‘Frexit’, the economy and immigration aside, there was one other key talking point during the recent French presidential election – the age of front-runner Emmanuel Macron’s wife Brigitte Trogneux – who at 64 is 24 years his senior.
Now the newly elected president has addressed the international obsession with his relationship in comments made to Le Parisien newspaper, and in particular, the insinuation by some people that their marriage is a cover for his homosexuality. During the last days of the election Macron was the victim of a smear campaign accusing him of having a homosexual affair with a well-known French journalist, while Danish politician Søren Krarup, called Macron a ‘pretty little gay boy’ during a televised debate.
‘If I was 20 years older than my wife, nobody would think for a single second that we couldn’t be legitimately together,’ he told Le Parisien. ‘It's because she is 20 years older than me that a lot of people say, ‘this relationship can't be tenable, it can't be possible.’ It says a lot about the misogyny in France. There is a big problem with the presentation of society and how they see the place of a woman."
His comments are particularly poignant when you consider that the age difference between US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania is exactly the same, but inversed. Has there ever been a public outcry or media interest in their relationship due to this age-gap? Not that I can remember.
(Indeed, many have wanted to cast Melania as a mistreated wife, desperate to get out of her marriage, but none of these think-pieces have brought up her comparable youth to her husband).
As Macron suggests, it is actually an inherently sexist attitude that an ‘older’ woman cannot be attractive to a younger man – that their relationship is somehow perverse, or fake, or masking homosexuality. This all ties in to how women are often valued by society for their looks – once these have ‘gone’ – when our breasts aren’t as perky and our faces are showing signs of ageing – we’re no longer seen as particularly valuable.
Just look at how the media reports with a raised eyebrow on the marriages of Sam Taylor-Johnson and her husband Aaron, or Hugh Jackman and his older wife Deborra, yet barely bats an eyelid when Mick Jagger hooks up with yet another woman younger than some of his children. It’s a double-standard that’s annoyingly prevalent in society.
It’s refreshing for a world leader to be so forthright, and his comments definitely signal that he is an ardent feminist as well as a defender of gay rights (he said that the right's attempted smear campaign only revealed their own rampant homophobia). We’re expecting big things of Monsieur Macron. Vive l’age gap!