Suddenly we come across as shrinking violets

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet in the Telegraph offers another Oh no sex will die piece. She’s one of the hundred women who signed the open letter in Le Monde.

She had found the exposure of Harvey Weinstein liberating at first.

I had applauded Ronan Farrow’s superb New Yorker magazine report on the 13 women whose lives and careers had been blighted by Weinstein. I was unsurprised when investigations revealed that other Hollywood moguls had updated the casting couch tradition. In his inimitable style, US President Donald “grab-them-by-the-p….” Trump had given voice to the crass fantasies of a thousand men in positions of power.

At the time of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in New York, I was among the first Frenchwomen to write denouncing French politicians’ usual assumptions that any comely female journalist was for personal consumption.

But then came the hashtags and campaigns. The #MeToos and the #BalanceTonPorcs (“Rat on your pig”). In between black-dress selfies at the Golden Globes, naming and shaming became a social media indulgence. Forget investigative reporting: the People’s Tribunal of Twitter equated wolfwhistles with rape, pestering lads on the pull with serial abusers.

Wait. Did they? Did they really, or did it just seem that way because of numbers? I have my doubts, myself, because I’ve seen so many people saying over and over “we know there’s a difference.”

Decades after Simone de Beauvoir and Christiane Rochefort, after the 60s’ sexual revolution, many Frenchwomen find the picture of us emerging from this whole debacle deeply depressing. Suddenly we come across as shrinking violets, unable to shake off a bloke trying it on in a bar, traumatised for life the minute someone attempts frottage in a crowded Metro car. (I find that saying in a calm but VERY LOUD voice “Will you stop touching my a..!” makes enough commuters laugh that the culprit slinks off at the next stop.)

Do we? Do we really?

I don’t believe it. I think she’s making it up. I don’t think anyone claims to be traumatised for life by one grope or attempted frottage. That’s a false choice: it’s not “either bad enough to traumatize for life OR not worth mentioning at all.” We get to object to groping even though a single grope is not likely to traumatize us for life.

Also, the thing about attempted frottage in Paris is that it’s not just one, is it. It’s nice for her that she doesn’t mind it because she gets to make other passengers laugh when she objects, but that’s not a reason to argue that all women should react the way she does.

Suddenly, centuries of the unique French charm of men-women camaraderie and badinage are in danger of being erased, and replaced by puritanism.

Oh fuck off, as we puritans like to say. Of course they’re not! Camaraderie and badinage can flourish, even if sexual “badinage” is unwelcome in the workplace.

Human relationships are a complicated skein of trial and error. In America, they tend to live in a black-and-white world, a binary universe of ones and zeroes.

Ah yes, so we do; we’re a collection of stupid little peasants who haven’t managed to wipe the mud off yet.

H/t Rob

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