A Fabulous Victory for Older Women (Thoughts on the Story behind the Story of the French Election)

I am all of a sudden keenly interested in French politics. Yes, it’s a relief that the centrist Emmanuel Macron defeated crazy-cakes (or should I say “fou-gateau”) Marine Le Pen a few days ago. And, I am certainly enjoying what will likely be only a brief revival of optimism about humanity’s collective conscience which I lost on November 8th. But that isn’t why I am cheering the outcome of the recent election in France. What I am most excited about is the marriage between Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron (née Trogneux).

If you were too focused on the philosophical differences between Macron and Le Pen on issues of immigration, economics, and foreign affairs to pay attention to what I think is the real story here, you can be forgiven. The fabulous news in Macron’s victory is that at the age of 39, he is a quarter-century younger than his 64-year-old wife. Politics’ new power couple will make the “older woman” fashionable.

This is a big deal for me. As a middle-aged woman, I am exceptionally conscious that older women get less respect than younger ones do and fewer opportunities. Women face ageism more than men and this poses greater barriers in employment and in love. It is far more common to see a Donald-Melania pairing than an Emmanuel-Brigitte one. It’s like our sexual currency is in the “red” and it’s tougher to “bank” on it to open doors.

Feeling vibrant, relevant, sexy is unfortunately influenced by how others’ view us. And society isn’t kind to older women. So, having an older, smart French First Lady who is also “hot” will do as much to shift attitudes as her husband’s views on what some may argue are weightier matters of domestic policy. But, I’d argue that his views about his wife will send an equally important message — that older women should be embraced, not ignored – and sought after for our age, not despite it. If Emmanuel can make older women as “fashionable” as France’s exports of Louboutin shoes, that’s a win.

I’m smitten with Madame Macron. She’s my poster girl for how not to let ourselves “go” both physically and intellectually. Her husband clearly adores her, and looks up to her for counsel. Well, she was his teacher in high school, after all, and the “mom” of one of his classmates. This fact has disturbed some people who toss around words like “power imbalance’ and “sexual predator.” But I beg to differ.

While Emmanuel was not technically at the age of “consent” when he declared his love for the then-married Brigitte, there is ample evidence that he was an exceptionally smart, serious-minded, mature teenager. Let’s be honest. Not all 17-year-olds are created equal and Macron’s cognitive age far exceeded his chronological age. So, while he may have been slightly shy of the age in which society deemed him old enough to make his own determinations about love (“may have” because the age at which he and Brigitte officially consummated their relationship is a closely guarded personal secret), he clearly initiated the romance – rather than being pursued by an older, manipulative adult (as is sadly the case in many teacher-pupil relationships).

This was not a schoolboy crush as it turned out, but (and I’ll put my chips on this) everlasting love. Yet, many remain suspicious of their relationship insisting that Macron is a “mommy’s boy” while others suggest he is gay and his relationship with Brigitte is just political smoke and mirrors. Why are some people so dismissive of the union of a younger man with an older woman when they don’t see a problem with an older man-younger woman match-up?

I think I know the answer to this. Society shames women for all kinds of things, including their sexuality. It’s not “comfortable” when women have too much sexual power or dominance over men. However, this won’t happen when the man is older and more powerful. That is regarded as the “natural” order of things. So, could it be threatening to some that an older woman still has that “power” when her “usefulness” should have dried up by now?

I think Madame Macron is performing a valuable public service. And, I’m definitely paying closer attention to French politics now.

Photo credit: Unsplash- Thomas Hafeneth

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