Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Politics /

I might be a French woman, but I hate being late. That said, I am the exception rather than the rule. In my home country, it is generally right to be around 15 minutes late. The reason is that we French people expect it and if you arrive on time then we will still be in the middle of preparing. That’s just the way we are.

 

But times are changing. I, for one, am pleased with the various hashtags #metoo and #balancetonporc -literally ‘expose your pig’, the French equivalent of #metoo. Frankly, I thought that it was long overdue. Truth be told, I had come to accept that some harassment/bullying was acceptable when you were a woman, or simply when you were perceived to be the weaker party. Just to be clear, I believe that abuse concerns anyone, men and women. It’s not a question of gender; it’s a question of power. What am I talking about exactly? Well, I have lost count of the number of times my choices were judged, my opinions disregarded, my salary lower than my male colleagues, my appearance commented upon, unwanted advice was given, my back/lower back was patted, and so on, and so forth. There were also some more serious things that I will not write about, because it’s my choice not to. When I dared mention something, I was made to feel like I was the one without any sense of humour/morality. After all, it wasn’t that bad, was it? And I was far from being perfect, right? Come on, boys will be boys… In short, once again, put up and shut up.

 

Old dinosaurs were quick to explain that the #MeToo movement revealed feminism’s obsession with victimhood. What good could come out of it, they asked. As it turns out, no amount of exposure and feminist vigilance can completely undo the work of decades of cultural conditioning. I am –I believe- a strong-minded woman, but I am just the same as the next woman who wonders what she could have done differently and fears that the whole thing is an overreaction anyway. That said, I particularly despise reactions like ‘women were asking for it’, ‘They were throwing themselves at the producers/their bosses..’ , ‘they were not dressed appropriately’ ,‘they need to show a bit more respect’, ‘That’s the way it’s always been’, or my personal favourite ‘my conscience is clear’ -the lamest excuse of all if you ask me! In my view, it only reinforces the following point: not only are women/weaker ones harassed (again man or woman), but they are also often blamed for being harassed!

Let’s face it: harassment and bullying in general are the elephant in the room that’s finally being talked about. The #metoo and #balancetonporc campaigns have highlighted the scale of the issue, and such campaigns are only the tip of the iceberg. And this that can only be good thing. It’s not, in my view, up to the police or law enforcement to act -with the exception of the more serious cases of course; it’s up to society in general and to us in particular to change and condemn such behaviours in the strongest possible ways.

So where do we go from here? Well, here is a thought: the bullies must go. The old dinosaurs who have used and abused their position to gain more power and intimidate their teams must leave. They must accept that it is high time for a new, more respectful generation of leaders to take charge. After all, this is not the nineteenth century any more. You can’t continue to behave as if times were not changing. And don’t expect me to sympathise with the bullies : most of the old dinosaurs will leave with gold-plated pensions that the rest of us can only dream of. Here is what I’d like to tell them: we are sick and tired of your poisonous attitude and comments; we can’t stand the way you protect the establishment at all costs. To make matters even worse, I don’t think that you recognise the efforts of the younger generation to deal with your mistakes. You do not even own your mess anyway, because you always try to blame somebody else or argue that things were different back then. No amount of money spent on PR agencies and lawyers will hide your true colours. And just to be clear: you monsters are everywhere: in politics, in artistic circles, in the corporate world, in families…

 

I am proud to say that things seem to start changing in my home country: our newly elected President Macron clearly comes from a different perspective and, whether you agree with him or not, he brings with him fresh ideas and new hopes. Dinosaurs have started to exit. Similar things are happening in Canada with Trudeau, and I applaud this new mentality.

 

Simply put, in my view such a change hasn’t happened yet in the UK. In fact, the tide hasn’t even started turning. Maybe on this one France and Canada are ahead of the curve. What do you think?

We all have a choice: either we put ourselves ahead of the curve or we will find ourselves behind. Standing still is not an option, because this means that we allow the abuse to continue. It is time for dinosaurs and other bullies to exit and remember the good old times with nostalgia.

 

 

 

  • Alistair P D Bain

    I believe you!

    I’m sorry you have had any of the experiences you mention and allude to.

    France and Canada are indeed way ahead of the curve. WAY ahead.

    Respect ✊🏼

    • Thank you Alistair! I don’t consider myself a victim, because I lead a privileged life, and other women have had it far worse than me. It’s just a cultural thing, I suppose, and I am glad that things are changing. I was wondering: how does Australia fare? Are things changing there too?

      • Alistair P D Bain

        Well, Muriel, having worked with male perpetrators of domestic violence, I’d have to say that Australia has a long way to go. Old stereotypes about women and male privilege and entitlement continue to be massive features of male-female relationships; politicians and even religious leaders talk about domestic violence, for example, but rarely act on it. And so the battle continues …

  • Ronald

    Not sure it is just OLD dinosaurs – the younger ones are smarter and perhaps more subtle…or it is just reclassified as bullying?….How much so-called humour is racist or sexist or just nasty to co-workers?

    • Good point. I think that some young colleagues can be old bullies. It’s a cultural thing, and some haven’t broken the cycle I suppose. As for sexist or racist humour, well, I have lost count of the number of times I have had jokes on French women…

  • Marc Larivière

    This man/woman unbalance goes way back to the ancient Romans who considered that men bravely shed their blood when fighting against enemies, whereas women could only lose hers ( !.)… Which established a so-called “natural inferiority ” of the womenfolk, that has become firmly ingrained for centuries… About time we got rid of this and other cultural, inherited prejudices !

    • I totally agree. We need to move on and enough is enough. I know that it will take time, but I am pleased that things are starting to change!