World of men: French glass ceiling remains intact despite equality laws


PARIS: Three candidates are preparing for the French presidential election scheduled for next April in France.

The socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, the president of the far-right National Rally, Marine Le Pen, and the spokesperson for the far-left Lutte Ouvrière party, Nathalie Arthaud.

A fourth candidate, Valérie Pécresse, president of the Ile-de-France Regional Council, could join them if her fate is positively sealed at the end of the Congress of Right-wing Republicans.

During a congress scheduled for December 1 to 4, active supporters are called upon to vote and choose between five candidates, including Valérie Pécresse, who will wear the colors of the Republicans in the next presidential election.

Glass ceiling

If the latter is selected, four women will be candidates for the supreme office, which will be a first in France, compared to previous polls.

Does this mean that equality between women and men in public and political life has progressed? We cannot be so sure.

Equality in France can be well codified in legal texts, and if women can be present in various political bodies, power remains predominantly male.

Key positions like the presidency of the National Assembly, the presidency of the government, and of course the presidency of the republic itself remain reserved for men, until further notice.

The only exception in the history of the Fifth Republic was the appointment of Edith Cresson by former President François Mitterrand to the post of Prime Minister in 1991. For the rest, the rise of a woman to the highest office has always been braked. by the “glass ceiling”.

Only two women politicians, Le Pen and the former socialist minister Ségolène Royal, reached the second round of a presidential election. Royal had faced and lost against former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, while Le Pen suffered the same fate against President Emmanuel Macron in 2017.

Unpreparedness, fragmentation

It should be noted that both showed a lack of preparation against their respective competitors in the debate which usually precedes the second round of the elections. It is highly doubtful that any of the three – maybe four – female candidates in the starting blocks for 2022 will have a chance to make it to the second round.

The reasons for this doubt are integral to the nature of the upcoming campaign, which promises to be as difficult as it is volatile. The extreme fragmentation of the French political landscape certainly has something to do with it, as is the density of economic, social and security problems exacerbated by an endless health crisis of COVID-19.

But the reasons for doubt also lie in the positioning of each of the candidates and their characteristics. Anne Hidalgo, French of Spanish origin and mayor of Paris since 2014, snatched the socialist candidacy after a bitter battle with several officials of her party, still shattered since Macron came to power.

Her candidacy will suffer from the weakness of the party and the bad image that the French had of her during her years as mayor. It stagnates in the polls at a level that is too low which does not exceed 5% of voting intentions and is struggling to be heard by voters.

They describe her as a bad and incompetent candidate with brutal methods and “not close to people”. So she is a really hated candidate, even in her own camp, where 49% feel the same way.

On the other hand, Le Pen is better placed, because it has the support of its party and progresses in the polls which give it between 19% and 21% of the voting intentions.

Le Pen’s deep legacy with the far-right party began at birth. She is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front, now known as the National Rally. However, his surprising breakthrough in 2017 in the second round of the last presidential election is far from certain this time around.

It comes up against a major obstacle, which is none other than the potential candidate columnist Eric Zemmour, who is slowly shattering his electoral base and who is credited, after a recent drop, with 15% of voting intentions.


Le Pen went to great lengths to distance himself from his father and to protect far-right politics from a more rudimentary approach. Here, she is forced to stand out from Zemmour, who does not shy away from any provocation, even the hatred of those killed and left behind.

Nathalie Arthaud, 60, is certainly the most serene of the candidates. It is already in its third campaign and is around 1% of voting intentions. Arthaud knows very well that she will never reach the second round, let alone the Elysee. She is content, as a good party activist – having joined at the age of 18 – to make the workers’ voice heard.

His campaign ideas and slogans are quite simple: increased salaries, free healthcare, retirement at age 60 and the end of French military operations abroad.

Barring a dramatic twist, a woman is unlikely to be elected to the presidency at the end of the 2022 election. Despite the shortcomings and obstacles facing the various candidates, the misogyny that continues to characterize the political class and even some French media.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his appointment to Matignon last May, Cresson described his mission to the press as “11 months of hell”. The only woman ex-French Prime Minister, now 87 years old, considers that she has been “betrayed everywhere”.

She explained, “Everything I have successfully accomplished has not been reported, on the other hand they flagged and twisted my words to make the headlines.”

To prove her point, she said she told then-Foreign Minister Roland Dumas one-on-one that “the Japanese are working like ants.”

Her remarks were echoed by a French newspaper claiming that she had said “the Japanese are ants”, which provoked intense protests from Japan.

This is just one episode among many others told by Cresson, who became the target of the political class and the media and who believed himself sacrificed on the altar of misogyny.

However, this misogyny is still present in the French political class, to such an extent that the National Assembly has decided to opt for a hard method to fight it: to halve the salary of a deputy if he makes sexist remarks. to a fellow deputy.


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