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30.05.2019 Europe

Woman behind France's #MeToo faces court for defamation

By RFI
AFP / Angela Weiss
MAY 30, 2019 EUROPE

The French 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 breast. 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.

#balancetonporc
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 apologized 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.

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

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