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France’s #MeToo movement founder faces court over defamation

The woman who started France’s #MeToo has been sued over the tweet that kicked off the movement.

 

 

The woman that inspired France’s #MeToo movement has entered a Paris court to face the man who made lewd comments against her, and in turn, inspired thousands to share their own stories of impropriety that they’ve faced.

French journalist Sandra Muller is being sued on the grounds of defamation by television executive Eric Brion, who Muller quoted on Twitter, with Brion purportedly saying, “…you have big breasts. You are my type of woman. I will make you orgasm all night.”

In another tweet, Muller asked women to reveal their own experiences of workplace sexual harassment under the hashtag #BalanceTonPorc, which translates to “squeal on your pig”.

To offer some historical perspective, France’s movement predated the American version, with Muller’s tweet coming two days before Alyssa Milano said #MeToo.

Brion admitted that while he did make those comments to Muller, he made it clear that he believed he was not “a sexual harasser” and noted that he apologised to Muller the next day via text.

Brion stated the reasons for his legal action, in that he was already found guilty “by social media”, a world where it was “impossible to defend yourself”.

Brion described his “long descent into hell” and was portrayed as the “number one pig in the media”, which Brion believes cost him both his job and his partner.

Muller’s tweet (and the viral hashtag that followed) was a pivotal moment in France, with #BalanceTonPorc referenced in almost a million tweets in the year since.

She “created the conditions for the women to speak freely’, said Muller’s lawyer, François Baroin. Muller “gave courage to others, she paved the way”, he said.

According to France24, “one in five women have experienced sexual harassment while at work but only five per cent of cases are ever taken to court according to a government-backed study”, which flies in the face of both Brion’s claims and the movement’s detractors, inclusive of actress Catherine Deneuve, who believed the #MeToo campaign to be misguided, explaining to Le Monde in an open letter (in response to the backlash after she signed a petition that questioned the movement), stating that, “I do not like that we live in a time when everyone feels they have the right to set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner. A time when mere accusations on social media lead to punishment, resignation and sometimes – indeed often – trial by media. A time when an actor can be digitally removed from a film and the head of a respected New York institution (Ed: In reference to Harvey Weinstein) made to immediately resign for grabbing butts thirty years ago. I’m not making excuses for these men. I pass no judgment on their guilt or innocence; I am not qualified to do so. Very few people are.”

Back to the case. “Yes, BalanceTonPorc is a superb phenomenon, but besides that, there was slander, rumour,” said Nicolas Bénoit, representing Brion. Bénoit believes that Muller’s original tweet was based on a “lie” and his client was “not a harasser”.

In response, Muller has vowed to “see this fight through to the end”.

 

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