Will the political #MeToo finally take place?

On November 15, 285 women politicians and academics signed a forum in “Le Monde” to call for a #MeToo movement in politics. Ten days later, the former Minister of Ecological Transition Nicolas Hulot announces that he is “definitively withdrawing” from public life, ahead of the dissemination of a Special Envoy survey, Thursday, November 25, in which five women l ‘accuse of rape and sexual assault. Is the French political world finally living its #MeToo, almost ten years after the DSK affair and five years after the emergence of the movement?

Read also >>Nicolas Hulot: what we know about the accusations of rape and sexual assault

The problem is not the liberation of speech: it is listening

“It has been a long time since the liberation of speech began in the political world, tempers Inès Dauvergne Haddout, trainer on gender issues, who works in particular with institutions and ministries. There was DSK, Denis Baupin, Georges Tron, and it continues, as we can see. “For my part, I am relieved and happy to see this wave of testimonies and I do not think that the breath will fall again anytime soon”, supports Marine Tondelier, EELV regional councilor and elected opposition member to Hénin-Beaumont, signatory of the tribune published in “Le Monde”. But it is not on the liberation of the word that we must work, assure the experts interviewed for this article: it is on the listening.

Despite the increasingly frequent speeches of the victims, the main defense of the accused is always to say that it is a question of instrumentalization. If a politician is targeted by accusations or even a complaint, it is political manipulation to harm him, as has been regularly argued in the DSK affair – still ten years after the fact, some commentators believe that Nafissatou Diallo was the cog of a plot made to oust Dominique Strauss-Kahn from the presidential race (of which he was then favorite). For his part, at the microphone of Bruce Toussaint, Nicolas Hulot said he was “disgusted” by the accusations to which he is the subject. “I am going to leave the presidency of the foundation which is my life’s work to protect my teams from dirt,” he said.

“We find the classic strategy of defending aggressors:” I do not know these women, I do not remember the facts, they are liars, it is a plot “”, analyzes Fiona Texeire, collaborator of elected officials for more 13-year-old, and co-author of the forum calling for a #MeToo of politics. “Many women who accuse policies of sexual assault and rape have already spoken about it a long time ago, without being listened to,” Inès Dauvergne Haddout supports. So it is certain: seeing his attacker candidate for a position where he can write and enforce the laws, it pushes to talk about it again. “Especially since in France, the political calendar is permanent: there is not a year without an election, whether national, regional, or internal to parties and institutions. “The argument of the opportunism of free speech does not hold,” she adds. As if we had to choose the moment when we have the right to speak. ”

Impunity and parliamentary immunity

Because despite the impetus of the #MeToo movement, testifying remains extremely difficult for the victims. “We will always find something to tell us,” says Marine Tondelier. We are either the one who talks too much or the one who does not speak enough. And there are still many problems in the way the issue is approached at the moment: Nicolas Hulot had a media platform to defend himself even before the broadcast of the Special Envoy number! The ex-minister was on the BFMTV set the day before the show, refusing to answer journalists’ questions and announcing his withdrawal from public life in the wake. “This is also very classic in stories of sexual violence, assures Fiona Texeire, also trainer on gender issues at Sciences Po Rennes. It is a way of automatically discrediting the words of victims, and ensuring their social immunity. ”

Beyond these communication strategies, politicians, when elected, enjoy legal immunity. If a deputy or senator is accused of sexual assault, rape or domestic violence, the principle of inviolability – which ensures that “prosecutions of acts performed by parliamentarians as ordinary citizens do not unfairly hinder their mandate “, as detailed on the vie-publique.fr website – protects it in part. The prosecution in charge of the case must ask the Office of the Senate or the National Assembly to lift this protection. This is not automatic: in 2020, then the Gironde deputy Benoit Simian is the subject of a complaint from his ex-wife for violence and harassment, the office of the National Assembly refuses to lift his immunity, despite the request of the Bordeaux prosecutor’s office, as reported by “Rue 89”. “There is a climate of impunity, and in addition, the deputies and senators are protected by parliamentary immunity, recalls Fiona Texeire. Elected officials can benefit in certain circumstances from functional protection. ”

Small environment and increased power relations: fertile ground for violence

What to discourage the victims who do not always have these same tools. “It’s like going to war with less weapons than the adversary,” laments Fiona Texeire. And if we tend to forget it, even in politics, “there is an economic risk, the risk of losing your job, in denouncing your attacker when you are an elected official. [ souvent une porte d’entrée pour les jeunes diplômées de sciences politiques, ndlr] : employment contracts include a loyalty clause, which the deputy or senator can invoke without justification to separate from his collaborator. This clause can allow, in the event of a denunciation of harassment or sexual violence on the part of his boss or his relatives, to dismiss an employee without having to justify the dismissal. “And overall, the word finds itself all the more muzzled: when one starts in politics, one does not want to pass for“ the bother ”unemployable. ”

If no environment is spared by violence against women, the political world is all the more conducive to it. All the elements are there for an increased male domination to be exercised: between oneself and the culture of power keep silence. The very history of political institutions works against women. “They were built by excluding women from their operations,” emphasizes Fiona Texeire. France is one of the countries where the right to vote for women was the latest. And those who have entered the political game since the early 2000s report gender-based and sexual violence. In addition to the obstacles already mentioned, the denunciation of these acts weighs on the capacity of women to remain in power – which is already more difficult for them to acquire. “There is this idea that to succeed in politics when you’re a woman, you have to be strong, aggressive,” says Marine Tondelier. When we denounce violence, we are stuck with a victim label that is often difficult to get rid of, as Sandrine Rousseau explained. “A man in a position of power also has the power to multiply conquests, when a woman who would do the same” uses her charms “to achieve her ends:” these clichés are still so significant – and certain polemic politicians continue to validate these stereotypes – that a politician who denounces sexual violence will always be accused of having been aware of what she was doing, and of having done it to “climb”, ”sighs Inès Dauvergne Haddout.

A problem that has “no political color”

“We are so conditioned to think that we are lucky to access these functions that we can tend to ignore a lot of behaviors, says Fiona Texeire. When I first came to the Senate, I was 23, and I kept telling myself how lucky I was. There were still giants of the Fifth Republic who sat, like Pierre Mauroy or Robert Badinter, I was very proud to be there. So, when a senator made an inappropriate remark to me, I told myself that it was part of the game… ”A feeling heightened by the“ passion job ”aspect of politics, and the importance given to ideas and to the group. “At the start of my career, I have experienced traumatic situations on several occasions,” she continues. From activists, colleagues, elected officials, young and old men, left and right. But I told myself that I had a great job, that the left was in power, that this mandate was crucial, and that I could not spoil everything by talking about these problems. “

If this problem has, in essence, “no political color”, the forum of the “World” was signed and relayed mainly by women of the left. And the scandals in the media mainly affect this fraction of the hemicycle, admits Marine Tondelier. According to the elected EELV, this is only the hard law of “game theory”: “We pass for the only party in which these things happen, while the truth is that we are especially the only party where we take concrete measures to avoid them. »Within the party, a specific cell was set up to denounce and take charge of the facts of harassment and sexual assault: members have been specifically trained in the internal investigation and in hearing victims’ voices. “When we talk more broadly about the subject of violence against women, we are told to sweep in front of our door and we are reminded of the Baupin affair, deplores the elected official. Whereas that is exactly what we do, and that is undoubtedly the reason why we feel that we are more concerned. “

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