Emmanuel Macron is the youngest ever President of France at the age of 39, and has been in the newspapers for being married to Brigitte Macron who is 24 years older than him.
Let’s take away the President part for now and just focus on the relationship. Is it strange that a 39 year old man is married to a significantly older woman? At first glance, I’d say yes – because it’s not something you see everyday. But is it still strange if you take the time to digest and analyse the situation? I’d say no.
If your concept of marriage is to marry young, have children and be together forever, then sure, this set up probably won’t work for you. If your concept of marriage is to be with the person you love for the rest of your life, then who cares about age, gender, finances or any of the other things that are normally associated with marriage? Two people who love each other have chosen to commit to each other, and for me, that is a perfectly acceptable basis for marriage.
Sexism and Ageism: If the ages were the other way around, would anyone give two hoots about the relationship? Probably not, or at least significantly less hoots. It has become socially acceptable for men to marry significantly younger women, but not for women to marry significantly younger men. This makes sense (biologically) if you are considering the traditional ‘having children’ set up – older man with many resources has young fertile wife to produce many children, spread his genes and raise them well thanks to his many resources. And marriage ensures the man will stick around to help raise the children, who compared to other animal babies (like gazelles, who can run as soon as they are born) need many years of care and attention to raise.
Biologically speaking, it doesn’t make much sense for a man to marry a woman who is significantly older, particularly if she is not of a child bearing age…
But why are so many social norms based on biological-spreading-genes logic if that is not the intention of the individuals involved? Remove the concept of marrying to breed and produce children, and it suddenly doesn’t matter who you marry, as long as you love them and want to spend your life with them.
Equality: Right now, gay marriages probably raise fewer eyebrows than a young man-older woman marriage. Neither of them make sense in the biological need-to-breed logic, which is what centuries of tradition has always leaned towards. Nowadays, I don’t think the ‘need-to-breed’ should be a priority. Mankind has come along far enough and there are enough people on this planet that we don’t need to only accept relationships that will produce children. This also applies to straight couples who choose not to have children. It’s not all about spreading genes to the next generation. Sometimes, marriage is just about love.
Add back the President factor: Many years ago, gay marriages seemed unacceptable, and now they have become socially acceptable. Largely thanks to people making a stand for their love and challenging the social and legal norms.
I think marriages based on genuine love are great. And I think it’s great that an international public figure is bringing this ‘different’ relationship to our attention so we have the opportunity to think it through after our initial surprise at seeing something different.
Although as a modern society we have come a long way in combating sexism, ageism, homophobia and many other prejudices, I think we still have some way to go. It’s not always easy to identify existing prejudice, but the first step in combatting it is to be aware that it is there in the first place.