‘Half of French women’ alter clothes to avoid harassment

Women in France are choosing trousers over skirts when they take public transport to avoid being the victims of sexual harassment.

'Half of French women' alter clothes to avoid harassment
Photo: Alexandre Moreau/Flickr

One in two women in France will choose trousers over a skirt to avoid becoming the victim of sexual harassment on public transport, a new survey has revealed.

Not only that but nearly 90 percent of respondents say they have experienced harassment in some shape or form when on public transport.

According to a study of over 6,000 people by the National Federation of Association of Transport Users (Fnaut), women's fear of harassment significantly changes their behaviour on public transport in France.

Some 48 percent of those questioned said they would change what they’re wearing when they travel by Metro, bus or train, opting for trousers or using a scarf to hide cleavage.

A similar amount said that they do not use public transport at certain times, especially in the evenings, to avoid harassment and 34 percent opt to cycle or take a taxi or car to avoid it all together.

Some 87 percent of women, a figure described as an “unfortunate reality” by Fnaut, have experienced harassment on public transport, including whistling or cat calling, intrusive questions, insults, threats and sexual assault. 

The issue has long been the subject of campaigns by women's rights in France led by Osez le Feminisme.

“The problem is that harassment on public transport has basically been trivialized. The figures are shocking. It exists everywhere but its something young foreign women notice when they come to Paris,” Margaux Collet, the group's spokeswoman told The Local previously.

Despite the fact that many of these reported cases (86 percent) in the study took place in the presence of witnesses, victims said that in the vast majority of cases (89 percent), no one stepped in to help.

Despite government campaigns to put a stop to the serious issue of sexual harassment on public transport, it remains a depressingly familiar reality in France.


One 26-year-old woman, who spoke to The Local on the condition of anonymity, said that Paris was the worst city she'd lived in when it came to sexual harassment. 

“The men in Paris take a lot of liberties… it's like they don't really care what they say or how it might make someone feel,” she told The Local. 
“Sometimes I deliberately change train carriages if there are lots of men. I'd rather not put myself in a situation where I'm alone with only men because I know what would happen.”
(Photo: Dacian Dorca/Flickr)
She said men on the Paris Metro will often change seats to sit next to her and start a conversation, leaving her feeling cornered. 
Sometimes, it's not just words. She explained that one man who appeared drunk grabbed her arm and then her bottom.
“I didn't report it, I just went away. I'm kind of used to it in Paris. It's not like this anywhere else I've been.” 

Despite government campaigns to put a stop to the serious issue of sexual harassment on public transport, it remains a depressingly familiar reality in France.

An awareness campaign “Stop- that’s enough” was launched last November in Paris in an active push by the government, rail operator SNCF and Paris transport chiefs RATP to stop harassment on public transport.

Last summer the government also unveiled a series of measures aimed at cracking down on harassment.

These included new digital tools to report harassment, including text alerts, training of transport staff to improve empathy with victims and to prevent sexist imagery being displayed on adverts on the transport network

However, in light of this new survey, it seems France still has a long way to go to improve the issue. 

Already this year, an American art student being sexually assaulted on the Paris Metro hit the headlines in May and two men were jailed for an attempted gang rape on a Paris train.

In another case, a pervert was jailed in January for specially

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The woman behind France’s #MeToo in court accused of slander

The woman behind France's answer to the #MeToo campaign exposing abusive behaviour by men was to appear in court on Wednesday accused of slandering a media executive who she said had made lewd remarks.

The woman behind France's #MeToo in court accused of slander
US based French journalist Sandra Muller. Photo: AFP

Sandra Muller, a US-based French journalist, is being sued for defamation by senior French TV executive Eric Brion at a Paris court over a Twitter post accusing him of humiliating her with vulgar comments.

Both Muller and Brion, a media consultant and former head of TV channel Equidia, are expected to be in court when the hearing starts on Wednesday afternoon.


Muller started a viral hashtag in French in October 2018, #balancetonporc (“expose your pig”), which called on Frenchwomen to name and shame men in an echo of the #MeToo movement that began in response to allegations that toppled movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

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

The post led to an outpouring of tales of harassment and assault, which were hailed as ending a culture of permissiveness in France towards unwanted advances.

After apologising for his remarks, Brion nonetheless decided to launch legal action against her.

He is asking for €50,000 in damages, €15,000 in legal fees and the deletion of the tweet where his name is mentioned.

“This is someone who acknowledged initially unacceptable conduct, who said sorry, and then suddenly decided to go to court,” said one of Muller's lawyers, Francis Spinzer, before the start of the trial.

But Eric Brion contends that two tweets in particular sent by Muller presents him as a “sexual predator”, said his lawyer Nicolas Benoit.

“It is denunciation. At no time did he have the chance to defend himself.”

In an op-ed in Le Monde newspaper late last year, Brion admitted making “inappropriate remarks to Sandra Muller” at a cocktail party.

But he also accused Muller of “deliberately creating ambiguity about what happened” by linking it to the response to the Weinstein affair.

He complained of the severe personal and professional consequences of what he said was a “conflation of heavy-handed flirting and sexual harassment in the workplace”.

Many Frenchwomen made public their experiences of abusive behaviour by men in the wake of the #MeToo and #balancetonporc movements.

But there has also been controversy.

Last year a group of prominent French women, led by film star Catherine Deneuve, complained that the campaign against harassment had become “puritanical” and they defended the right of men to “hit on” women.