French actress Catherine Deneuve is under fire from feminists because of her criticism of the #MeToo movement, calling it a new “Puritanism” that threatens sexual freedom. Deneuve and about 100 French women in the entertainment industry and academia wrote an open letter published in Le Monde, calling the feminist-driven campaign extreme.
“Rape is a crime,” the letter states as translated in The New York Times. “But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression. As a result of the Weinstein affair, there has been a legitimate realization of the sexual violence women experience, particularly in the workplace, where some men abuse their power. It was necessary. But now this liberation of speech has been turned on its head.”
“This expedited justice already has its victims, men prevented from practicing their profession as punishment, forced to resign, etc., while the only thing they did wrong was touching a knee, trying to steal a kiss, or speaking about ‘intimate’ things at a work dinner, or sending messages with sexual connotations to a woman whose feelings were not mutual.”
French feminist Caroline De Hass lashed out, writing, “The signatories of the Le Monde article are deliberately confusing a relationship of seduction, based on respect and pleasure, with violence. To mix everything is quite practical. It allows everything to go into one basket. If harassment or aggression are ‘heavy flirting’ then it’s not too serious. The signatories are wrong.”
Deneuve also got backlash on Twitter:
In the explosive letter, Deneuve and others argue that men are losing their jobs and reputations for “talking about intimate subjects during professional dinners or for sending sexually charged messages to women who did not return their attentions.” They said a “legitimate protest against the sexual violence that women are subject to, particularly in their professional lives” has now turned into a witch-hunt.
“What began as freeing women up to speak has today turned into the opposite – we intimidate people into speaking ‘correctly,’ shout down those who don’t fall into line, and those women who refused to bend [to the new realities] are regarded as complicit and traitors.”
‘It Actually Helps the Enemies of Sexual Liberty’
The letter is presented, not as a defense of any particular man or men in general, but of sexual freedom, for which, they say, “the liberty to seduce and importune is essential.”
Making sure to emphasize that they don’t condone sexual violence of any sort, they reference philosopher Ruwen Ogien, who “defended the freedom to offend as essential to artistic creation. In the same way, we defend a freedom to bother, indispensable to sexual freedom.”
Deneuve, who has been criticized for defending Roman Polanski—the director who had sex with a 13-year-old girl—has attacked the #MeToo movement on social media, saying it’s the wrong method to bring about change because it’s excessive. “After ‘calling out your pig’ what are we going to have, ‘Call our your whore’?” she asked last year.
The letter echoed this sentiment: “Instead of helping women in this frenzy to send these (male chauvinist) ‘pigs’ to the abattoir [slaughterhouse], it actually helps the enemies of sexual liberty – religious extremists and the worst sort of reactionaries.”
“As women we do not recognize ourselves in this feminism, which beyond denouncing the abuse of power takes on a hatred of men and of sexuality.” Women, they said, are “sufficiently aware that the sexual urge is by its nature wild and aggressive. But we are also clear-eyed enough not to confuse an awkward attempt to pick someone up with a sexual attack.”
“Accidents that can affect a woman’s body do not necessarily affect her dignity and must not, as hard as they can be, necessarily make her a perpetual victim. Because we are not reducible to our bodies, our inner freedom is inviolable. And this freedom that we cherish is not without risks and responsibilities.”
Secret Blacklists that Determine People’s Job Prospects
Deneuve and her fellow signatories are right to bring into the discussion the issue of sexual freedom. Of course, with any sort of freedom comes personal responsibility. That’s true for women as well as men. Men aren’t free to abuse their liberty, and women are not free to use any perceived offense as a springboard for personal destruction.
Allegations do not equal fact, but all it takes these days is a woman to claim a man touched her in the wrong way or said something inappropriate. There is even a list being circulated of men who have been accused of sexual misconduct of one sort or another. It’s called the Sh-tty Media Men’s List, and while the accused names are made public, the accusers remain anonymous.
Simply being on the list could determine whether someone keeps or gets a job. As reported in The Hollywood Reporter, “Multiple industry veterans who spoke to THR noted the deluge of accusations likely will change the hiring process. If there’s a red flag in someone’s past, multiple executives say, they will think twice before hiring that person. ‘They become dangerous hires in today’s climate,’ says the network vp.’”
The #MeToo movement says it wants justice and accountability, but there is no justice when it’s carried out by a mob.