Iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve is among 100 women who have signed a public letter blaming the #MeToo anti-harassment movement for creating a “totalitarian” climate that unfairly punishes men for flirting “insistently or clumsily,” infantilizes women and undermines sexual freedom.
The letter says that #MeToo, the hashtag that emerged in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, has led to a campaign of public denunciation and summary justice. The victims have been “men who are sanctioned in their work, pushed to resign, etc., when their only wrongdoing was to touch a knee, try to steal a kiss, speak about intimate things during a professional dinner or send messages that are sexually loaded to a woman who wasn’t attracted to them,” the letter says.
“Rape is a crime. But flirting with insistently or clumsily isn’t a crime, and chivalry is not a machismo aggression,” the letter says, adding that men should have the “indispensable freedom to offend and bother” women and that the #MeToo movement encouraged “puritanism.”
The letter was published Tuesday in French newspaper Le Monde. It sparked its own backlash from readers, including from Asia Argento, one of the women who accused Weinstein of sexual assault and helped bring down the Hollywood mogul. “Deneuve and other women tell the world how their interiorized misogyny has lobotomized them to the point of no return,” Argento tweeted.
Deneuve is the only major French film star to sign the letter. Other signatories include writer and psychologist Sarah Chiche, arts critic Catherine Millet, actress and writer Catherine Robbe-Grillet, author Peggy Sastre, and journalist Abnousse Shalmani.
Referring to France’s equivalent of #MeToo, #balancetonporc (or “squeal on your pig”), the letter contends that the “fever to send the ‘pigs’ to the slaughterhouse is far from helping women to become autonomous” and instead “serves the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom, religious extremists, the worst reactionaries and those who deem, in the name of a conception of goodness and Victorian morality, that women are children with adult faces who want to be protected.”
In stark contrast to the downfall of a number of high-profile men in the U.S. entertainment and media industry, neither #MeToo nor #balancetonporc have yet yielded any accusations or allegations of sexual misconduct within the French film industry.
Although Deneuve has been considered a strong, independent woman throughout her life and career, she acknowledged in an interview with the French magazine Technikart that she had never been a feminist champion, mainly due to a lack of time and her reluctance to belong to any group. She said she did sign the Manifesto of the 343 Sluts, a declaration signed by 343 women in support of reproductive rights, and admitted to having had an abortion when abortions were illegal in France in 1971.
On the topic of equal pay, Deneuve said in the Technikart interview that only influential women could dare to demand the “same salary as my partner.”
“In the movie business, it’s easier for Jennifer Lawrence to claim this than Miss X….I find it normal to claim the same salary but not only in the movie industry. We see that we’re still far from it and I don’t understand why,” said Deneuve.