Frigide Barjot puts notoriety to work
She’s loud, provocative and a master of one-liners. She’s also leading a surprisingly effective campaigner for same-sex marriage and adoption. ADAM SAGE explains.
Awoman in a pink miniskirt and black leggings hurtles down the sidewalk in central Paris on a motor scooter, honking loudly. Heads turn and passersby wonder just what sort of person could upset their morning stroll with such a show.
They are startled to discover, when she removes her helmet to reveal a shock of blond hair, that she is a figurehead of French conservatism.
Virginie Merle, 50, has emerged as the unlikely leader of a campaign against President François Hollande’s plan to authorize same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. It has put his government on the defensive, split French society and turned her into a household name.
She is known by the name Frigide Barjot — which translates roughly as Frigid Nutter — that she uses in her public appearances on radio and television.
Frigide, as she is always called, is everything you would expect a proponent of orthodox family life not to be — loud, provocative and bling. With her strident opinions, flashing smile and repartee of one-line jokes, she is what television executives call a good customer. She said: “I have decided to put (my) notoriety at the service of a cause I believe in.”
The success of her movement, La Manif Pour Tous (A Protest for All) — in reference to Marriage for All, the title of the government’s legislation — has caught everyone by surprise, most notably Hollande. Her campaign is planning a march next month in Paris that is likely to draw hundreds of thousands.
She said: “What we are talking about here is a new category of human beings created by a legislation that will run counter to the laws of biology.
“Children will no longer be equal. Some will have a mother and father. Others will have birth certificates which say they were born to Roger and Bernard or something like that.”
Frigide first became known as an author of humorous books such as Confessions of a Trendy Catholic that conveyed a serious message on family values, and became a regular on radio and TV programs such as Les Grandes Gueules (The Fat Gobs). The leftwing newspaper Liberation described her as “God’s nutcase.”
Frigide said that her involvement in the campaign against same-sex marriage stemmed from a belief in the importance of raising children in traditional families.
“I suffered when my father left my mother,” she said. “Now the state is trying to organize the separation of mothers and fathers and I don’t want children to go through the same thing I went through.”
The legislation, she said, would encourage the use of surrogate mothers by homosexuals wanting children.