‘Before and after #MeToo’ : How French perpetrators of domestic violence perceive themselves as ‘victims of feminism'

Cristina Oddone, in "Patriarchy in practice. Ethnographies of everyday masculinities", Bloomsbury, 2023.

In 2017, the global circulation of the hashtag #MeToo “reaffirmed publicly just how widespread sexual assault and harassment actually are; that most victim-survivors know the offender; and, significantly, that these experiences are routine and normalized […]” (Fileborn and Loney-Howes 2020: 2). In a moment when feminism has gained such “spectacular visibility” (Banet-Weiser, xii), this chapter aims at analysing its cultural and political impact on a group of men compelled to participate in a programme for perpetrators of domestic violence. Based on the accounts collected during my ethnographic research on rehabilitation programmes targeted at perpetrators of intimate abuse (“perpetrator programmes”), conducted in the Grand Est region of France between 2018 and 2019, this contribution seeks answers to the questions “what does the #MeToo moment mean to men?”, “how does it affect perpetrators’ representations and practices”, and “what are the links between the global misogynistic reaction to the #MeToo and male violence against women?” Although my respondents may have not felt targeted by the #MeToo, which mainly raised the issue of sexual violence, the wider general context of ‘speaking up’ and pressing charges against male perpetrators was indeed perceived as a threat by the domestic abusers met during my fieldwork. The first section of the chapter offers an overview of the increasing visibility of feminism in France since the 2000s, where “feminism” includes feminist activism, “popular feminism” (Banet-Weised 2018) and “institutional feminism” (Herman 2016; Delage 2017). The second details the context and the methods of the ethnographic research on perpetrators of domestic violence in France. The third explores and analyses perpetrators’ feeling of victimhood and, in particular, their blaming attitudes towards contemporary feminism. Read more