‘Outing’ à la française: American influences in contemporary debates on same sex marriage

Closer blog

‘Outing’ of conservative anti-gay politicians in Washington DC has claimed an interesting array of colorful victims including anti- Republican politician Steve Wiles of North Carolina who turned out to be a former drag-queen, with photographic evidence thereof,  and other politicians ‘outed ‘ through more intrusive and violent ways including photographs  of men in compromising attire and positions and others caught on tape.

The past week has seen ‘outing’ go  French. A far-right political party leader and anti-gay politician, Florian Philipott was ‘outed’ on the basis of relatively mild photographs published in Closer,  the infamous tabloid.  (The same publication was behind rather distasteful pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge and  of the French President on a scooter and other evidence of his ‘affair’.)

Reactions from the public have been interesting and revealing of transatlantic differences in law and differences in cultural attitudes toward the private lives of public figures. A rudimentary reading of internet comments sections  suggests a range of reactions ranging from outright condemnation of the outing, given the legal and cultural sense that privacy is sacrosanct.  Since 1970, France’s  Code Civil  has entrenched strong protections against violations of privacy. Unwritten cultural codes have also perceived privacy violations as bad taste.

Yet, a familiar theme from across the Atlantic has been evident in much of the press: the Lincolnian  statement that those who deny freedom for others do not deserve it themselves. The outing  follows a period  an extended debate over same sex marriage and parentage that has (arguably) created American ‘culture war’ like contours.  Yet, the protections of the law have emboldened Mr Philipott to claim damages not so much for defamation as for an intrusion of his private life.

Interestingly, tabloids and other publications do not even have a French word to describe Mr Philipott’s fate. It simply goes by the name ‘outing’.

Author: George Katito

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