[All links in French unless otherwise stated]
After being harassed and insulted by men in the streets of Brussels, Belgian student Sofie Peeters made a hidden-camera film  [nl] to denounce the male chauvinism experienced every day by unaccompanied women in the streets.
Her film and its subject have caused controversy in Belgium and France. Under the hashtag #harcelementderue  (street harassment), French women testify to the verbal abuse and sexual harassment that they have been subjected to in the street.
In her article ‘Machisme ordinaire : non messieurs, dire “t'es bonne” n'est pas un compliment ‘ (Everyday Machismo: no, gentlemen, ‘you're hot’ is not a compliment), Dom B.  thanks Sofie Peeters for the debate she has sparked:
Le documentaire d'une étudiante belge, intitulé “Femme de la rue “, expose via une caméra cachée, le harcèlement sexuel dont elle est victime chaque jour. C'est grâce à elle que le débat a été relancé.
A Belgian student's documentary, titled ‘Femme de la rue ‘ [street woman], exposes via hidden camera the sexual harassment she suffers every day. It is thanks to her that the debate has been reopened.
This video by RTBF (Radio Télévision Belge Francophone, the public broadcasting organization of the French Community of Belgium) includes some excerpts from the film [Dutch and French with English subtitles]:
Blogger Sandrine notes  that in France too:
Le harcèlement de rue est une réalité quotidienne pour quasiment toutes les femmes.
Street harassment is a daily reality for practically all women.
As evidence, one woman's account posted on the webzine madmoizelle , in which she lists examples of crude comments, propositions, and insults she has received in the streets, has more than 10,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook:
Le harcèlement de rue, ou le fait de se faire aborder, voire verbalement agresser par des inconnus, sort enfin de l’ombre.
Street harassment – being approached or even verbally assaulted by strangers – is finally coming out of the shadows.
Men do not understand, or misunderstand. In fact, the hashtag #harcelementderue was created because of this tweet by French Twitter user @mathieuge  who, like many men, was skeptical towards the controversy:
A noter sur la fille belge insultée dans la rue que je n'ai vu aucune fille se plaindre d'avoir eu à subir le même traitement en France…… Ce qui me laisse à croire que ça demeure un cas extrême relativement isolé.
A note about the Belgian girl insulted in the streets, I've never seen a girl complain about the same treatment in France…… Which leads me to believe that this is a relatively isolated, extreme case.
@valerieCG  reacted by sending out a call for personal accounts:
@Agnesleglise  quipped:
Two hours after its introduction, the hashtag was the fourth most trending topic  in the French Twitter community, and one week later, an avalanche of testimonies continue  to pour in, along with many articles reflecting on the issue . Note that in France, ever since the DSK Affair  [en], women have been speaking out and campaigning, using Twitter hashtags as a driving force, with the press then taking up the story.
Reactions from men make it clear that they are not aware of the problem, as @cha_matou  points out:
- @LuneHolmes : y a agression et agression. Un gars qui passe à coté de toi et qui lâche un “salope”, c'est pas une agression, désolée.
- @LuneHolmes : Assault is assault. A guy walking by you and letting out a “slut” is not an attack, sorry.
Sexist commentators or those downplaying the issue have been put in their place, for example by @Mel036 :
@Mel036 : Le débile qui comprend rien au
#HarcelementDeRue  et croit qu'on est scandalisée par la drague. Non, par les insultes et agressions verbales …Et les mecs, on a le droit de penser que la rue n'est pas un terrain de chasse, fait pour draguer la 1ère nana qui passe?
@Mel036 : The moron who understands nothing about
#HarcelementDeRue  and thinks we're outraged by flirting. No, it's the insults and verbal attacks. …And guys, aren't we allowed to think that the street isn't a hunting ground, made for hitting on the first chick who walks by?
After the personal experiences, Twitter became a forum for reflection. Why are women always verbally abused and insulted in the streets? One of many responses from @SexismAndTheCT :
Bonnequestion  suggests:
Mais ce n’est pas de la drague. Les hommes en question n’ont probablement même pas une vraie intention d’avoir une relation (sexuelle ou pas) avec cette jeune femme. C’est de la domination pure, l’idée que les femmes sont disponibles et qu’il n’y a aucun problème à les insulter.
But this is not flirting. The men in question probably do not even have any real intention of having a relationship (sexual or not) with this young woman. It is pure domination, the idea that women are available and there is no problem with insulting them.
To counter remarks blaming immigrants  for the majority of insults in the streets, @elodieesc  gives a reminder that harassment is as rampant on popular streets as it is in nice neighbourhoods and on public transit:
# harcelementderue  between the guy whispering insanities to you right in the middle of Neuilly[-sur-Seine, an upscale suburb of Paris], the knee-groper on the RER [public transit in Paris] and others to forget …
@Oniromanie  adds:
Something stupid: the poor are the ones who hang out in the streets. The wealthy harass in lounges or in the [National  – en] Assembly.
To which Dom B.  responds:
Aux sociologues, philosophes, politiques, spécialistes d'analyser et expliquer quelle part tient la religion , par le poids des frustrations sexuelles qu'elle impose dans ses interdits, par rapport à un déficit d'éducation, de vivre-ensemble ou de différences culturelles.
It's up to sociologists, philosophers, politicians, and specialists to analyze and explain how much of it has to do with religion  [en] – because of the burden of sexual frustration imposed by its taboos – compared with a lack of education, social cohesion or cultural differences.
As for @Hans_Bod , he finally understands why women in France do not like to be approached in the streets:
The controversy comes as the president of the French Republic has ratified a new sexual harassment law  [en - full text of law in French here ]. On August 3, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem , Minister of Women's Rights and Government spokesperson, posted this tweet :
Mobilized, French women will have to stay: the blog Les Martiennes teaches us that sexists do not take vacations , Crêpe Georgette  wonders if antisexist education courses should be taught starting in nursery school, and the site Génération Réactive  tries to go further in asking this question:
… et si finalement, les femmes étaient « responsables » de la transmission des inégalités homme-femme par l’éducation différenciée qu’elles donnent à leurs enfants ? On ne serait plus seulement dans la victimisation et les hommes ne seraient pas entièrement responsables de tous les maux …
… what if, in the end, women were “responsible” for the transmission of gender inequalities through the differentiated instruction they give to their children? We would not just be victims anymore and men would not be entirely responsible for all evil…