Let’s get this one thing straight: We don’t have a problem with current French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, 39, and his wife Brigitte, 64. She was his schoolteacher almost 24 years ago and he had made a promise to marry her when he was 17. The Independent writes, “In October 2007, 21 months after she divorced the banker André Louis Auzière, the 54-year-old Brigitte and the 29-year-old Macron married in the upmarket town of Le Touquet, where they have a home.” The same article highlights that the monogramous relationship is refreshing given the usual scandalous presidents of France. If they are happy, consenting adults who are out to change the endangered political landscape in France and Europe, then we don’t need to make problems that aren’t there in the first place.
The problem here is the age-old double standard. When a man goes after an older woman, he’s celebrated. He’s got game even. Change the age difference a bit and the man still looks good. Cheers of the machismo ring heavily along with lines like “He’s still got it!”
Turn the tables and you’ve got a different story. If the older woman is placed in the limelight and perceived as the enabler of the relationship, the media goes into a frenzy. It’s frowned upon. The women are subject to accusations of going through a midlife crisis, called babysnatchers, labelled as cougars. Like it’s a bad thing for a woman to do what she wants? Think of what Demi Moore and Mariah Carey had to face at the height of their relationships with younger partners.
Speculations as to why the man would go with someone older are also abound. “Sugar mommy” is a common phrase thrown around. So here’s the man once again portrayed as someone who is taking advantage of the woman. It’s apparently okay for him to do it, I mean, there’s no other reason he should stay in the relationship, right? As for the woman, there’s also speculation of an untamed libido. As if it is so bad for a woman to want sex. Why are we so concerned over what people are doing in their bedrooms? Get out of there and get your own!
For Macron and his wife, there is no scandalized angle, not a lot of disapproving looks. People quickly move on and try to reason how the problem is more about if he will win against Marine Le Pen. How nice that a man gets that privilege and the woman doesn’t.
The Guardian said it best as Macron doesn’t need to worry about being taken seriously even when he’s with an older woman. “The social architecture of heterosexual relations, combined with the endemic ageism in the way female sexuality and attractiveness are perceived, mean that being older, as a woman, isn’t an advantage; au contraire, it makes her the weaker party, since he is such a stud and she is so past it.” If the woman were younger, she’d have to worry about being looked down upon as a sugar baby or a bimbo in need of a bank account. Men don’t need to worry about that because, whatever happens, ageism and sexism gurantee that they will be dominant over their partners in whatever scenario.
And that’s another disturbing structure: relationships as a play on power. For some reason, one must be dominant over the other. Hint: It’s always the male counterpart. Ageism works to make sure a woman’s worth is tied to her youth and sexism guarantees that an older man can do whatever he wants with women no matter how young they are. Both structures work to establish that if there is a disparity in the union, the man will come out as the alpha. Great, no I don’t have to worry about equality in society but also in my private moments with my spouse. Women just can’t win in this, can we?
Photo courtesy of The Guardian