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'I'm sick of the way my fellow Frenchmen treat women'

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'I'm sick of the way my fellow Frenchmen treat women'
Sexual harassment is endemic in some workplaces. Photo: Rawpixel/Depositphotos
12:38 CEST+02:00
Sex jokes, watching pornography in the office and degrading comments to female colleagues - one male French employee has spoken out about the shocking culture at his workplace.

Overhearing a constant stream of sexist comments is just an average day at work for one 36-year-old electrician employed at a large French company in the south of the country.

He said: "In any other country a person would get a written warning or even be dismissed for behaving in this way at work, but the French don't seem to understand that."

In the aftermath of several stories about sexual harassment in France, we asked our readers whether the problem is really any worse in France than other countries.

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Sexual harassment in the workplace. Photo photographee.eu/Depositphotos 

We received plenty of responses from women talking about their experiences, but also from one man who wanted to share his disgust at how too many of his fellow Frenchmen act towards women, both in the workplace and on the street. We've have not published his name to protect him from reprisals from his employers.

He said: "I've lived in two other countries for over eight years and travelled to a few other countries in Europe.

"You do hear sexual  jokes there but not to the extent you do in France. In France the sexual ‘jokes' are taken to another level, very descriptive and socially inappropriate, disrespectful and unethical. 

"Just recently, a new female colleague asked for guidance on a specific task she needed to do, two of my male colleagues then went on to say "oh you will have to suck our dicks if you want our help”, along with gestures.

"This rude banter continued for about 10 minutes. Everyone else in the room finds this kind of banter funny, and no one really bats an eyelash. 

"Our superiors all know that some people in our section have a bad reputation when it comes to verbal sexual harassment but no does anything about it. No one ever gets reprimanded about it. Its just generally accepted, even by the women. 
 
"I find that whenever a women tries to be part of the conversation she is immediately cut off by a rude sexual comment. No matter how innocent her comment is it will always be turned into something explicitly sexual or degrading. 
 
"All of this is fueled by them watching pornographic videos and images on their phones at work, sharing it with others and being viewed as odd if you don't participate. 
 
"Sexual comments are made towards women, every day within hearing distance of them, for example, “oh look at that tight butt” or “oh look at her tits”, all in close proximity of the person - obviously for them to be able to hear."  
 
As well as witnessing sexist behaviour in his workplace, the electrician also says it is common in the streets in France.
 
"In general in France, if a group of men gather in the street and a woman passes by, a sexual comment will be made loud enough for the woman to hear - especially in the big cities like Paris, Marseille and Lyon. 
 
"My wife, who is not French, is often shocked when sexual comments are made even in front of children, with no regard. It seems that children are taught from a young age that it is acceptable to speak this way." 

His views were backed by many readers of The Local who responded to our survey on their experiences of sexual harassment in France.

One woman reported: "One time, waiting to cross the street, a man walking by behind me put his hand up my dress and squeezed my butt, then kept walking. Men also don't take no for an answer here, I've been stalked and harassed when refusing to give my number."

READ ALSO Women in Paris share their stories of being groped on the Metro


The Paris Metro was singled out as a place where sexual harassment is common. Photo: AFP

Another Paris resident added that she thought that France was the "worst of any Western country, though also Germany (Berlin) has become creepy. In Italy there is the same level of uninvited attention, but presented in a way that feels more charming than threatening."

Also in Paris, a reader added: "French men are a nightmare - they treat women in general like sport. The women here are so used to it they barely question it. I am not a fan."

Angela, 30, who lives in Paris said: "I had a phone call where the caller was unknown calling from Private Number and saying my name and masturbating. This is the first time this has happened to me."

Emily, who lives in Avignon, added: "I experience sexual harassment on average maybe once a week, usually in the street or on the train to work."

But other readers said they felt that although French men were more overt in their attentions, they were not threatening;

A Paris woman added: "French guys won't hesitate to ask for your phone number and compliment you. But they usually stop if you don't cooperate."

And Bonnie Bruent from Le Havre said that in her view: "The French are more polite and less aggressive than the men in other European nations."

Our survey came in response to an article from a French journalist, who wrote a piece asking whether sexual harassment in France is really worse than elsewhere, and why the MeToo movement had received such a frosty reception in France.

BBC journalist Hélène Daouphars said: "In terms of abuse against women, the statistics in France aren't good. According to a study for France's High Council for Women's Equality in 2015, 100 per cent of women who use public transport in the Paris region say they have faced sexual harassment.

"And according to another 2015 study by the Défenseur Des Droits institute 80 per cent of working women say they regularly face sexist decisions or attitudes at work - but 60 per cent decide not to say anything because they fear what consequences that could have on their careers."

 
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