Sandra Muller, the woman who kickstarted France’s #MeToo movement, appeared in court in Paris Wednesday, accused of defaming the man whom she said sexually harassed her.
Muller, a New-York based French journalist accused French TV executive Eric Brion of making sexually explicit remarks to her in October 2017, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. She sent a tweet that said, “You too, can share and give the name and details of any sexual harassment you have experienced in the workplace,” with #balancetonporc (squeal on your pig).
A few hours later, she posted another tweet about how Brion had humiliated her and quoted his alleged crude comments about her body.
In December 2017, Brion wrote a column in the Le Monde newspaper admitted making “inappropriate remarks” to Muller at a cocktail party, “but only once.” Weeks later, Brion decided to launch legal action against her. He is now seeking $55,000 in damages, $17,000 in legal fees and demands that Muller delete the tweet mentioning his name.
At Wednesday’s hearing, lawyers said that he had “never admitted to harassing anyone,” but he did apologize for his clumsy or inappropriate flirtation, the BBC reported.
Brion’s lawyer Marie Burguburu told the court, “He said that one evening he tried to flirt with Sandra Muller as he liked her […] This is his right to flirt,” she said.
Muller’s lawyer Francis Szpiner responded in court, “If you do not feel that when a man stands in front of you and makes such a proposal, it’s offensive, I’m sorry for you. But, today a majority of women and men think it is.”
One million women experienced sexist insults in 2017, according report by France’s High Council for Gender Equality (HCE), which was the first major investigation into sexism in France. But these instances were rarely reported to the police, with the report finding official complaints were filed in only 3% of cases in 2017.
Thousands of women joined Muller’s call to expose the people who sexually harassed or assaulted them. One year after tweeting #BalanceTonPorc, more than 1 million tweets carried the hashtag, France24 reported.
Muller was one of a number women named as TIME’s “Person of the Year” in 2017 for her role in leading the #MeToo movement. Also named were actresses Ashley Judd and Alyssa Milano, and singer Taylor Swift, who shed light on sexual harassment and abuse by sharing their own experiences.
In court, Muller said: “[I] started a movement that spread through all levels of society” and that she wants things to change so that “sexist insults, whatever they are, are finally taken seriously”.