Feminism in France

#Metoo: the social media campaign that allows women to speak up about times that they have experienced sexual harassment. Millions of women all over the world are using this hashtag to talk about an issue that we have all been either a victim of, or have heard about: sexual harassment. This has reached France, and French women have been spreading the campaign, creating a worldwide discussion about feminism.

A group of 100 high-profile French women, including actress Catherine Deneuve, has explored an alternative view of the #metoo campaign. They believe that the movement is more a representation of America’s puritanical roots than of actual crime. In a letter written by these women containing their views on the matter, translated by The New York Times, they wrote, “Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression.” 

In my opinion, this letter discourages women from speaking up about their experiences with sexual assault, because these French women denounce forms of sexual assault other than rape, implicitly deeming them non-issues. Women may fear, after reading the letter, judgment around whether their experiences fit the definition of sexual harassment outlined in the letter. Or they may fear that they won’t be believed, or that their experience, no matter how personally traumatic, is illegitimate. 

The letter also addresses the difference between being flirtatious/suggestive towards someone and sexually harassing someone. On dictionary.com, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances.” While being flirtatious towards a classmate or coworker can be seen as harmless and sometimes fun, it constitutes sexual harassment if it is unwelcome and unwanted. 

Feminism and sexism are not the same thing. In fact they are complete opposites; or, rather, sexism is an issue combatted by feminism. Feminism stands for the equal rights of all genders. It is a common misconception that feminism is the belief that women are superior to men, but it isn’t true. 

Feminism encourages women to be open about sexuality. This includes speaking up about sexual harassment. The women around the world who speak out about sexual harassment–whether it be about rape or an offensive remark in the workplace–are valid and must be taken seriously if we want to advance gender equality. These 100 French women have opened a discussion that is worth pursuing, but it is imperative that they not stifle the voices of the victims. Women are finally starting to talk openly about sexuality and the struggles that they have faced and are continuing to face. This worldwide discussion is an important one that will influence our future as women and human beings.