Brendan O’Neill

By their own logic, feminists should support Marine Le Pen

By their own logic, feminists should support Marine Le Pen
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Why aren't feminists lining up behind Le Pen? I thought women had a moral responsibility to back women standing for office? That's certainly what they said during the Hillary-Trump clash. Yes, I am voting for Hillary because she's a woman, because she ‘knows what it's like to menstruate, be pregnant, give birth’, said one American feminist. So does Le Pen. She has three children. According to the rather crude biologism of feminist identitarianism, that makes her an even better candidate than Hillary, who has one kid. So why the silence, feminists? Aren't you ‘With Her’?

Looking back at the Hillary love-in, its remarkable how much it hinged on 'Hillary's a woman'. Robust talk about Hillary's ideas and policies — her cosyness with Wall St, her role in plunging Libya into bloody mayhem — was actively discouraged in favour of basically saying: ‘America needs its first female president.’

Indeed, you could find yourself branded misogynistic for daring to raise Hillary's dodgy political decisions. This search for 'dark deeds' in her political life is a 'misogynistic horror show', said a writer for the Guardian. The core vibe of the Hillary campaign was, ‘How can you talk about her past or policies — she’d be the first female president, for God’s sake?!’ The question now is why that isn’t being said of Le Pen: ‘Ignore her hard-right policies and the old photos of her with fascists — she’d be the first female president of France, for God’s sake!’ That’s the logical feminist position.

Back in 2016, the gender-trumps-policy argument was everywhere. American feminist and Guardian contributor Kate Harding said: ‘I intend to vote with my vagina.’ Voting for Hillary ‘just because she’s a woman’ is a ‘damned solid reason', she said. Would Harding back Le Pen? After all, Le Pen has a vagina, and Emmanuel Macron has a penis, just as every other bloody French president in history has had a penis. And this makes Le Pen the preferable candidate, right?

Another Guardian writer, Jessica Valenti, said it was totally cool to elevate Hillary’s gender over her policies. I would play the ‘gender card… again and again', she said, because getting America its first-ever woman president is ‘important, symbolic and necessary’. Then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Hillary’s gender should be a ‘very major consideration’ for voters. Should Le Pen’s gender be a very major consideration for the French?

American writer Gabrielle Moss said she was voting for Hillary, not following a ‘clear-eyed, unemotional review of her political track record’, but because she felt an ‘intense personal connection’ with Hillary as woman. Imagine if a French feminist said this. ‘Never mind Le Pen’s harsher, borderline racist policies. I just love her womanliness.’ Do they see now how ridiculous is the politics of identity, the elevation of a candidate’s sex over her outlook?

And who can forget the media fury rained upon American women who refused to vote for Hillary. They were diagnosed with internalised misogyny. A scathing, supposedly feminist piece in the Irish Times likened women who voted for Trump to ‘slaves fluffing the pillows of their master’s rocking chair on his porch as he shouts abuse at them’. Stupid, self-hating women — didn’t they know they had a moral duty to back Hillary Clinton? The irony of feminists branding ordinary women pig-ignorant for failing to vote emotionally rather than on the basis of policy should be lost on absolutely no one.

All the reasons feminists gave for voting for Hillary — she knows the pain of motherhood; she knows what it’s like to get sexist flak; there has never been a female president — can be said word for word about Le Pen. But it isn’t being said. There are two possible reasons for this.

The first is that when influential media feminists say we need more women in office, they really mean more women like them. They don’t mean Le Pen, or even far nicer candidates than her, like Andrea Leadsom or Sarah Palin or Kate Hoey, who has the temerity to love Brexit. They mean women who share their politics, and their prejudices, and who come from the same social set as them. This is the use of the feminist lingo as a cover for a ‘jobs for the girls’ attitude that’s all about pushing certain women, the right women, Good Women. That’s a pretty ugly misuse of feminism, if you ask me.

The second, more hopeful reason is that they’ve realised, finally, that judging people by their sex rather than by what they believe is daft — foul, in fact. Could it be that the rise of Le Pen, a woman who isn’t very nice, a female candidate with unpleasant views, might shatter the politics of identity? Might destroy once and for all the warped 21st-century idea that we should see a person’s biology rather than his or her ideas? Let’s hope so. That would be the one good thing about her campaign. For too long, identitarians have insisted on diversity at the expense of considerations of conviction or intellect; that the most ‘diverse’ candidate in France is also the worst might finally set them straight on such nonsense.