Politicians, journalists and her own daughter have stepped forward in defense of Brigitte Trogneux, wife of French President-elect Emmanuel Macron, in response to a series of sexist and misogynistic slurs against her.
Many of the unwelcome comments have focused on the fact that Trogneux — age 64 with seven grandchildren — is 24 years her husband’s senior. She famously went from being Macron’s teacher to his partner, and eventually his wife. Now she is France’s next first lady.
Macron’s convincing victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in last weekend’s election appears to have encouraged the wave of sexist comment.
On Sunday, French Republican party lawmaker Jacques Domergue joked on Facebook, “We have a new president who is a younger model of the previous one. Except that the previous one lived with a woman who was his daughter’s age and the new one with a woman who is his mother’s age.”
And on Wednesday, the front cover of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo carried a cartoon showing 39-year-old Macron resting a hand on the pregnant stomach of his wife, with the caption: “He’s going to work miracles!”
To put things in perspective, US President Donald Trump is 24 years older than Melania Trump, but few people are making a fuss about their age gap.
Trogneux tweeted an image of the Charlie Hebdo front page herself, saying: “Everything that is technically possible is not necessarily desirable or desired.”
Another of her tweets the same day reads: “I’ve become accustomed to listening only to those who convey positive messages. Life with Emmanuel was necessarily like this.”
In turn, public figures have spoken out to support Trogneux and slam the insults directed toward her.
Valérie Pécresse, Republican leader of the Ile-de-France region, tweeted Thursday: “Republican and feminine support for #BrigitteMacron, victim of a wave of sexist and misogynistic commentaries. Frankly… shame!”
Journalist, author and commentator Vanessa Schneider also voiced her outrage, tweeting: “The filthy misogyny of some comments on #BrigitteMacron sends shivers down my spine.”
“Sickening misogyny during the campaign, which we hope will be less harsh during the mandate.. We hope,” tweeted journalist Audrey Pulvar, referring to Macron’s five-year term.
Tiphaine Auzière, Trogneux’s daughter, spoke of her upset over the attacks on her mother in an interview with CNN’s French affiliate BFMTV.
“I think we cannot remain indifferent to this, and now I do not want to give any importance to people who convey this kind of stuff, because I find it totally outrageous in France in the 21st century to make such attacks,” she said. “These are attacks that we wouldn’t direct at male politicians or at a man who would accompany a female politician. So I think there’s a lot of jealousy, and that this is very inappropriate.”
A commentary piece published Thursday in French national newspaper Le Monde discussed how the insults — and even debate — prompted by the couple’s age difference expose the sexist cliches anchored in French society.
Macron himself commented on what he called “ordinary misogyny” in an interview with “Femme Actuelle” magazine in April, saying that his wife suffered much more as a result of it.
“I often say that if the age relationship were to be inverted, it wouldn’t shock anybody, people would find it great,” he said.
“She is beautiful, and the fact that she’s 20 years older than I am is terrible, because it is an issue of mockery, of terrible discourtesy. I give in to nothing, but it has taught us a lot, including in politics. We never build ourselves in relation to others’ gaze.”
Macron and Trogneux have been determined to ensure that their relationship, while unconventional, is not painted as some sort of scandal, making a point of making it public and posing for glossy French magazines.
‘Love took everything in its path’
Before she met Macron, Trogneux was on the path to living a relatively conventional life. She had a stable career teaching French literature, Latin and drama, and married a banker, André Louis Auzière, with whom she had three children.
It’s not clear when a serious romance began between the two, but Macron appeared to be a young man who knew what he wanted — at 17, he professed his love for Trogneux.
“Whatever you do, I will marry you,” he told her as he left their hometown, Amiens, to study elsewhere.
“Love took everything in its path and led me to divorce. It was impossible to resist him,” Trogneux told Paris Match magazine in 2016.
She divorced Auzière in 2006 and married Macron a year later, moving to Paris to work as a teacher.
In 2015, she gave up her career to focus on her husband, who was at the time the country’s economy minister.