France’s #MeToo fight has only just begun – POLITICO

Alice Kantor is a French journalist who grew up in Paris.

The backlash on the backlash started with Caroline De Haas.

The politician, businesswoman and then-leader of the feminist #NousToutes Movement had become the target of a violent online action by a right-wing extremist group campaign, aiming to humiliate and censor them. That prompted her later last year to consider quitting lobbying for the first time since the beginning of her career.

Although the ongoing online attacks took their toll on both her work and her personality, De Haas was undeterred. Nor was she the only woman to be attacked, nor was she the only one to fight back.

Women in France have long been unequal in society and in the country still falls far behind other western democracies when it comes to gender equality. As France’s political landscape has shifted to the right in recent years, women’s rights in the country are more at risk and women are more vulnerable to attacks — both on-line and offline – as previously.

As the presidential election approaches this month – with several far-right candidates enjoying strong popular support – feminists in France have made their move reinvigorate their efforts to resist this growing pressure.

In the meantime, a new generation of activists has grown up, strengthened by the #metoo movement. While #metoo was slower to gain traction in France than anywhere else, it has led to a flourishing of the online cultural scene stand up for women’s rights.

“In recent years, there have been a multitude of books, podcasts, shows and online social posts tackling feminist issues,” said French feminist and civil rights activist Rokhaya Diallo. “A younger generation is really shaking things up.”

Diallo, a black journalist, writer and producer, has been a leading figure in this renewed effort to counter attacks on women. Start Through a podcast, several books, and writing numerous articles for national and global media, she raises awareness of the systematic abuse faced by people of color and women in France.

Presented regularly On national television and radio, Diallo makes a point of appearing in traditionally conservative media outlets to speak out about anti-racism and share her perspective with a broader audience that might not otherwise be exposed to such messages.

However, their presence on conservative platforms comes at a price.

Diallo is currently involved in several lawsuits and is suing several people who have offended her online for defamation. They represent just a small portion of the hundreds of messages she receives on social media every day, all from people who are trying to intimidate her, and who are particularly eager after every media appearance she makes.

“There’s a really coordinated approach by anti-justice groups,” she said. “They are very aggressive. They are trying to scare me and undermine my work.”

Diallo said the attacks on her person could also occasionally become ridiculous. Citing a time last summer when she was on vacation, she returned to find that her silence about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan at the time had been denounced as “suspicious.”

De Haas and Diallo are just two of them many feminists who have suffered online attacks. The rebuke from the country’s growing far right and some political elites has been vicious, with many politicians and activists reporting threats and organizing campaigns to silence them.

“Online abuse against feminists is a huge problem and has grown a lot in recent years,” said Diane Richard, member of the #NousToutes Movement. “There is systemic violence against women that trickles down to social media, where women are often targeted.”

Alice Coffin was also on the receiving end of such vocal diatribes. Coffin, a lesbian feminist, member of the Paris Council and founder of the Association of LGBT Journalists, also noted that the insults have intensified after Eric Zemmour – a nativist and far-right presidential candidate – has become the center of political attention in recent months .

“The level of online abuse I’m exposed to today is unprecedented,” she said. “Every hour I get about 10 new messages on Twitter from people who insult me.”

Coffin said people call her a “bitch,” a “whore,” a “dyke,” tell her she’s not really a woman, that she’s crazy, that she’s stupid.

In 2020 coffin released the book “Le Genie Lesbien” (The Lesbian Genius) and she frequently appears on television to highlight the needs of minorities, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, women and racialized populations. She believes the situation she finds herself in signals the growing self-indulgence of the country’s anti-feminists.

“I think there has always been an ingrained level of homophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism and racism in France,” she said. “You just let that come to the fore and it’s now more open and vehement than before.”

This resistance to the French feminist movement was also present in President Emmanuel Macron’s government, she said. Government officials have repeatedly denounced the dangers of “wokism” — they lament that people mistakenly turn political issues into issues of identity — and “intersectionality‘, a term intended to denote the additional layers of discrimination faced by individuals belonging to multiple marginalized groups.

“Patriarchal structures are very strong in France, even more so than in many other western democracies. And they are particularly present in political spheres where sexist attacks are part of the DNA of institutions,” Coffin said Richard added.

For Victoire Tuaillon, a feminist journalist who gained notoriety The government has exacerbated the situation with its podcast on modern masculinity, entitled “Les Couilles sur la table” (Bullets on the table).

“It’s very simple. If you look at government action over the last four years, nothing has changed [for women]despite massive efforts and nationwide protests by feminist groups,” she said.

A white, cis woman of middle-class background, Tuaillon said she was spared some of the abuse suffered by her colleagues Diallo and Coffin.

Still, the rise of anti-feminist discourse both in political circles and online is contributing to nationwide violence against women, she said, with women routinely being assaulted in the streets. “The abuse isn’t just online, it’s everywhere.”

As we continue to advocate for a fairer, less sexist French society, #NousToutes Founder De Haas ceded to make room for the next generation of activists. And despite the attacks and institutional obstacles they will no doubt continue to face, they are making their voices heard in a very different environment than just a few years ago. France's #MeToo fight has only just begun – POLITICO

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