Catherine Deneuve – French actor and 100 other women who signed letter are accused of being ‘apologists for rape’
Catherine Deneuve ‘s claim of #MeToo witch-hunt sparks backlash. The Catherine Deneuve letter said men had been ‘summarily punished’ for touching someone’s knee or trying to ‘steal a kiss’.
The French actor Catherine Deneuve has sparked a furious international backlash after she denounced the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment as a “witch-hunt” against men.
Deneuve and around 100 other women had signed an open letter blasting the new “puritanism” of the avalanche of “denunciations” following claims that the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had sexually assaulted dozens of women.
In an angry riposte, French feminists described the letter’s signatories as “apologists for rape” and “defenders of paedophiles”, a reference to Deneuve’s vigorous support of the French-Polish film director Roman Polanski, convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl.
“There’s nothing really new in the arguments they use; they’re like the embarrassing colleague or tired uncle who doesn’t understand what’s happening,” a group of feminists wrote in an open letter of their own to French radio.
“Those who signed the letter deliberately conflated seduction, based on respect and pleasure, with violence … these signatories are for the most part recidivists in the matter of defending child abusers or apologists for rape. Once again they are using their high profiles in the media to make sexual violence seem commonplace. They despise the millions of women who suffer or have suffered this violence.”
It added: “Many of them are often quick to criticise sexism when it comes from men from working-class areas; but a hand on the arse, when done by a man from their milieu … is all part of the ‘right to hit on someone’, according to them. This strange ambivalence allows us to appreciate their alleged attachment to feminism.”
On Tuesday, the Italian actor Asia Argento, among the first to accuse Weinstein, wrote on Twitter: “Deneuve and other French women tell the world how their interiorised misogyny has lobotomised them to the point of no return.”
The Deneuve letter, published in Le Monde, was signed by other well-known French writers, artists and academics, including Catherine Millet, author of the explicit 2002 memoir The Sexual Life of Catherine M, which defended libertine lifestyles. The letter claimed men had been “summarily punished, forced out of their jobs when all they did was touch someone’s knee or try to steal a kiss”. The #MeToo campaign – #BalanceTonPorc (Expose your pig) in France – had unleashed a “puritanical … wave of purification”, the letter said.
“Rape is a crime, but flirting, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not – nor is men being gallant a macho attack,” read the letter, entitled: “We defend the freedom to importune, indispensable for sexual freedom.”
An assertion that being “touched up on the metro” should be a “non event” also provoked fury.
“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,” tweeted the New York Times cartoonist Colleen Doran.
The American novelist Laila Lalami said such thinking was “the clearest explanation yet of how men like Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein lasted”.
“Would Catherine Deneuve be rushing to the defence of men who ‘try to steal a kiss’ if these men had been north African?” she added.
Not all were hostile to the French star’s lament. The American academic Christina Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism?, said Deneuve was calling out “the excesses of the #MeToo crusade”.