Catherine Deneuve has declared that men should be “free to hit on” women, condemning a new “puritanism” she claims has been sparked by sexual harassment scandals.
The iconic French actress led a group of 100 French women including writers, performers and academics, who signed an open letter published in Le Monde deploring the wave of “denunciations” that has followed Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal in Hollywood.
“Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not – nor is men being gentlemanly a macho attack,” the women write. “Men have been punished summarily, forced out of their jobs when all they did was touch someone’s knee or try to steal a kiss,” said the letter, which was also signed by Catherine Millet, author of the hugely explicit 2002 memoir, The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
The letter attacked feminist social media campaigns like #MeToo and its French equivalent #Balancetonporc (Call out your pig) for unleashing this “puritanical ... wave of purification”. It claimed that “legitimate protest against the sexual violence that women are subject to, particularly in their professional lives,” had 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.”
“As women, we do not recognize ourselves in this feminism which, beyond the denunciation of abuses of power, takes the face of a hatred of men and sexuality,” the letter said. She added that women are condemning themselves to play the role of “prey”.
Deneuve, 74, is best known internationally for playing a bored housewife who spends her afternoons as a prostitute in Luis Bunuel classic 1967 film Belle du Jour. She and the other signatories argued for sexual freedom in the letter, which said, “The liberty to seduce and importune was essential,”
The letter got a mostly hostile reception on social media, quickly becoming the most tweeted story on Twitter in France.
“Catherine Deneuve "attacks" victims of sexual harassment by defending men's "right" to "hit" on women - maybe she was lucky & got never in a situation like this, maybe she even never had to witness something like that - but she should stand up for #MeToo women & support them” said one user, while another one commented “Please @Oprah can you tell me what do you think of the letter that #CatherineDeneuve wrote with others 99 women? Is Puritanism? Sexual freedom for men?” [SIC].
However, some users shared the French actress opinion: “#CatherineDeneuve: from one woman to another, THANK you for saying that,” a user wrote.