There are few humans on the planet that can argue with the need for gender equality, equal pay, equal rules and equal treatment. What must be avoided is the pendulum swinging too far the other way, leading to men being persecuted or feeling that they are not equal to women. The pendulum must stop in the middle - total gender equality.

In the rush to equality, it is important to point out one shocking inequality as it raises its ugly head – equality means total equality and this applies to the rules of the land as they apply to men and women.

Therefore, why is the President of France’s wife not in jail? The-then 41 year-old, Brigitte Auziere was a drama teacher at the private Jesuit-run High School when she met student Emmanuel Macron, who was just 14 years old and they fell in love.

Brigitte seemed happily married to banker André-Louis Auziere, with whom she was raising their three children. She was one of the most popular teachers at the local high school, inviting her students for cocktails at her home, and encouraging them to call her by her first name.

When Emmanuel Macron’s parents found out that he had fallen in love with his drama teacher in 1994, they were desperate to avoid a scandal, and packed him off to finish his last year of high school in Paris, two hours south of their home in Amiens. But the separation only intensified the passion between Macron and Brigitte Auziere.

Every weekend, Macron rushed home, “his suitcase full of dirty laundry and only one thought in his head — to see Brigitte,” writes Maelle Brun, the author of a bombshell biography of France’s first lady. In “Brigitte Macron: An Unfettered Woman,” Brun reports that members of Brigitte’s own family found out about the affair in the summer of 1994 after they caught the two of them sunbathing around the pool at the home of the teacher’s ageing parents. 

On most summer weekends while Macron was still in high school, they would meet at the pool and Macron would hide in the bushes if anyone approached, wearing a towel over his bathing suit, Brun notes.

Once the relationship between the straight-A student and his drama teacher became the stuff of local gossip, neighbours and friends in Amiens, a picturesque city of 135,000 on the River Somme, sent anonymous letters to the headquarters of the chocolate and macaron factory run by Brigitte’s family denouncing the relationship. They would also spit on the doors of the future first lady of France, Brun writes. 

Her husband took the news of his wife’s infatuation with the teenager “like a slap in the face,” particularly since their daughter, Laurence, was a classmate of Macron’s at the Lycee La Providence. He immediately left town and was so embarrassed that he refused to return for his own mother’s funeral in Amiens some years later. “He was never seen again,” a neighbour in Amiens said. “It was as if he had disappeared.”

Although Macron’s friends were at first shocked by his relationship with Brigitte, the couple decided to marry in the autumn of 2007, a year after Brigitte’s divorce. He was 29. She was 54.

Looking at pictures of them together, there seems little doubt that they are in love and devoted to each other – a beautiful romance story but for the one screaming elephant in the room.

If a male teacher fell in love with a 14 year-old female student and started a sexual relationship, HE WOULD BE IN JAIL, added to the sex offenders list for life, barred from teaching for life, after his release from a very lengthly prison stretch.

Why is this different and obviously acceptable? Because she is a woman? It’s not only unacceptable but after the scandal had been reported for years, he went on to be voted President and the sex offender became the First Lady!

Transposing the situation to a candidate in the UK’s general election is basically impossible; it would send shockwaves throughout British politics. But as a French person, it’s the reaction that I find surprising. The Macrons’ story is unusual and interesting, sure, but it’s also no big deal. But this has nothing to do with pupil-teacher relationships, French politics or romantic behaviour. This is simply sexism.

Certainly, Macron has no regrets about his teenage coup de foudre. In a social media exchange with voters, he was asked by a student for his advice after ‘falling for my law teacher’.

With a smug smile, Macron responded: ‘You need to know if it is mutual. If that is the case, go for it! No taboos!’ 

If we are to reach gender equality, it has to work both ways or will never work at all.

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