The American Press and Sexual Harassment

Will there be a before and after Harvey Weinstein affair? The revelation by the American press of edifying testimonials about sexual harassment, practiced for years by the Hollywood producer with regard to many actresses, has provoked a spectacular liberation of women’s speech, in the United States and elsewhere.

The reaction has taken unprecedented proportions on social networks. In France, on Twitter, the rapidity with which has spread the hashtag #balancetonporc says a lot about anger that is finally expressed. Some criticize the outrageous form of this call to denounce women who have, one day or another, suffered more or less serious abuses of behavior by their superiors, colleagues or even unknowns. In fact, few of them have given names. The stories were quickly “anonymized” and the exercise allowed the expression of a collective rage in front of a reality still largely ignored.

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In this exercise of awareness, the Weinstein affair marks a milestone. In France, she intervenes a little over a year after being implicated for harassment and sexual assault of the former MEP Europe Ecology-The Greens Denis Baupin. Although the case was dropped because the facts were prescribed, the victims had dared to speak openly. An undeniable progress six years after the “Strauss Kahn affair”, during which some still managed to defend the “French seduction” to describe the behavior of the former director of the IMF.

Only 5% of cases would be brought to justice

But still too many women are confronted, from a very young age, with sexist remarks, with pressures with sexual connotation, even with physical aggression in a relative indifference. One in five women say they are victims of sexual harassment in their work, says a 2014 study for the Defender of Rights.

The legal arsenal to fight against these behaviors exists. But despite the new 2012 law on sexual harassment, the vast majority of women are reluctant to file complaints. Only 5% of cases would be brought to justice. There are multiple reasons.

Sometimes the phenomenon is so much part of a certain culture of male-female relationships that the latter do not always identify the seriousness of the facts. Above all, to speak is to take the risk of suffering the opprobrium of those around you, professional or family. Before putting his career at risk, breaking his family life, ruining his health, victims prefer to think twice. The impact of social pressure should not be underestimated. The victim is too systematically accused of having sex, or of having provoked his aggressor.

The application of the law alone, after elucidation of the facts, will not be enough to stem the phenomenon. From this point of view, it is unlikely that the creation of a “security police of everyday life”, evoked on October 15 by Emmanuel Macron to fight against street harassment, manages to change mentalities. Who would be responsible for such a mission, and with what powers? It is better to give priority to awareness-raising, prevention in the workplace and education from an early age, both at school and in the family. So that intolerance to sexism becomes obvious for all.

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