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More than 50 percent of French believe #MeToo had no impact

Bertrand Guay, AFP | A protester shows off the hashtags #metoo and #balancetonporc on her hand during a protest in Paris on October 29, 2017

A year after #MeToo went viral on social media, more than half of French people feel that the movement hasn’t changed anything in the country, according to a study published on Monday.

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The #MeToo movement was launched on October 15, 2017, after American actress Alyssa Milano posted a tweet calling on all victims of sexual abuse to share their experiences by simply replying “Me too” to her message. Milano’s simple, yet powerful, gesture came as more than a dozen women stepped forward to publicly accuse film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

The response to Milano’s tweet was overwhelming. More than 1.7 million people from 85 different countries heeded the actress’s call, posting to social media using the #Metoo hashtag. In France, scores of Twitter users joined the global movement using #balancetonporc (Squeal on your pig). 

Yet a year later, 53 percent of French people feel that the campaign hasn’t had an impact – positive or negative – on society, according to a study published Monday by the Harris Interactive market research company for a programme focused on gender and inequality on French radio RTL, "Girls."

While 45 percent said they felt their lives had been marked by a “before” and “after” #MeToo, many respondents struggled to identify how the movement had concretely changed life in France. Only 16 percent felt it had impacted their perspective on sexual harassment and even fewer (8 percent) said it had affected the way they behave in public.

A strong case could be made, however, that things have changed in France as a result of #MeToo. Reports of sexual violence surged by between 23 and 30 percent in October 2017 from the year before, according to a report by the interior ministry. The increased number of complaints has been widely attributed to the movement for encouraging victims to speak out.

More recently, the government passed a bill in August making it illegal to sexually harass someone in public and extending the statute of limitations for sex crimes. The new law led to the successful prosecution of a man in September, who was caught on video slapping a woman on the bottom, calling her a “whore” and commenting on her breast size while riding a bus in Paris. The man was fined €300 and sentenced to three months in jail for the assault.

“The people whom we questioned replied spontaneously, meaning they simply expressed their point of view,” Gaspard Lancrey-Javal, research manager at Harris Interactive’s Public Opinion and Politics Department, told FRANCE 24. “They were not given time to pause and enquire about what, exactly, has happened over the past year.”

“The respondents said that there was no positive or negative impact in France. That doesn’t mean that there was no impact. It means that they either weren’t prepared to say what kind of impact it had, or didn’t feel there had been an impact in their daily lives,” he added.

Meanwhile, of the 44 percent of people who said that #MeToo had made a difference in France, the vast majority felt it was positive.

One group that was particularly affected by the movement was men under the age of 35: 42 percent said they had discussed the issue with others, while a quarter said the debate had changed how they view sexual harassment.

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