Eighteen percent, nearly one in five French woman voted for far right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen at the first round of last Sunday’s French presidential elections.
Trying to explain this number, many a political pundit suggested women chose Le Pen because she’s a woman. Said sociologist Sylvain Crépon on radio Europe 1*: “Marine Le Pen is a busy woman, a divorced lawyer with a modern image. That she’s living in a blended family anchors her in her time, and it might have contributed to the female vote.”
I won’t dignify the suggestion that women are so void of political sense they cast their ballot based on sex, ideas be damned, but this highlights the absence of strong female candidates amongst the 10 politicians running. Aside from Le Pen, the other two women in the race, Eva Joly for the green party Europe Ecologie Les Verts and Nathalie Arthaud for Lutte Ouvrière, a party so left of the political spectrum it nearly falls off it, never stood a chance. They respectively got 2.31% and 0.56% of votes.
Women weren’t absent from the campaign, but they stuck to more “traditional” female roles of support and communication. Nathalie Kociusko-Morizet, who, no matter what you think of her boss Sarkozy, is one of the brainiest and smartest women in politics, was spokesperson for the Président-candidat. Clémentine Autain was on every TV station throughout the campaign defending Front de Gauche candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Nadjat Vallaud-Belkacem was François Hollande’s spokesperson. All these women are smart, locally elected politicians who have sometimes held ministerial jobs. Yet as things stand, I can’t imagine any of them running for president, and winning.
Denmark, despite having a Queen never had a female Prime Minister before Borgen was broadcast on TV. Now Hell Thorning-Schmidt has been in power since October 2011. The West Wing dreamt Obama, as Matthew Santos, before he happened. To change mentalities and finally elect a woman at its highest office, does France also need its own (quality) TV series proving fictionally, week in, week out, that yes, a woman can do it too?
* Sylvain Crépon quoted in “Qui sont les nouveaux électeurs du FN ?”, Europe 1 24 April 2012, “Le fait que Marine Le Pen soit une femme, qu’elle ait une image assez moderne, de femme active, avocate, divorcée, qui vit dans une famille recomposée, c’est un peu la femme de son temps, ça a pu contribuer à un vote féminin” (Translation my own)
Still from Borgen, Season 1 episode 1, Link TV Borgen Press Room