The global momentum of #MeToo isn’t letting up, but the movement in France feels almost distinct, perhaps even more radical, than in the U.S. There, the hashtag #BalanceTonPorc! (expose your pig!) has taken center stage and is at the heart of a legal battle that could be precedent-setting.
Days before #MeToo went viral, French journalist Sandra Muller encouraged women to essentially name and shame the men that have harassed them. Thousands of women used #BalanceTonPorc — but now Muller is being sued for defamation by the man she “outed”, in a case that is going to test the strength of France’s existing workplace sexual harassment laws.
Muller’s case - and the MoiAussi movement - has also divided French women over what feminism looks like, and how far the hashtag should go. Famed French actress Catherine Deneuve, along with 100 other French women, published an op-ed in France’s biggest newspaper decrying MeToo’s radicalism, and warning that the hashtag was stifling freedom. Deneuve has since apologized, but many other women continue to be alarmed at what they perceive to be a harmful movement.
#MeToo and Muller’s case also comes at a complicated time for French president Emmanuel Macron’s government. Macron swept to power on a platform of revolution - and has pledged to put gender equality at the top of his government’s agenda.
Macron has tasked his youngest cabinet minister, 34-year old Marlene Schiappa, France's secretary for gender equality, to help tackle harassment and gender-based violence. But Schiappa, a feminist author - who has publicly praised Muller for her bravery - faces an uphill battle to prove to women on both sides of the fight that Macron’s government is more than just talk.