Since 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron seems to likely to win Sunday's run-off race with Marine Le Pen for French president, there's been quite of media 'spainin'–or maybe it's media hemmin' and hawin'–over the fact that he's 25 years younger than his 64-year-old wife, Brigitte, who was his drama teacher and schoolboy heartthrob when he was 15 years old.
Now, I've got to say that Brigitte is a terrifically attractive 64-year-old with that je ne sais quoi sense of fashion style that Frenchwomen seem to have drunk in with their mamans' milk. If marrying a woman old enough to be your mother–and who is in fact a mother already but is way too old to bear your children–floats your bateau, allez for it! But what's fascinating is the media-feminist rush to defend this unusual-to-say-the-least marital arrangement. Here's a sample, from the Washington Post:
Emmanuel Macron, the front-runner in Sunday’s French presidential election, shares something with President Trump: a 24-year age gap with his wife. The difference is that Macron’s wife is the older one.
That cliche-busting fact — a candidate young enough to be his wife’s son, rather than old enough to be her father — is a little social “revenge” that delights many French women, including Martine Bergossi.
“Why can’t we marry younger men? I date them all the time,” said Bergossi, the stylish owner of Alternatives, a secondhand-couture shop in Paris, who prefers to leave her exact age to the imagination."…
Most of the French women interviewed said a politician’s private life is not a reason to vote for or against him or her. In the United States, too, Trump’s two divorces, considerable age gap with his third wife, and even a recorded conversation in which he lewdly discussed groping women did not prevent his electoral victory….
"Did men ask anybody when they started marrying younger women?” asked Karin Lewin, an artist with a studio in Montmartre. “Who sets the rules?”
She likes that Macron is shaking up the men’s political club.
And then we have the U.K. Independent:
But this has nothing to do with pupil-teacher relationships, French politics or romantic behaviour. This is simply sexism.
What is fuelling endless chatter about Macron’s position in the relationship and his history with Brigitte is the fact that she is his senior. If Macron had been a woman and Brigitte a man, likely there would never have been such an uproar – at least in France.
In the US, there has been no backlash against Donald Trump, whose flamboyant wife Melania Trump is 24 years younger than him – strangely enough, that’s the same age gap as the Macrons….
Criticism of Brigitte as the ageing peroxide blonde about to step in the shoes of a first lady is just another expression of misogyny in the political sphere. And it ignores the fact that her age and experience may prove essential to balance the political immaturity Macron has been accused of.
Shorter version of both pieces: Why, why, why do we think it's OK when an older man marries a much younger woman a la Trump, but it's weird when a younger man marries an older woman a la Macron? Isn't that pure misogyny? Even in tres sophistiquee France, where it's ooh-la-la about most sexual relationships, the Macron marriage is regarded as all about "social revenge" that will send older-but-single Frenchwomen to the polls to take it out on all those chauvinistic Frenchmen who bypass them to take up, like Trump, with women who are actually of childbearing age.
And what this illustrates, of course, is the eagerness of liberals, including feminists, to substitute gender ideology for biological reality. They might want to peruse this 2007 report in the U.K. Telegraph:
A study published today in the journal Biology Letters, provides evidence that the reason for these unions is that men prefer young women due to their high fertility while women prefer older men due to their wealth and high social status, which make them good providers for the offspring….
Now Dr Samuli Helle, University of Turku, has found the answer with the help of a study of the nomadic Sami, the "reindeer people" of Finland….
What they found was that the men maximized their "evolutionary fitness" – ability to pass on their genes to future generations – by marrying women who were 14.6 years younger, and vice versa.
"Those men had the highest number of offspring surviving to adulthood," said Dr Helle, who did his study with Drs Virpi Lummaa of the University of Sheffield and Jukka Jokela of the ETH in Zurich.
"Young Sami women were the most fertile and had the highest reproductive value, whereas older Sami men had acquired enough skills needed for successful hunting, fishing and reindeer herding and, most importantly, wealth to be good providers for the progeny and thus desirable mates," they conclude.
Macron may be perfectly happy with his wife who has never borne his children, and older Frenchwomen might think they're striking a blow against a sexist double marital standard in voting for him, but I don't think the "social revenge" will be a trend.
Ask the Sami.