A piece by Charles Bremner in today’s Times:
A group of 100 eminent Frenchwomen yesterday denounced the #Metoo movement as a puritan backlash that treats women as children and denies their sexual freedom.
The actress Catherine Deneuve, 74, along with authors, journalists, psychiatrists and intellectuals — and Catherine Millet who wrote a bestseller about her own sex life — signed a manifesto in Le Monde deploring the flood of public accusations prompted by the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood. Men’s careers were being ruined when “their only wrong was touching a knee, stealing a kiss, talking of intimate matters at a professional dinner”, they wrote.
“Far from helping women to become independent, this… in reality serves the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom, religious extremists, the worst reactionaries and those who believe in the name of Victorian morality that women are children with the faces of adults.”
They said that the post-Weinstein awakening to abusive men was justified. “But insistent or clumsy pick-up attempts are not a crime and gallantry is not male aggression.” Puritans, they wrote, were using the old technique of “arguing for the protection of women… in order to chain them down in their status of eternal victims, of poor little things under the power of male chauvinist devils like in the good old days of witchcraft”. [J4MB: The notion that puritanism is driving #MeToo and other feminist initiatives around sexual matters is nonsense. This is all about the feminist imperative to increase women’s power over men.]
Men were being forced to repent for inappropriate behaviour up to 30 years ago, they noted. Works of art, including paintings by Egon Schiele and Balthus, and films such as Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, faced censorship in the name of a “wave of purification”. The women said they wanted nothing to do with a feminism which “assumes the face of hatred of men and of sexuality”. The sex drive “is by nature offensive and untamed but we are sufficiently clear-sighted not to confuse a clumsy pick-up attempt with sexual aggression”. If women were free to refuse a sexual advance, men must be given the right to importune them, they said. “You have to know how to respond… other than locking yourself into the role of prey.”
There was no conflict between being serious and enjoying one’s sexuality, they said. “A woman can, in the same day, direct a professional team and enjoy being the sex object of a man without being a slut or a vile accomplice of the patriarchy.”
As mothers, the women said they brought up their daughters to enjoy life without being intimidated or made to feel shameful. Physical events that could hurt women must not turn them into perpetual victims.
French feminists have long argued that many “Anglo-Saxon” militants for women’s rights are driven by a hatred of men, and deny female sexuality.
A French version of the #Metoo movement called “report your pig” has led to the naming and shaming of several politicians, business leaders and a television boss. The phenomenon has stirred misgivings in some quarters where it is perceived as being influenced by American puritanism and hysteria.
Ms Deneuve, who earned fame abroad in Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour, the 1967 story of a housewife prostitute, often criticises American political correctness over relations between the sexes. In October, she said that the onslaught on men after the Weinstein affair went too far. “I don’t think it is the right method to change things, it is excessive,” she said. “After ‘calling out your pig’ what are we going to have, ‘call out your whore’?” Last March, she supported Roman Polanski, the film director, who is still wanted by Californian prosecutors for the alleged rape of Samantha Geimer, who was 13 at the time, in the home of Jack Nicholson in 1977.
President Macron’s government has taken an opposite tack, using the Weinstein affair to support a drive against harassment. It is also about to introduce a law that will define all sex with girls aged 15 and younger as rape.
Even as the 100 Frenchwomen made their stand, the 95-year-old comic book legend Stan Lee emerged as the latest celebrity to be accused of sexual harassment. The co-creator of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and other characters is alleged to have groped young women employed to care for him, according to the Daily Mail. A lawyer for Mr Lee said that he “categorically denies” the “despicable” allegations.
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