A Rose by this Name: Populism, Gender, and Nationalist Ideology in the French National Front


Dorit Geva

date de sortie



Sciences politiques

On April 23, 2017, the first day of presidential voting in France, I attended a party in the Lyon area for National Front activists who gathered to watch the first round of the presidential election results come in. FN activists were admiring the Marine Le Pen presidential campaign posters hanging on the walls. One couple paused in front of a poster and commented, “she is beautiful in this one.” As at so many other events I have attended during four years of fieldwork on the FN, party members expressed appreciation for their beloved leader’s physical attributes.


Marine Le Pen has been leader of the radical right Front National (FN) party since 2012, after her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, stepped down as longstanding party leader. Her leadership of the FN has sent shockwaves through France, transforming the party from a pugilistic protest party to a populist party determined to become a significant presence in government. Her strategy has reaped results in municipal and European parliament elections since 2014, and in the recent 2017 presidential elections.


Under Jean-Marie Le Pen’s leadership, the FN was a macho, and more classically radical-right, organization. It was associated with post-war fascist leagues which had coalesced under Jean-Marie Le Pen’s charismatic leadership in the early 1970s. Since Marine Le Pen’s election as party president, she has not only softened and sanitized the party’s image, but has furthermore transformed the party into a populist party. She is one of several female figures in Europe, and globally, who is representing the new face of the populist radical right. Like Germany’s Frauke Petry, Denmark’s Pia Kjærsgaard, and the United States’ Sarah Palin, Marine Le Pen is actualizing certain features elemental to populism, but which can take new form through female populist leaders. To understand how this is so, it is vital to first arrive at a precise understanding of populism, and to highlight its gendered dimensions.


Populism and Gender:
Broadly, I understand populism as a political style. Drawing from recent scholarship by Benjamin Moffitt and Simon Tormey (2014), I see populism as encompassing six closely related features. These include: 1) Employing anti-elitist discourse; 2) A highly personalized leadership style; 3) Identifying with “the people”; 4) “Going low,” i.e. deliberately employing “bad manners” to show that they are of the people; 5) Constantly evoking historic crisis; and 6) Efficaciously producing a sense of deeply personal relations between themselves and their followers, who take on a strident political subjectivity as populist followers… Lire la suite


After completing a Ph.D. in Sociology at New York University, Dorit was the Vincent Wright Fellow in Comparative Politics at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute (2006-2007), followed by four years as a Collegiate Assistant Professor, and Harper Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago (2007-2011) teaching social theory in the College Core. She joined the Central European University as an Assistant Professor in Autumn 2011. Dorit's expertise is in political sociology, comparative and historical sociology, economic sociology, and feminist social theory. Her comparative book on the politics of military service in France and the United States was published by Cambridge University Press in autumn 2013. Her new research, supported by a European Commission Marie Curie Career Integration Grant, is following the gender politics of right-wing parties and movements in France, and in Europe at large. She is also embarking on a new project on Crypto Currencies.




01/09/2016 - 01/07/2017