Though cultures of equality and fairness have come a long way around the world, we still have a long way to go. On Tuesday, July 24, French student Marie Laguerre was traveling home when a man began aggressively catcalling her. When she spoke up, telling him to stop, he became aggressive and struck her. The entire incident was captured on a nearby security camera.
Laguerre said the man began making obscene gestures and "noises with sexual connotations." Her pent up frustration from innumerable similar encounters spilled over:
It wasn't the first time - that day, that week, or that month, It had been building up. I got angry and said 'shut up'. I didn't think he'd hear, but he did.
Thank you to Marie Laguerre for her bravery. I hope she has recovered. Well done to France for taking steps to mak… https://t.co/HEziqVpugB— Cindy Lee (@Cindy Lee) 1532963987.0
The man quickly became irate and threw an ashtray at Laguerre, barely missing her. The pair exchanged several more insults before the man suddenly struck her. Laguerre saw it coming, but had not intention of running:
I know he's going to hit me. I could have run off but there was no question of that. I wasn't going to look down and certainly wasn't going to apologize.
This type of street harassment is sadly all too common in Paris. Marie Laguerre is right: it cannot go unpunished.… https://t.co/cZpQUDpPKE— Henry Samuel (@Henry Samuel) 1532944709.0
Patrons of the nearby cafe came to Laguerre's defense. After going home for a short while, she returned later in the night to take witness statements and make a report to the police.
We rightly celebrate when women fight back against men who harass or assault us.Many times this 👇🏽happens too but i… https://t.co/fimQQDwKDP— Mona Eltahawy (@Mona Eltahawy) 1532970806.0
The owner of the cafe was more than happy to help, providing Laguerre with the security footage to help track down her assaulter.
The story of what happened to 22-year-old student Marie Laguerre on her way home one night has caused shock and ang… https://t.co/urB3D4o3Ps— Andy Corbett (@Andy Corbett) 1532962110.0
Laguerre posted the video online, where it has over one million views. She wrote on Facebook:
I can't keep quiet and we mustn't stay silent.
"He rushed towards me. I looked at him straight in the eyes. And I took the blow with the utmost pride just to show… https://t.co/BhLfvWfG95— But You Know My Name (@But You Know My Name) 1532986336.0
This incident is also timely evidence of the necessity of France's new anti-harassment laws, which will "impose on-the-spot fines for street harassment."
French Equalities Minister Marlène Schiappa says:
The first fines should be handed out this autumn.
Good on you #France taking instant action such as putting in instant fines against street harassment: #France… https://t.co/5slkR5QAXn— Clare Munn (@Clare Munn) 1532954942.0
The new legislation is in response to the French counterpart of the #MeToo movement, #BalanceTonPorc ("rat on your pig"). Despite the recent cultural awakening among many Americans regarding sexism and workplace harassment, the United States has yet to pass any federal legislation to help cope with the systemic problem.
The French equivalent hash tag for #metoo is #BalanceTonPorc which means ‘rat on your pig’ (essentially, expose the… https://t.co/Ev7moMdQFg— Nathaniel Hall (@Nathaniel Hall) 1532982616.0
France is taking some steps in the right direction, however. According to BBC News:
Offenders will have to pay between €90 (£80; $105) and €750 under a package of measures that was backed by French MPs in May and is set to complete its passage through parliament this week.
Marie Laguerre shared CCTV video of the man slapping her saying: 'I can't keep quiet and we mustn't stay silent'… https://t.co/lZgRlICGCl— BBC 100 Women (@BBC 100 Women) 1532962909.0
French anti-harassment group #Stopharcelementderue (Stop Street Harassment) gives these tips to anyone who might encounter harassment:
- If you feel unsafe, ignore the harasser and go to a safe place such as a shop or restaurant
- If you feel safe enough, respond calmly and firmly but without apologising
#stopharcelementderue . Just watched the video of that poor woman get attacked for defending herself from harassmen… https://t.co/gWXrViOQQW— MR A P Kemp (@MR A P Kemp) 1532986096.0
Perhaps, together, we can build a world where women need not fear random acts of violence from pathetic, angry men.