French actress Catherine Deneuve signed a public letter that denounced the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. The letter said, in part, “Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression.”
What happened next should be an object lesson to those who dare disagree with a left-wing social movement beginning to resemble a Stalinist purge rather than an effort to give women dignity in the workplace.
It’s not that the 100 women from the entertainment, publishing, and academic fields in France who signed the letter approve of sexual harassment. Their crime is that they don’t agree enough with the hysterics who equate a hand on the knee with rape and sexual harassment.
“Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression,” the letter, dated Monday, begins. “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.”
They contend that the #MeToo movement has led to a campaign of public accusations that have placed undeserving people in the same category as sex offenders without giving them a chance to defend themselves. “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,” they write. The letter, written in French was translated here by The New York Times.
The passage appears to refer to the some of the names on a growing list of men who have been suspended, fired or forced to resign after having been accused of sexual misconduct in the last several months.
A recognition of reality to be sure. But there’s more. What really got the feminists’ goat is their open embrace of female sexuality and how women can “have it all” — a tough, demanding job while enjoying “being the sexual object of a man.”
One of the arguments the writers make is that instead of empowering women, the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc movements instead serve the interests of “the enemies of sexual freedom, of religious extremists, of the worst reactionaries,” and of those who believe that women are “‘separate’ beings, children with the appearance of adults, demanding to be protected.” They write that “a woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a ‘promiscuous woman,’ nor a vile accomplice of patriarchy.”
They believe that the scope of the two movements represses sexual expression and freedom. After describing requests from publishers to make male characters “less sexist” and a Swedish bill that will require people to give explicit consent before engaging in sexual activity, the women write, “One more effort and two adults who will want to sleep together will first check, through an app on their phone, a document in which the practices they accept and those they refuse will be duly listed.”
A clarion call for an end to repression that was met with fury by feminists.
Catherine Deneuve might have very different opinions about harassment if she weren't an extraordinarily beautiful, very rich white woman living in a bubble of heightened privilege. And had some empathy.
— Colleen Doran (@ColleenDoran) January 9, 2018
A group of leading French feminists reacted to Denueve and women who agree with her with a letter calling them “apologists for rape.”
“Their world is disappearing,” the feminist letter read. “Their letter is like a tired old uncle who doesn’t understand what is happening, The (male chauvinist) pigs and their allies have reason to be worried. Their old world is fast disappearing.”
Boorish, loutish behavior by men toward women should be called out. Fingers should be pointed at them and they should be shamed. But fired? All the French women are saying is that the #MeToo movement has gone too far in fighting harassment and has become a caricature of itself, threatening sexual freedom and women’s (and men’s) legitimate rights.
There are some promoting the #MeToo movement who are beginning to see the danger inherent in these witch hunts. Yes, we should create a safe and comfortable workplace for all employees, especially women. But not at the cost of penalizing the normal give and take between the sexes that has been part of the human experience for thousands of years.