Gender equality narratives, the right and democracy: developing a comparative tool from the case of the 2017 French Presidential election

  • Renee L. BuhrEmail author
Original Article


The increased use of gender equality appeals by right-wing parties, and the inclusion of “gender equality” among touted “European” or “liberal values,” requires scholarly analysis. The variety of narratives available, and their differing policy consequences, make this research important, particularly in light of its politicization and potential to enhance, or undermine, the liberal aspects of modern democracy. This paper provides an original, two-dimensional tool with which to differentiate between gender equality narratives, based on comprehensiveness of policy proposals and the underlying individualist or communalist ontologies found in right-wing rhetoric. This tool is then used to examine the gender equality appeals made by right-wing candidates in the 2017 French Presidential elections. Campaign documents used by François Fillon, Marine Le Pen, and Alain Juppé were analyzed in order to understand how “new” right-wing narratives of gender equality differed from the “classical” gender equality narratives of the center and center-left. This case revealed the existence of four gender equality narratives used by these candidates—comprehensive, post-colonial, imminent threat, and essentialist. These narratives, and the comparative tool developed here, can be used in future research to examine right- and left-wing narratives of gender equality in other liberal democratic states.


Gender Right-wing parties Immigration France Nationalism Racism 



The author would like to express her gratitude for support provided by Sciences Po-Bordeaux and the Centre Emile Durkheim, as well as the Luann Dummer Center for Women and the University of St. Thomas College of Arts and Sciences. She also thanks Alice Kang, Lynne Bernier, Angela High-Pippert, Steven Maloney, and two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions for revision of previous drafts of the paper. Finally, the author thanks Erin Engstran for her assistance with this research project.


  1. Akkerman, T., and A. Hagelund. 2007. ‘Women and children first!’ Anti-immigration parties and gender in Norway and the Netherlands. Patterns of Prejudice 41(2): 197–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balibar, E., I.M. Wallerstein, and S.R.I. Wallerstein. 1991. Race, nation, class: Ambiguous identities. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  3. Barthélémy, P., and V. Sebillotte-Cuchet. 2016. Sous la citoyenneté, le genre. Clio 1: 7–22.Google Scholar
  4. Béland, D. 2003. Identity Politics and French Republicanism. Society 40(5): 66–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benelli, N., E. Hertz, C. Delphy, C. Hamel, P. Roux, and J. Falquet. 2006. De l’affaire du voile à l’imbrication du sexisme et du racisme. Nouvelles Questions Féministes 25(1): 4–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berbuir, N., M. Lewandowsky, and J. Siri. 2015. The AfD and its sympathizers: Finally a right-wing populist movement in Germany? German Politics 24(2): 154–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bertossi, Christophe. 2011. National models of integration in Europe: A comparative and critical analysis. American Behavioral Scientist 55(12): 1561–1580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowen, J. 2010. Why the French don’t like headscarves: Islam, the state, and public space. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Buhr, R.L. 2017. Mapping the political opportunity space of secularism: French republican appeals to laïcité. French Politics 15(4): 460–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cautrès, B. 2016. Les Trois France, La Note #5, vague 1. L’Enquête Electorale Française: Comprendre 2017. Sciences Po/CEVIPOF. Available at: Accessed 20 September 2016.
  11. Celis, K., and S. Childs. 2018. Conservatism and women’s political representation. Politics and Gender 14: 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. CEVIPOF. 2017. L’Enquête Electorale Française: Comprendre 2017, Vague 17. Available at:ées-et-résultats/. Accessed on 25 June 2018.
  13. Daly, E. 2013. Laïcité and republicanism during the Sarkozy presidency. French Politics 11(2): 182–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dargent, C. 2017. “Les Catholiques entre les primaires de la droite et la vote à la présidentielle” La Note #29, vague 9, L’Enquête Electorale Française: Comprendre 2017. Sciences Po/CEVIPOF. Accessed 1 Feb 2017.
  15. De Lange, S., and L. Mügge. 2015. Gender and right-wing populism in the Low Countries: Ideological variations across parties and time. Patterns of Prejudice 49(1–2): 61–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dimier, V. 2008. French secularism in debate: Old wine in new bottles. French Politics, Culture and Society 26(1): 92–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Farris, S.R. 2012. Femonationalism and the” Regular” army of labor called migrant women. History of the Present 2(2): 184–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fassin, É. 2006. La démocratie sexuelle et le conflit des civilisations. Multitudes 3: 123–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fernando, M.L. 2013. Save the Muslim woman, save the Republic: Ni Putes Ni Soumises and the ruse of neoliberal sovereignty. Modern and Contemporary France 21(2): 147–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gerring, J. 2004. What is a case study and what is it good for? American Political Science Review 98(2): 341–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goodliffe, G. 2015. Europe’s salience and ‘owning’ Euroscepticism: Explaining the Front National’s victory in the 2014 European elections in France. French Politics 13(4): 324–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guénif-Souilamas, N. 2005. La fin de l’intégration, la preuve par les femmes. Mouvements 3: 150–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hardy, C., B. Harley, and N. Phillips. 2004. Discourse analysis and content analysis: Two solitudes? Qualitative Methods 2(1): 19–22.Google Scholar
  24. Heine, S. 2009. The Hijab controversy and French republicanism: Critical analysis and normative propositions. French Politics 7(2): 167–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ivaldi, G. 2015. Towards the median economic crisis voter? The new leftist economic agenda of the Front National in France. French Politics 13(4): 346–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. King, G., R. Keohane, and S. Verba. 1994. Designing social inquiry: Scientific inference in qualitative research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kitschelt, H., and A. McGann. 1997. The radical right in Western Europe: A comparative analysis. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  28. Le Renard, A., and Marteu, E. 2014. Genre et nation: approches sociologiques. Sciences Po (Presses de).Google Scholar
  29. Macron, E. 2017. Programme: En Marche!. Available at: Accessed May 5, 2017.
  30. Marshall, T.H., and T.B. Bottomore. 1992. Citizenship and social class. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  31. Meret, S. 2015. Charismatic female leadership and gender: Pia Kjearsgaard and the Danish People’s party. Patterns of Prejudice 49(1–2): 81–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Meret, S., and B. Siim. 2013. Gender, populism and politics of belonging: Discourses of right-wing populist parties in Denmark, Norway and Austria. In Negotiating gender and diversity in an emergent european public sphere, ed. B. Siim and M. Mokre, 78–96. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mudde, C. 2007. Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Noiriel, G. 2007. A Quoi Sert l’Identité Nationale?. Marseille: Agone.Google Scholar
  35. Parodi, M. 2011. Les discriminations entre les hommes et les femmes au prisme de l’opinion. In Les discriminations entre les femmes et les hommes. Presses de Sciences Po (PFNSP), 163–197.Google Scholar
  36. Skocpol, T., and V. Williamson. 2013. The tea party and the remaking of republican conservatism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Schmitter, P., and T.L. Karl. 1996. What democracy is…and is not. In The global resurgence of democracy, ed. L. Diamond and M. Plattner. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Scott, J. 2007. The politics of the veil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Siim, B. 2011. Citoyenneté, genre et diversité. Cahiers du Genre 3: 71–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Spierings, N., and A. Zaslove. 2015. Gendering the vote for populist radical right parties. Patterns of Prejudice 49(1–2): 135–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stasi, B. et al. 2003. Stasi commission report on Laïcité. Full text accessible online at: Accessed on 5 November 2016.
  42. Stockemer, D. 2015. Introduction to the special issue: Explaining the spike in electoral support for the Front National in France. French Politics 13(4): 319–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zakaria, F. 1997. The rise of illiberal democracy. Foreign Affairs 76(6): 22–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of St. ThomasSaint PaulUSA

Personalised recommendations