DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And let's shift our attention now to politics in France. The far-right presidential candidate there, Marine Le Pen, is hoping to become the first woman elected to the post. To do this, she has to woo female voters who have long considered her party, the National Front, far too extremist. Joanna Kakissis reports from Paris.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Marie de Silva came to a Marine Le Pen rally in Paris earlier this week because she says she found the male candidates too weak, unrealistic or communist. After hearing Le Pen rail against globalization, the euro and immigration, the 52-year-old building manager says she may have found a woman she can believe in.
MARIE DE SILVA: (Through interpreter) Marine has the strength and charisma of a man. She raised her children. She's a super woman, a responsible woman, a strong woman who charges in.
KAKISSIS: The National Front wasn't exactly attractive to women when Le Pen's controversial father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, ran it. He was an aging, macho, former paratrooper who considered women inferior.
JEAN-YVES CAMUS: What he said about women was barely acceptable to those who did not belong to his generation.
KAKISSIS: That's Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on the far right. He spoke to NPR via Skype.
CAMUS: Marine Le Pen was born in 1968, so, obviously, she's pretty young. She is a modern woman. I mean, she raises her kids independently. She’s divorced, two times. So it probably gives her the possibility of being heard by modern women.
KAKISSIS: Many more men actually support Le Pen than women, but Camus says that Le Pen has narrowed that gap, especially among working-class women. Her campaign has distributed 4 million glossy flyers that describe her as a mother of three who will defend French women from.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MARINE LE PEN: (Speaking French).
KAKISSIS: And in campaign commercial, she also claims that as a woman and mother she fears Islamic fundamentalism is restricting women's freedom.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in French).
KAKISSIS: That won over 62-year-old English teacher Roni Radoux, who now campaigns for Le Pen and compares her to Joan of Arc. As those at the rally singing the French national anthem, Radoux insists Le Pen does not just support white Christians.
RONI RADOUX: It's everybody that wants to fit in, not the people that come out here and wreck everything up and cause insecurity and hate us.
MANON BOUQUIN: (Speaking French).
KAKISSIS: Manon Bouquin, a 24-year-old student, hands out T-shirts for Le Pen with one hand and waves a French flag with the other.
BOUQUIN: (Through interpreter) Marine Le Pen warned years ago that Islamism is segregating men and women in the Paris suburbs, that there are even cafes where women can't enter.
KAKISSIS: But another woman at the rally, 19-year-old Morgen Fleury, says that Le Pen is trying to scare women into supporting her by demonizing Islam.
MORGEN FLEURY: She's a woman, and she's just so bad for women, and the way she talks about women and Islam, it's terrifying.
KAKISSIS: Maria de Silva, the undecided voter, says Le Pen does not scare her at all and that she seems to get women, like herself, whom the globalized economy has left behind. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Paris.
(SOUNDBITE OF SING SING PENELOPE'S "LA COUCHETTE")
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