By Jonathon Van Maren
By now, most of you will have heard French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement ridiculing large families at the Gates Foundation’s “goalkeeper’s” event several weeks ago. “One of the critical issues of African demography is that this is not chosen fertility,” Macron told the audience. “I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight, or nine children.”
The Internet promptly responded with a phenomenal campaign titled “Postcards for Macron,” which had thousands of mothers (and others) tweeting out photos of their large families along with their impressive educational resumes. Others simply expressed disgust at the fact that the childless Emmanuel Macron had sneered at women who made a choice he apparently disagrees with, and noted that in his elitist arrogance, he had managed to get nearly all of the facts wrong.
Macron clearly never bothered to research the topic he was holding forth on—the idea that African women find fertility to be an issue that needs to be resolved. Nigerian pro-life activist Obianuju Ekeocha notes in her brilliant book Target Africa: Ideological Neo-Colonialism in the Twenty-First Century that these so-called concerns are actually a Western projection: “These solutions,” she writes, “rely heavily on a single-minded strategy that entails removing or drastically reducing the source of the population growth in Africa—female fertility. Thus, Western nations, organizations, and foundations wage war against the bodies of African women.”
In fact, if men like Macon had bothered to actually take a look at what African women want, they would have found—to their shock—that the polling data actually shows that the average African woman wants more than six children—and in some countries, the desired number of children is more than ten. Children, Ekoecha writes, are viewed as a precious gift in Africa, and the arrival of a new baby girl or boy is a cause for great celebration. The idea that African fertility must be curtailed is not something that Africans have been asking for—it is something that elitists like Macron are promoting.
The idea that Emmanuel Macron would have the guts to impose his idea of family size on another continent and simply presume that those in other cultures think like him becomes even more mind-boggling when one considers Macron’s own path to marriage. He met his current wife, Brigitte Trogneux, in a theatre workshop (where she was the teacher) when he was fifteen and she was thirty-nine. At the time, she was married with three children, and they now claim that they did not become an official “couple” until he turned eighteen.
Macron’s parents were understandably worried, and attempted to split up their son and the teacher who was twenty-four years older than he by sending him off to Paris to complete his school. He vowed to return and marry her, and their relationship resulted in Trogneux divorcing her husband and marrying Macron a year later in 2007. Her role in Macron’s political career is described by many insiders as an “essential” one, despite the fact that he is now 39 and she is 65.
I can’t help but see the irony in a man who lives by his own elitist code and yet feels justified in passing judgement on the family choices of others. I come from two large families—my paternal grandparents had eleven children, and my maternal grandparents had nine children. My maternal grandmother, who lost two children—a daughter during infancy and a little boy at six months old—once told me that, “You don’t get old from having children. You only get old from losing them.” The conversations I still get to have with my three living grandparents—two of them are in their 90s—are something I treasure immensely.
So to see the French president making his snarky remarks about the family sizes of people he does not understand—people who built countries and raised up entire generations—was personally irritating to me. The idea that someone who broke up a marriage with three children to pursue his infatuation with his teacher would have the gall to make ignorant and uneducated comments about large families when he clearly does not have the faintest clue about them is pretty gutsy on his part. Macron does not have experience with big families. He only has experience breaking up families. Perhaps he should stick to commenting on situations like his own, where he is less likely to look ridiculous.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.