When reports of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse surfaced last month, the effects were felt well beyond the U.S. Three French actresses joined the accusations against Weinstein, and since then, momentum in France has spread beyond the world of cinema.
Stories of abuse and harassment are pouring out from nearly every sector — medical, law enforcement, finance, media. The newspaper Liberation called out “les bourreaux du travail” or “workplace torturers.”
In the wake of the #MeToo hashtag that followed news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assault, French women came up with a hashtag of their own — one that points at aggressors, not victims. #BalanceTonPorc or “out your pig” has exploded and shows no signs of abating.
Henda Ayari, a 39-year-old French Muslim author, says she was emboldened by all the French women outing and denouncing their sexual aggressors.
“I thought, these women are no different from me,” said Ayari in an interview with Le Parisian. “I also have to denounce what he did to me.”
So this week, five years after the alleged incident, she did just that.
Her accused aggressor is Tariq Ramadan, a top scholar of Islam. The 55-year-old theologian’s bona fides include being professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University.
Ayari says Ramadan assaulted and raped her when she turned up for a meeting with him in a hotel suite in Paris in 2012. She says he slapped her in the face when she resisted.
“He told me I came for that, and I deserved what I got. That I didn’t wear the veil, so I was a prostitute,” she told Le Parisian.
Ayari says it never entered her mind that she was in any danger when she went to his room. “I considered him like a father figure,” she said.
Another French woman has also brought charges of rape against Ramadan. Ramadan has denied both women’s accusations.
“Women are speaking out for the simple reason that other women are speaking out, and it allows a whole new field of free speech to open up that didn’t exist before,” says journalist and author Dominique Simonnet, who has written a book about women and the sexual revolution.
An editorial in Le Monde referred to the Weinstein “tsunami.”
Le Monde remarked that by using #BalanceTonPorc, a hashtag more “radical” than #MeToo, French women were expressing their anger over a problem that may not be more vast than elsewhere, but is surely more entrenched.
“The testimony coming out is so detailed and so numerous that it points to a suffocating silence around harassment that is in complete contradiction with the legislation there to protect women,” the editorial said.
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