The French might be odd, but they can hold the line when they want to:
A French court has ruled that posters showing a woman tied to train tracks did not promote violence against women.
The posters were put up around the town of Béziers last December to celebrate the arrival of high-speed TGV trains. They carried the caption: “With the TGV, she would have suffered less.”
The ads faced a legal challenge from a number of feminist groups and criticism by France’s equality minister.
But the court said they were legal, despite the questionable humour.
Would a British court have ruled the same way? Maybe, but they’d have found some other way to get the advert removed (as Sadiq Khan did with billboards showing nice looking women on the London Underground).
But the far-right mayor of Béziers, Robert Ménard, defended his campaign, accusing critics of “political correctness” and pointing to a history of such images in old films and cartoons.
After the French court threw out the complaint, Mr Ménard tweeted that the case had been “an inquisition in petticoats”.
Quite right too. Now I don’t know whether M. Ménard is actually far-right given the label is nowadays meaningless, but if so it’s rather illuminating that this is who we now rely on to advocate freedom of speech and push back against corrosive third-wave feminism.
The court in the southern city of Montpellier said the posters had been designed to provoke a reaction, and did not encourage violence against any specific group, including women.
Good. As I said after the Charlie Hebdo attack:
Nothing highlights the cultural gap between France and Britain more than the uncomfortable suspicion that Charlie Hebdo would not have lasted more than a year in the UK before being hounded out of business by the state and its backers in one form or another, as this article makes clear.
I have no confidence this advert would have been displayed in the UK. There’s a good chance anyone posting it would be charged with a hate crime.