Béatrice Bourges is the most dangerous woman in France, according to the French government. Au contraire, says Ms Bourges. It is the Socialist government of France which is a danger to humanity – hell-bent, she says, on “destroying the foundations of civilisation”.
Ms Bourges is the spokeswoman for Printemps Français (French Spring), an amorphous movement, allegedly linked to the Catholic traditionalist, far right, which has spun off in recent weeks from the powerful street protests in France against same-sex marriage. The French Interior minister, Manuel Valls, is considering outlawing Printemps Français after it urged its supporters last month to “target” pro-gay-marriage politicians, media and pressure groups. This amounted, he said, to an appeal to violence “in defiance of democracy”.
Ms Bourges, 50, gives few press interviews but agreed to meet The Independent in a café near the Parc des Princes in west Paris. She giggles at suggestions that she is a “violent, Catholic fundamentalist”.
“I have been divorced. How can I be a Catholic extremist? I have never voted for the far right. I am passionately opposed to violence of any kind,” she said. “Printemps Français is more a state of mind than a movement. We urge transgressive, but non-violent, resistance. That is to say that we intend to defy a state which has imposed a law which will distort and corrupt the true foundations of human society and civilisation.
“When we speak of ‘targets,’ we are not advocating violence or terrorism. We are talking of passive resistance, like Gandhi. We will, for instance, make the lives of ministers a misery whenever they travel or appear in public.”
Ms Bourges, wearing jeans, a grey jumper, a white t-shirt and a short black raincoat, could be a “maman” waiting outside a Catholic school in one of the well-heeled western arrondissements of Paris. Or she could be a self-employed businesswoman.
She is both. She is a business consultant and long-time campaigner on family and Catholic issues and a divorced and re-married mother of two. Friendly and soft-spoken, she expounds an elaborate conspiracy theory. “Human values” are threatened by a “programme”, driven by a broad coalition of leftists, feminists, gay lobbyists, freemasons and international capitalists. The gay marriage law is a by-product of “gender theory”, imported from the United States, which seeks to eradicate “maleness” and “femaleness” and make us all socially gender-free, liberal-libertarian, rootless, amoral, global consumers.
She does not appear especially dangerous, though the Interior minister, Mr Valls, is not the only person to insist that she is.
Beatrice Bourges used to be one of the four spokespeople for the broad, popular movement against same-sex marriage, “Le Manif pour Tous”. She was kicked out in March after encouraging a section of militant protesters to break away from an official march and defy a ban on demonstrations on the Champs Elysées.
Frigide Barjot, the satirist-turned-activist who has become the best known face of “Manif pour Tous”, accuses Printemps Français of being “aggressive”. She suggests that they are responsible, directly or indirectly, for the scores of threats that she has received since she allegedly adopted too soft an approach after same-sex marriage became legal last month. Béatrice Bourges has publicly criticised her former colleague, Ms Barjot, as “trop bisounours”, which means “too much like a Care Bear”. However, she rejects any link between Printemps Français and the death threats Ms Barjot has received.
The French media, briefed by the government, says Printemps Français is a loose constellation of extreme right-wing Catholic, nationalist and royalist groups, including apologists for the collaborationist Vichy wartime government. Ms Bourges says that is all nonsense. Some far-right groups, she says, like to claim an association with Printemps Français because it gives them “respectability”.
Who, then, are Printemps Français? Who is the leader? How is it funded? The plain-speaking Ms Bourges becomes uncharacteristically vague.
She registered the internet domain name for Printemps Français but she is the “spokeswoman, not the leader”. The movement emerged from the “desire of various people in the provinces” to take a tougher, more confrontational line than Ms Barjot and “Manif pour Tous”. It is not, and will not become, a political movement, she says. It is not an embryo French “Tea Party”.
“The reason Manuel Valls and the rest of the government tell these lies about us is that we scare them,” says Ms Bourges. “They realise that we are not going to go away. They hoped that the protests would subside but they now fear we are going to carry on pointing out how dangerous for humanity, and especially for children, this law is.”
Ms Bourges says she is not homophobic. “Homosexuals are just people who are trying to make sense of what they are, just like the rest of us,” she says. “I can understand why they should want to get married. But this law, as it has been framed in France, goes far beyond that. It gives the right to homosexual couples to adopt, which will fundamentally change the conception of family and destroy children’s sense of where they come from…”
At the last big protest march last month, there was one banner which proclaimed, bizarrely: “No to the untraceability of origins.” But why is homosexual adoption more dangerous than heterosexual adoption? Who are the biological parents of – say – the two beloved, Vietnamese-born daughters of the veteran French rocker, Johnny Hallyday and his wife?
“When a heterosexual couple adopts, they are fulfilling, or replicating, the roles of the biological parents,” Ms Bourges responds. “If a homosexual couple adopts, they are denying the natural origins of humanity. They are saying that children do not come from a relationship between a man and a woman. They are a possession, an accoutrement, something that you can choose to acquire like a car or a necklace.”
This is not an accidental by-product of the law, she insists. The law is the by-product of an “international programme”, to impose the “theory of gender”, which holds that there are no fundamental differences between men and women and that our “gender roles” are imposed by society. “By allowing homosexual couples to adopt, the law is deliberately denying the importance of maleness and femaleness as the fundamental building blocks of humanity…,” she says.
How many of the 400,000 or so people who took part in the last march (the organisers claimed 1,000,000) believe such abstract and abstruse arguments? Was not this not just a sophisticated way of avoiding having to say: “We have a gut aversion to homosexuality and therefore to homosexual marriage?”
“No, not at all, ” says Ms Bourges. “These are not abstract arguments. You may have a different view. But you have asked me to come here to explain my view and I believe that this law is part of a catastrophic programme to impose gender theory.”
This is, in turn, she argues just part of a global, libertarian-liberal drive to replace “true” human values with the values of selfishness and “reduce mankind to a rootless, globalised consumer-producer”.
Ms Bourges insists that she is democrat. But, she says, if politicians legislate against “natural justice”, citizens have a right, to obey their “conscience” and reject their laws. Printemps Français, she says, is planning a series of “peaceful guerrilla actions” which will make the French government regret that it ever considered gay marriage.