The absurd interest in Emmanuel Macron's personal life would have one believe that he indulges in Roman style orgies every day.

French presidential candidate Macron is 39 his wife 64 Why do we find this so hard to acceptScreenshot/ Youtube
Voices Sexism Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 17:09

The way the personal life of 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, the French presidential candidate, has been discussed and debated in the international media, you'd think he indulges in Roman style orgies every evening after making his campaign speeches.

But the reason for the gossip is not Macron's "other women," but the woman he married ten years ago - Brigitte Macron. You see, Brigitte is 64 years old. The couple has a 25-year age gap between them, and this normally wouldn't have elicited much comment if it had been Emmanuel Macron who was the older of the two. After all, Donald Trump is 70 and Melania is 47 and we barely read anything about how scandalous the age gap was.

To be sure, the Emmanuel-Brigitte love story is quite unique. Emmanuel was only 15 when he met Brigitte, the 40-year-old mother of his classmate (she also had two other children), and his school teacher. At 17, he declared that he would marry her and his parents had to forbid Brigitte from entering into a romantic relationship with their son at least till he turned 18.

Now such a relationship would have raised eyebrows even if the genders had been reversed - one cannot imagine the media to have been any less forgiving if a 40-year-old father of three had been romantically involved with a schoolgirl.

The outrage would have been justified if Emmanuel were still a child. However, it is important to remember that neither Emmanuel nor Brigitte are in school any more. Emmanuel was 29, most certainly an adult, when he and his longtime love got married. It's been a decade since this happened and yet, an old photograph of the two of them in which schoolboy Emmanuel is kissing Brigitte's cheek is being bandied around as proof of their "odd" relationship.

The disbelief that the Emmanuel-Brigitte pairing inspires in us speaks volumes about our conditioning - it's far easier for us to accept a much older man's relationship with a young woman than it is when the age difference is the other way around.

Sachin Tendulkar's wife, Anjali, is a mere five years older than he is, but everyone in the country knows this fact. If you were asked for the age difference between, say, MS Dhoni and Sakshi, would you have the answer at your fingertips? The seven year age gap between the last pair is unremarkable because it's Dhoni who's older of the two.

Films, too, routinely have much older men paired with women young enough to be their daughters. Daniel Craig (47) famously slammed an interviewer who asked him how he felt to have an "older woman" like Monica Bellucci (51) seduce him - this when Bond girls have typically been decades younger than the suave agent and no question has been raised about the "inappropriateness".

Whether Emmanuel Macron becomes the French president or not, the media's irrational interest in his marriage will always stand as a reminder to how much further we have to go before we can truly say that we've moved out of the narrow boxes drawn by sexism.

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