The French minister in charge of gender equality, Marlene Schiappa, arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris in this photo from May. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

Even as the Harvey Weinstein scandal has forced Americans to confront the reality of sexual harassment and assault, it has more than touched a nerve here in France.

In a country where flirting is a way of life, and where a unique blend of Gallic machismo and age-old codes of chivalry can be seen in virtually every corner cafe, women, it would seem, have had enough.

A social media campaign erupted here almost simultaneously with the appearance of #MeToo in the United States — except French women took it further with #bal­ancetonporc, which loosely translated means "squeal on your pig." As in the United States, after women began naming and shaming their attackers, some of the most prominent men in French public life stood accused of sexual assault.

Most notably, the Swiss-born academic Tariq Ramadan, whose stance on Islam in Europe has transformed him into persona non grata among French elites, has been accused of raping two women, charges he denies.

The outrage has only grown. Marlène Schiappa, a government minister who oversees gender equality, proposed fining men for "wolf whistling" and sexually suggestive comments made on the street.

On Sunday, thousands of women — and men — marched through the streets of nearly every major French city to voice their anger and demand an end to sexual harassment and assault.

France in 2017 may not seem the most obvious place for the stirrings of such a revolution. President Emmanuel Macron has imposed a strict policy of gender parity in his cabinet and among his party's parliamentary deputies.

But for many French women, the anger comes from knowing that sexual violence — and especially domestic violence — has persisted in the face of changes meant to foster gender equality.

"There was a lot of important work done in the past, but there is still so much to do," said Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu, a spokeswoman for Osez le féminisme ("Dare to be feminist"), a prominent advocacy organization.

"Back when he was president, Jacques Chirac went to war against driving deaths, and the numbers dropped. The figures on sexual violence and the killing of women have not at all decreased, and we hope that the force of public opinion will coalesce behind this campaign," she said.

During Chirac's presidency in the early 2000s, heightened penalties on drinking and driving, and stricter police surveillance against speeding, caused roadside fatalities to drop significantly.

By contrast, even after highly publicized domestic violence cases, little has changed for women, critics say.

In a case that captivated France, an elderly woman known as Jacqueline Sauvage fatally shot her husband of 47 years in 2012, claiming that decades of violent abuse caused her to act in self-defense. The case, which went to trial in 2014, put the national spotlight on the inadequacy of existing options for abuse victims, and roughly 400,000 people petitioned for Sauvage's full pardon, which President François Hollande granted last December.

The statistics on spousal abuse, however, have remained virtually the same. In 2014, 134 women died at the hands of their husbands or partners. The most recent data shows that 115 women were killed in episodes of domestic violence in the past year, according to a 2017 report released by the gender equality ministry.

Those cases amounted to 14.5 percent of the country's homicides. In addition, 553,000 general "sexual aggressions" against women were reported in the past year, along with 63,000 rapes or attempted rapes, the report said.

For Cécile Alduy, a professor of French politics and literature at Stanford University, the Weinstein affair — and its afterlife on social media — gave voice to French women who may not have otherwise felt comfortable going public.

"With the Weinstein case, and especially the hashtags #MeToo and #balancetonporc, French women have realized that they were not alone," she said. "They had critical mass, and they were all fed up with the silencing, the constant intimidation and aggression."

"Women are now more educated than men, have high responsibilities, are supposed to be equals in rights, and yet they are still underpaid, overloaded with family chores, and on top of that they are treated like sex objects? Enough is enough indeed."

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