One of the many fascinating, if beside le larger point, storylines to emerge from the recent French presidential election is the one about the relationship between that country’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife, Brigitte — more specifically about the gender-bending, woman-bites-man difference in their ages, and even more specifically, the generally positive French public and media response to said yawning 25-year gap.
Emmanuel is 39, Brigitte is 64.
When they met, he was a 15-year-old school boy in Amiens in Northern France; she was his married, mother-of-three drama teacher. One of her daughters, in fact, was Emmanuel’s classmate. When he came to audition for a play in ninth grade, she told London’s Daily Mail last month, “I watched him. I just found him incredible. He had such presence… He simply wasn’t an adolescent.”
Emmanuel was equally smitten. His parents eventually sent him off to Paris for high school to discourage their relationship. It didn’t. The two called each other every day. Eventually, she left her banker husband and family and moved to Paris to be with her much younger lover.
Flash forward to today. Last Sunday, Macron won the French presidency with Brigitte at his side as both wife and political partner (“Without her,” he has said, “I wouldn’t be me”), and his same-aged step-daughters, and their own children, all celebrating on stage at the Louvre.
“We do not have a classic family, it’s undeniable,” Macron explained. “But do we have less love in this family? I do not think so. Maybe there’s even more than conventional families.”
French voters, not to mention the international media and social media, seem enamoured by the couple’s love story.
In part, of course, that’s because their relationship flips the much more traditional and clichéd powerful-older-man/younger-woman-bauble narrative on its head. “It’s like a breath of fresh air in this country,” suggested Franco-British journalist and historian Natacha Henry, who writes about gender parity in politics and sexism in popular culture.
And yet… Quelle difference!
Consider the case of Carolyn Amy Hood. She too was 39, a Pictou County junior high school teacher who became sexually involved with two former students, a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old boy. In April 2016, Hood was convicted of sexual interference, sexual exploitation, and luring minors over the Internet for a sexual purpose. (The defence has appealed her conviction; the Crown is appealing her 15-month sentence of house arrest.)
Hood’s is not the only recent similar criminal case. Last month, another judge agreed to delay the sentencing of Sarah Allt Harnish — a 36-year-old Hubley, NS, junior high school teacher who’d pleaded guilty to a charge of inviting a male student, a minor, to “sexual touching” — while Hood’s appeals work their way through the judicial system.
All of which is to say that other women — men too, and far more of them, of course — have ended up with criminal records and often jail time as a result of what seem, on the surface, to be similar-fact situations to the ones that now make the Macrons the subject of fawning international media coverage. (For the record, it is also illegal in France for a teacher to have sexual relations with a student under the age of 18; the Macrons themselves have been coy about when their infatuation became sexual, calling that “our secret.”)
I am not arguing here that Brigitte Macron should have ended up in jail for what — from the perspective of 25 years on — seems to have turned out more than OK, and far better than many conventional relationships.
Nor am I claiming Hood, Harnish, or others should get a free pass, based simply on the Macrons’ apparent happy ending.
What I am suggesting is that lived lives are inevitably more complicated and unfathomable than the one-size-fits-all rules by which our legal system defines what is acceptable and what is criminal.
We should all keep that in mind when we rush to there-are-no-rules-here, 140-character social media judgment about real lives we really know nothing about.
In last week’s column about the controversial 14-years-and-counting case of Dr. Gabrielle Horne, I reported I’d asked each of the province’s three major political parties to state publicly whether they would — if elected —
- instruct the Nova Scotia Health Authority to abandon its appeal of Dr. Horne’s 2016 courtroom victory;
- address the underlying issues that led the jury to award her $1.4 million;
- and redirect the financial resources required for such an appeal to health care.
The NDP response was included in the column. On May 9, the Progressive Conservatives emailed the following response:
- abandon its appeal – Yes
- address the underlying problems that led the jury to award her $1.4-million, and – Yes
- redirect the financial resources such an appeal requires to health care? – Yes
The Tories also noted their MLA, Tim Houston, had been vocal about the case and included an exchange with the health minister in the legislature:
HEALTH & WELLNESS: HORNE CASE – COSTS
TIM HOUSTON«» : Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Wellness. Given that a previous government disclosed that over $1 million had been spent on legal bills by 2007 and given that the public has an ongoing right to know how public funds are spent, I would like to ask the minister what the sum total is for taxpayer money disbursed to outside law firms in the course of the Dr. Gabrielle Horne matter, during his tenure as minister. I would like him to include legal fees for secretaries, lawyers, meetings, court costs, preparation, and all related matters. Can the minister tell us, what is the sum total of legal fees that this government has spent during just his tenure as minister?
HON. LEO GLAVINE « » : Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is talking about an issue that now goes back 14 years with the former Capital Health district that continues to move forward with the NSHA and is currently under appeal before the courts.
HOUSTON«» : I thought the minister might be reluctant to talk about how much has been spent in legal fees. I’m sure the amount of money is absolutely staggering, the fact that the courts have decided what happened here now – and this government is continuing with an appeal. I know in the corporate world a lot of times when you’re looking at a legal situation, the parties will look at what the probability is of success. I know three or four instances right away that make me wonder if this government’s determination is the probability of the individual citizen on the other side kind of giving up and throwing in the towel because everyone wants a fiscally responsible government. Nobody wants a callous government and when we see these situations – appeals, appeals, and appeals. I would like to ask the minister, by what date in the future can we reasonably expect this government to disclose in the interests of transparency how much money they’ve spent on this case
GLAVINE«» : I certainly believe that any time taxpayer money goes for legal fees, that it should be disclosed to the public; it will be done in due course. The member should realize, however, she’s not an employee of the Department of Health and Wellness. She is an employee originally of the Capital Health district, now with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. It is their prerogative in terms of continuing to reach a settlement. I know a settlement will be reached, but that’s for the courts to determine.
Which leaves the Liberal Party, which acknowledged my email but has yet to answer my questions: Where does the Liberal Party formally stand on these questions. Are there any Liberals out there who can/will answer my questions?
From what I have read, their relationship was not a physical or romantic relationship and properly together until more than 10 years after they first met while Macron was in high school. So that would be quite a different scenario to the sexual relations with a minor of the other teachers.
French culture is very different for sure when it comes to sexuality and how it should be lived… one might also add that the NS teacher claimed that her mental health issues were partly to blame on her getting involved with those boys… so I am not sure how well those two cases compare…
It’s the good old “sexual abuse is OK as long as a woman is doing it”. Obviously in Macron’s case it worked out and there’s no point being critical of their relationship at this point.
That being said, Bridgette Macron is perfectly emblematic of the state of Europe:
Infertile, senile, afraid.
A Rothschild banker being elected to run France (It’s icing on the cake that the EU anthem, Ode To Joy, rather than La Marseillaise was played at his victory parade) is perfectly symbolic of our times and I 100% support this. I hope the people who voted for Macron remember how good they felt when “nazism” was defeated when their throats are being slit a decade or two from now.
Macron’s coworkers painted a powerful symbol of progressive victory below the Eiffel tower to commemorate the occasion:
You can view the brilliant works of the artist here:
Unfortunately, it is hard to believe that what any political party says they will do if elected is what they will actually do about this or any other issue.
To expect any different is to deny their actions after being elected in the past – all three parties. Sad