* on the importance of being earnest.
16:38 . It all started quite spontaneously, and it is not finished yet – we still have a year to finish this battle .
I started writing this diary two weeks after I had become a parliamentary assistant. So, at twenty-three years old I was basically working for a male politician, in a team of male colleagues, in a male-dominated world. Quite rapidly, I started noticing that I was being treated differently: I needed to legitimize my work more than men did, I was being interrupted in meetings more than men were, not to mention the fact that many people would automatically assume that I was the mistress of my boss, falsely so.
So, since I always have a notebook in my purse, wherever I go, wherever I travel, a diary where I write somewhat poetry of the daily life: for example, beautiful smiles of random people, funny discussions I hear in the street, brunch with my brother. Well, after witnessing and living some unacceptable experiences in the political world, I decided that I was fed up and that I needed to keep a record of these. Once, this politician, who was looking at me like a ‘piece of meat’ and following me during a meeting, stopped me by touching my chest and told me :
– You are new, I have never seen you before! Are you a journalist or an assistant? To which I thought : – Is he actually keeping track of women around here ?
He then grabbed my arm, I ignored it and I left. On the way back from the meeting I thought: I cannot live with that.
I would hear echoes of people saying : this is how it works in politics.
Hey, I do not want to get used to this ! If I get used to it, I will be legitimizing what is wrong. But by writing about it, I can denounce it.
At first I treated the diary as a personal one, then I realised I was not the only one living this – this feeling of uneasiness.
I started gathering stories from female colleagues. Because from the moment we would express this somewhere – we would be fighting back and would be remembering the truth.
You know, it can be easy as a woman, to start doubting yourself, thinking you may have done something wrong when looking back at the incident. Society teaches us to blame ourselves.
After that experience with the politician – I admit there were some ten seconds when I thought : maybe I was wearing something too short, or maybe I did something during the meeting that made him think I was … open to seduction ?
Writing about it helped me keep track of the incident as it was.
(Why bring this issue up now? I asked her)
Indeed, at the time the issue of sexual harrassment was not talked about as, the way it is today.
Now – we are able to speak out not but that does not mean we were not speaking out before; simply that people were not ready to listen.
Some people have asked me about: whether I was worried or not about my career – whether or not I was putting the European Parliament in danger. For me, protecting the European Parliament as an institution means taking the momentum to change things for the better.
I am super pro-European but I refuse to protect people present in the EU-bubble if they are behaving this way.
I simply don’t understand why a person who works on actually making legislation, can behave in a way that trespasses the law. Sexual harassement is actually punishable by law. All those who perpetrate it in this environment know it and yet they still do it – probably because they think they are immune to any retributions. People think that immunity of politicians can mean impunity.
That is not how it works. Either you respect the law or you don’t.
That being said – from the beginning I also said: I am going to talk about the experiences but not about the names. I refuse to give names. Because if you give names – you are simply going to create this polemical story, a scandal even – that can trigger a lot of interest but will eventually die out.
That is not what we want. We want to change the system.
After her diary went public, Jeanne has started working on the metoo movement at the European Parliament – they are currently preparing a set of activities. Jeanne works as a parliamentary assistant at the European Parliament, still for the same member.