man wins presidential election; world is shocked May 10, 2007Posted by sindhub in 2007 french presidential election, careerwomen, class, female politicos, Female Power, female voters, feminism, france, gender, Girl Power, Hillary Clinton, in the news, International, jacques chirac, motherhood, new york times, news stories, nicolas sarkozy, politics, Power, segolene royal.
As you may know, France’s presidential election took place recently. In a runoff between rightist Nicolas Sarkozy and socialist Segolene Royal, Sarkozy was chosen to replace Jacques Chirac, 53 to 47 percent. What’s relevant to ‘girl power’ is that Royal is a woman. I found this article, “France’s female voters shun Segolene Royal,” which makes the situation sound pretty bad. But the female vote for Royal wasn’t much different from the overall vote, with a 52 to 48 margin in favor of Sarkozy. Although Royal focused part of her campaign on appealing specfically to female voters ‘as a mother’ and promising greater equality (only 12% of French lawmakers are female), apparently female voters thought she focused on it too much. Some of the women interviewed say that they didn’t vote for Royal just because she’s a woman, because they didn’t think she was going to do anything for them or because she didn’t share the same vision for the country that they did.
There are two conflicting ways to look at the situation. On one hand, isn’t this what we want, for women to be seen as individuals (as ‘human’) and not just as women? But, do we really want that when it doesn’t work in their favor? Especially when it might not be working in their favor because the political system is still biased against them? And it seems that while Royal was criticized for showing too much identification with one demographic, that being women, she’s also criticized for not reaching out to working-class women enough. Apparently she has an ‘elite insider’ sort of image, alienating voters, which seems more impolitic than anything else. Interestingly, I read another article recently that talks about how Sarkozy is more of an outsider, or at least manages to paint himself as one. He also seems to have a brash ruling style that polarizes people (which makes sense, considering the near-split between him and Royal), unlike Chirac, who I believe was seen as more faltering than anything else. So Sarkozy had more of a ‘hard worker’ and ‘underdog’ vibe, which seems like more of a masculine ruling style, which is why he might have appealed to voters who wanted a firmer hand than they got with Chirac and presumably wouldn’t have gotten with Royal. Ironically, I think those are the very qualities that helped the main characters be seen as ‘girl power’ role models in many of the films we watched this semester, especially Girlfight and G.I. Jane.
But in general, I’m kind of impressed that a woman at least almost won presidency in France. But I wonder how much Royal’s rise to the top has to do with her elite background and the ensuing nepotism, as we’ve talked about in class before in terms of Hillary Clinton’s potential presidency.