France Opens Sexual Harassment Investigation Against Former President
Former French head of state Valéry Giscard d’Estaing has been accused of sexual harassment by a German journalist. According to reporter Ann-Kathrin Stracke, Giscard d’Estaing groped her behind multiple times during a 2018 interview for WDR.
“I think that people should know that a former French president harassed me sexually,” Stracke told the BBC, adding that the #MeToo movement showed her how important it was to talk about these matters openly.
France has long struggled with accepting #MeToo because the movement is raising fears of a return to conservative sexual behavior, which French feminists have fought hard against for years. “A key aspect of the [French feminist] struggle of the 1960s was the need to remove any guilt attached to feminine sexuality,” Anastasia Colosimo, a political commentator and professor, told the BBC. She added, “Women openly said they had the same craving for sex as men.”
Older French feminists worry that calling out harassment may lead to the policing of complex sexual relationships. Plus, they also fear that the #MeToo movement may infantilize women, as compared to showing them as free agents. This is also why over 100 French women, including a woman who wrote a graphically sexual memoir, a pornographic performer, a BDSM erotica writer, and influential actress Catherine Deneuve, signed a letter warning people against ‘puritanism’ arising from the movement.
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Stracke told her managers about the sexual harassment immediately after the event, which also had a cameraman as witness. The firm then hired an employment law firm to interview her and the cameraman. In April 2019, the firm concluded that both Stracke and the cameraperson had credible, factually accurate stories.
According to a statement from the former President, he is not aware of any such complaint and is considering legal action. “If what is alleged were true he would, of course, be very sorry, but he has no recollection of it,” Giscard d’Estaing’s Chief of Staff Olivier Revol told Le Monde.