisterhood too. It's about time other countries followed suit.