Activists slam French icon and other critics of #MeToo movement

Catherine Deneuve

Catherine Deneuve

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi hailed French actress Catherine Deneuve yesterday for defending men accused of sexual harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

New Yorker writer Lauren Collins, who experienced an incident of sexual harassment in Paris, called the French women's letter "another apologia for sexual assault and hysteria". We believe that the freedom to say "no" to a sexual proposition can not exist without the freedom to bother. But the letter also argues that it is not a crime "to touch a woman's knee, try to steal a kiss, talk about intimate things during a work meal, or send sexually charged messages to women who did not return their interest".

However many people echo her concerns of a new "puritanism" that goes against French traditions of seduction. "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".

"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", they write.

The letter signed by Deneuve said some women may see being rubbed against by a man in the metro as an expression of "sexual deprivation" or a "non-event".

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The signatories - which included a porn star-turned-agony aunt - claimed they were defending sexual freedom, for which "the liberty to seduce and importune was essential".

Ms Deneuve, an Oscar-nominated actress, has been in more than 100 films, making her debut in 1957.

Social media responses to the letter have been mixed. However, it's not the first time she's denounced #MeToo-she called the movement "excessive" last fall. "After "Calling out your pig" what are we going to have, 'Call out your whore?'" she said. It accused women involved of pursuing "expeditious justice", and said that it was important to give men the "indispensable freedom to offend and bother".

"As women we do not recognise ourselves in this feminism, which beyond denouncing the abuse of power, takes on a hatred of men and of sexuality".

"For those of us who made a decision to have children, we think that it is wiser to raise our daughters in a way that they may be sufficiently informed and aware to fully live their lives without being intimidated or blamed".

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Plus, as The Atlantic points out, there are also cultural differences at play here.

Men, for their part, are called on to embrace their guilt and rack their brains for "inappropriate behavior" that they engaged in 10, 20 or 30 years earlier, and for which they must now repent.

This "puritan wave" was already bringing censorship in its wake, the women insisted, claiming that some of them had already been asked to make the male characters in their writing "less sexist", and told to tone down certain scenes to "better show the trauma suffered by female characters".

Deneuve received worldwide acclaim for her acting, which included starring roles in films by renowned directors Francois Truffaut, Roman Polanski and Luis Bunuel.

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