“A woman is sexually assaulted every six minutes in France, and every 107 seconds in the United States,” states Alice Lepers, who founded the movement Mettez du rouge (“Put your red on”).
Organized for the first time in France four years ago, the month-long Mettez du rouge campaign aims to raise awareness among men about statistics around sexual assault. Lepers, who also led the Day of Skirts (la Journée de la jupe), further explains, “Why do we think that feminism is only women’s business? As soon as we speak of [sexual] violence, men are excluded from the dialogue. We need their engagement.”
After the movement expanded to Québec and Switzerland in 2014, Mettez du rouge arrived in the United States and Tunisia in 2016. The campaign begins February 8th and ends March 8th, on International Women’s Day. During that month, men are invited to post pictures of themselves wearing red lipstick to social media with the hashtag #mettezdurouge and a link to the US’s statistics on sexual violence.
In addition to raising awareness, Lepers, who admits to starting the campaign after realizing her own fears of being sexually assaulted, hopes to “help women who are victims of sexual assault speak up.” In May 2016, in an interesting twist of events, eight women from the French political party Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) spoke out about sexual assault—after they saw their aggressor taking a photo for Mettez du rouge. The man accused was Denis Baupin, former deputy of Paris and vice president of the National Assembly, who posted his lipsticked photo on March 8th of that year. Outraged at the hypocrisy of their aggressor denouncing violence against women, Baupin’s victims finally decided to make their voices heard. Baupin resigned a day later, and six more women came forward with allegations. On March 6th, 2017, the case against him closed because France’s statute of limitations for sexual harassment is three years, and time to prosecute ran out.
With the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, Mettez du rouge‘s presence in the US is more important than ever, explains Lepers. “We let the president of the United States say horrible things about women, so why can’t men take the liberty to speak up and take action?”
For New Yorkers, Mettez du rouge has organized a special photo studio session in partnership with the French restaurant Félix. On March 8th, from 4pm-8pm, men who get their photo taken in lipstick and post the image to social media receive a free drink. #mettezdurouge