France’s race for office recently came to a close, with Emmanuel Macron winning the presidency with 66.1 percent of the vote. The candidate defeated Nationalist Party member and opponent Marine Le Pen, who received 33.9 percent of the vote.
Macron made headlines for becoming France’s youngest president at age 39, for forming the centrist “En Marche!” Party during his campaign, and recently, for his marriage to wife Brigitte Macron, his former high school teacher and, now, France’s first lady.
Macron’s relationship has already been scrutinized for the 24-year age difference between the two. Emmanuel fell for Brigitte when she was his high school drama teacher.
Macron’s parents and Brigitte herself attempted to discourage Emmanuel from pursuing her, but eventually he won her over. Brigitte recalls, “I felt that I was slipping, too. I then asked him to go to Paris” to finish his education. “He assured me that he would return,” Brigitte told Paris Match, as stated by The New York Times. At 17, Emmanuel told Brigitte, “Whatever you do, I will marry you.”
As he predicted, Brigitte and Macron were married in 2007. The New York Times mentions Macron’s gratitude towards Brigitte’s children for accepting him, as expressed in a video clip of their wedding. In fact, Brigitte’s daughters were very active in Macron’s campaign.
Turns out, Mrs. Macron was the sounding board that the now-president needed throughout his campaign. “Macron has sometimes come off as wordy, theoretical or hard to follow … [Their] documentary shows Mrs. Macron rehearsing a speech with him, telling him that he had not spoken loudly enough … She’s the one who won’t hesitate to tell him the truth,” The New York Times reported.
Mrs. Macron was active and present in the stages of the president’s political journey, coaching him on aspects she knew he could improve upon. A campaign advisor on gender issues, Marlène Schiappa, and others who know the couple, say that Emmanuel frames the policies and Brigitte acts as his listener, “contributing only on issues she knows well, including education, culture and women’s rights.” Mrs. Macron, an experienced teacher, has also encouraged her husband to consider proposals for smaller classes for students in disadvantaged areas.
The first lady and one of her daughters were also the ones who advocated for Macron’s advance of women in politics. This may have influenced Macron’s declaration that half of the candidates that his party will field in the coming legislative elections will be women, many of whom he will also appoint to his cabinet.
, author of the book “Les Macron,” says that Brigitte Macron mentioned her consideration of Michelle Obama as a role model. Emmanuel Macron has stated that his wife’s presence is vital and that she, much like Obama, will not be disappearing into the background.
“She will have a say in what she wants to be. She will have a presence, a voice, a look. She will have it privately by my side as she always has, but she will have a public role because that’s how it goes,” Macron stated, as noted by The New York Times.
To those who criticize the couple’s age gap, Brigitte defenders aptly pointed out that if their ages were reversed, this wouldn’t even be an issue.
The truth that ageism is an issue that only surfaces when the woman is substantially older than the man is telling of the reverse scenario’s normalization. Natacha Henry, a writer on gender issues, noted the almost refreshing nature of the Macron relationship. “We’re so fed up with these older guys with young actresses.”
The Macrons’ relationship is viewed by some as a break with the pattern of men in power only pursuing women much younger than themselves. Macron is a “welcome antidote to past hypermasculine French politicians, and he surrounds himself with strong female advisers and models an egalitarian marriage,” as The New York Times expertly stated.
As Emmanuel Macron makes strides into the future of France, he makes it clear that Brigitte Macron will always remain by his side as a voice whose feedback he respects and admires. Liberté, égalite, fraternité—liberty, equality, fraternity—is the motto of the French, after all.
Featured Image by Arlington National Cemetery on Flickr
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