As the viral “me too” hashtag started by actress Alyssa Milano flooded Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in the U.S. this week, France was in the midst of its own anti-harassment campaign with a similar—albeit more frank—tagline: #balancetonporc or “squeal on your pig.”
The effort, credited to French journalist Sandra Muller, encouraged women to go public with incidents of sexual harassment or sexual assault.
Muller, for her part, recalled an instance in which her boss commented on her breasts and talked of having sex with her “all night long.”
Following Muller’s initial tweet on Friday, #balancetonporc became a top-trending topic in France and the third-most popular worldwide as women—and some men—recounted abuse.
Radio journalist Giulia Fois, for instance, said a superior had once grabbed her by the throat and said, “one day I’m going to have sex with you, whether you want it or not.”
The campaign gained traction as the entertainment industry continued to reel from accusations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and as France grappled with its own troubling epidemic of sexual aggression.
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The French government in 2014 found that 20% of women would experience workplace sexual harassment in their lifetimes, and 30% of those victims would never report it.
A recent court case drew especially sharp scrutiny to systematic barriers in France that keep victims from coming forward or—if they do go public—from obtaining justice.
Late last month, a French court prompted outrage when it ruled that an 11-year-old girl hadn’t been raped, but instead had consented to sex with a 28-year-old man. Children’s groups immediately denounced the decision.
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In the wake of that outcome, members of Parliament are set to debate a proposed bill that would crack down on sexist or sexually-aggressive behavior, notably assault against children.
Draft legislation would establish a set age for sexual consent and increase the statue of limitations for sexual abuse claims for minors. It also includes the possibility of police action against sexist public acts like cat-calling.
Marlene Schiappa, France’s secretary for gender equality, is spearheading the effort. She said earlier this year that criminalizing everyday street harassment was one of her top priorities since such measures would send a message that such abuse is not the fault of women. Victims blaming themselves, she argues, is a prime example of “rape culture.”
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President Emmanuel Macron expressed support for the campaign on Sunday, saying he’s eager to crack down on public displays of sexism.