Sexual Harassment in EP: “Trading sexual favors for legislative ones”, 57 cases reported to Politico, 50 in Notebook
So far 57 women and two men have told Playbook stories about widespread harassment (and sometimes worse) in Brussels https://t.co/B7JHjcVM6e
— POLITICO Europe (@POLITICOEurope) October 23, 2017
On 20 October, French newspaper Le Figaro published an article on a small notebook, with pictures of violet, blue and yellow flowers on a white background. On the first page, it says: “Small notebook with notes of sexist behaviour in European Parliament (lived, heard, seen).” Since July 2014, Jeanne Ponté, a 27-year-old parliamentary assistant, has kept records. In it, about 50 cases of men who work in European Parliament who have behaved in an inappropriate manner against her or her colleagues.
“Most often, it is about sexist behaviour. But sometimes it is about sexual harrasment.“
What follows is a short account of the various incidents logged in the notebook. However, there is a noticeable discrepancy in the makeup of the 50 cases. Ponté herself tells about incidents with two persons that are, if not assault, sufficiently unsettling to warrant being written down.
“A political adviser sent me pictures of myself in the middle of the night, that were taken without my knowledge at a meeting and persisted on inviting me to dinner, even after I refused several times. (…) An MEP blocked my exit from a conference, asks me if I have been here for a long time and if I want to have coffee with him.“
But the list of examples is closed with the more curious and less invasive case of an MEP asking in a meeting if the stockings she is wearing are Chantal Thommass or Le Bourget. However curious that question might be (and also… oddly specific), it doesn’t seem to be in quite the same league as the other two cases.
Édouard Martin, the MEP for whom Ponté works, supports publishing the notebook. Appalled by the experiences of his assistant, he urged her to capitalise on the outrage generated by the Weinstein affair, telling Le Figaro:
“This is a great opportunity to show that it can happen to all women, especially those who rub shoulders with men of power who think they are all-powerful. (…) Once past the buzz period, we do not talk about these subjects at all.“
Under the title Harassment in the Brussels EU bubble, Politico.eu has written about Ponté’s notebook and its own efforts to collect stories of sexual harassment and call them to attention. According to the magazine, it has thus far been approached by:
“57 women and two men have told Playbook their stories and we will continue to actively report this issue, publishing articles as appropriate. (…) Allegations made to Playbook include EU work contracts offered in exchange for sex, young women being sent to bars and dinners to trade sexual favors for legislative ones, a staffer asked to book prostitutes for their MEP boss, women bailed up in toilets at work functions, and men bullied, then sent on paid leave. You can listen to some of the stories in the “Dear POLITICO” section of the EU confidential podcast.“