Actress Catherine Deneuve was one of 100 French women who signed an open letter stating that the #MeToo movement has gone to far. The backlash to the letter was swift, and Deneuve actually has some clarifying comments about it.
The initial letter, published in Le Monde on Tuesday, stated that there is a difference between “clumsy flirting,” “gallantry,” and rape, and suggested that the current discussion of sexual harassment and assault conflated the two, in a way that seemed to dismiss all. In a follow up on Sunday in Libération, Deneuve attempted to explain that she definitely supports rape victims, according to the New York Times:
“I’m a free woman and I will remain one,” Ms. Deneuve said in the letter to Libération. “I fraternally salute all women victims of odious acts who may have felt aggrieved by the letter in Le Monde. It is to them, and them alone, that I apologize.”
Deneuve also insisted that nothing in the letter “claims that harassment is good,” and also seems frustrated with how her fellow signatories are promoting its contents:
“Yes, I signed this petition, and yet it seems to me absolutely necessary today to emphasize my disagreement with the way some petitioners individually claim the right to spread themselves across the media, distorting the very spirit of this text,” she continued.
The New York Times reports that the letter has cast a harsh light on a cultural divide in France. French women have been battling with their own hashtag, #BalanceTonPorc , or “name your pig.” Those who side with Deneuve and her ilk seem to believe the cataloguing of micro-aggressions alongside assault claims is the influence of American feminism.
But there is enough support for these movements for the government to get involved. President Emannuel Macron has announced initiatives to fine cat callers and fix France’s age of consent laws. While it is illegal to have sex with someone under the age of fifteen, it has not been considered rape if the child gives “consent.”
Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for gender equality, who is currently working on this legislation, said that she found some aspects of the letter “not uninteresting,” but that it showed how much work there was to be done in regards to education on sexual harassment and assault:
“We have immense difficulty convincing young women that when a man rubs his genitals against a woman in the métro without her consent, it is an act of sexual assault that can lead to three years in prison and a 75,000 euro fine,” she told France Culture radio on Wednesday.
Deneuve also takes issue with how her feminism is being judged in this new world; in her letter she reminds readers that in 1971, she spoke openly of having an abortion when the practice was still illegal. She’s also not happy with the folks who have recently hitched to her wagon:
“I would like to say to conservatives, racists and traditionalists of all kinds who have found it strategic to support me that I am not fooled,” she said. “They will have neither my gratitude nor my friendship — on the contrary.”
If these are the people you don’t want following you, maybe consider your direction.