Woman behind France’s #MeToo faces court for defamation

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Sandra Muller, the journalist behind France's #balancetonporc movementAFP / Angela Weiss

The woman behind #balancetonporc, France’s equivalent to the #MeToo movement, has appeared in court on charges of slandering the media executive she accused of making lewd remarks to her.

Sandra Muller, a French journalist based in the US, is being sued for defamation by Eric Brion, a French TV executive, over a Twitter post from 2017 that accuses him of humiliating her with vulgar comments.

In her tweet, she explains how Brion had humiliated her by saying “You have big breasts. You are my type of woman. I will make you orgasm all night”

Both Muller and Brion were present in Paris on Wednesday to attend the hearing.

On her Twitter feed, Muller received many words of encouragement from her followers many who participated in her call in October 2017 to shame the men who have committed harassment and assault.

She coined the hashtag #balancetonporc (expose your pig), in an effort to echo the movement in parallel in the US of #MeToo that began in response to mounting allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

After her post on Brion, there was an outpour of other French women who shared their personal tales of harassment and assault in an effort to highlight the culture in France of permissiveness towards such unwanted and uncomfortable advances.

Ruined career

Although Brion had initially apologised for his remarks, he decided to launch legal action against her.

He is asking for €50,000 in damages and €15,000 in legal fees and that the tweet that includes his name be deleted.

The legal team of the former head of TV channel Equidia argues that while Brion does not dispute having flirted with Muller, her comment portrays him as a sexual predator and ruined his career.

“He has never admitted to harassing anyone. He said that one evening he tried to flirt with Sandra Muller as he liked her,” Brion’s lawyer Marie Burguburu told the court. “This is his right to flirt,” she added.

In a column written by Brion in Le Monde newspaper in 2017, he admitted making “inappropriate remarks to Sandra Muller” at a cocktail party.

I actually made inappropriate remarks to Sandra Muller, at a boozy cocktail party very late in the evening, but only once. She pleased me. I told her so, quite directly. And just one time, I want to stress. I certainly do not want to excuse myself for my bad taste at that time. I repeat my apologies here.

But Muller spoke in the court saying she wants things to change so that “sexist insults, whatever they are, are finally taken seriously”.

Source: RFI