Founder of French ‘Me Too’ Movement Accused of Defamation
French journalist Sandra Mueller, creator of the hashtag ‘ExposeYourPig’ as an extension of the #MeToo movement, stated Wednesday that she is being sued for defamation. The suit was initiated by Eric Brion, who was publicly accused of sexual harassment by Mueller last year.
Brion’s allegations are a response to a Twitter statement published by Mueller in October 2017. She accused the French executive and former television boss of making sexually inappropriate and humiliating advances toward her. According to Mueller, his words were “You have big breasts. You are my type of woman. I will make you orgasm all night”.
Her hashtag #BalanceTonPorc, or #ExposeYourPig, led to public attention and initiated a movement that is referred to as the French equivalent of the #MeToo movement. The outpouring of similar stories was widely applauded, amongst others by the French intellectual Marlene Chiappa, who stated that “this hashtag, with the barrier created by a screen, can help people speak out, and I think that it is truly beneficial.” Furthermore, in response to her initiation, Mueller was also honored by Time magazine as their 2017 Person of the Year.
While the movement itself even led to proposals for legal consequences for aggressive catcalling or other forms of sexual harassment, it also fueled a discussion regarding the nature of sexual harassment. Following this discussion, Brion, after offering an apology, also referred to Mueller’s posts as a created “ambiguity about what happened."
Now, Mueller is now being accused of defamation and, according to her Facebook posts, sued for 50,000 Euros as a compensation for the consequences resulting from Brion’s damaged public image and 10,000 Euros in legal fees.
It can be anticipated that the main issues of the trial will be the question of when a “heavyhanded manner”, as Brion himself described his advances, becomes sexual harassment. Respectively, a group of 100 French women, including French actress Catherine Deneuve, already signed an open letter last year as a response to the movement stating that men should be “free to hit on women”.
However, while a hearing date has yet to be set, Mueller has already made clear statements regarding her sentiments about the accusation: "I hope the trial will provide an opportunity to have a real debate about how to combat sexual harassment," the journalist said while emphasizing that Brion is simply trying to silence her.