Marine Le Pen's prominence is far from a comfortable situation.
The reaction to this week's cover has been - as we expected, and quite rightly - passionate. Some totally got the visual gag that by covering Marine Le Pen's mouth with a 'warning' sticker we were - by way of a graphic device - labelling her rhetoric (and sheer existence) a very dangerous thing.
This is a viewpoint that both we as an editorial team, and the vast majority of Stylist readers - modern, metropolitan, and liberal - absolutely share. Others have loudly called us out on it; declaring us imbecilic and offensive for giving her more airtime; as if by putting her on the cover declared her our 'cover girl' that at worst we admired and at best, condoned. Neither is the case - although we hasten to add, everyone is entitled to their viewpoint. For the record though, Stylist vehemently does not support her or her views, and any misinterpretation of our stance on Marine Le Pen is regrettable and unintended.
Our coverage was not intended to trivialise or normalise Marine Le Pen or her rhetoric - the opposite in fact; we wanted to question how someone with such repulsive views could have made such traction with the French electorate. Which she, alarmingly, has. Her extreme views have been normalised to the extent that people are voting for her.
Whilst it is true that Stylist front covers more often than not feature individuals we admire, they also include those who - rightly or wrongly - are talking points at the time of going to press and therefore 'of the week'. In the past, such individuals have included Donald Trump. We don’t support them but we do need to know about them.
During the week of the French presidential elections, examining how a woman that has been confirmed a fascist by the French courts is within sniffing distance of victory mightn't be a popular choice, but it's a necessary one. Even if it's just to try and understand how the hell it got to this point. Yes, Le Pen's rise is highly shocking and alarming but that doesn't mean we should stick our fingers in our ears and ignore it, however uncomfortably it sits with our values. That's why we chose our treatment of Marine Le Pen on this week's cover. Because starting a distasteful conversation is better than having no conversation at all.