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Catherine Deneuve And Friends Just Defended Men's 'Right' To Grope Women

Over 100 influential women in France signed a letter denouncing #MeToo and its French counterpart

Catherine Deneuve And Friends Just Defended Men's 'Right' To Grope Women

The letter claims that #MeToo is a witch-hunt against men (Image credit: AFP)

In a move that is so bizarre, it would be difficult to believe unless visual, irrefutable proof to the contrary was available for all to see, over 100 prolific women from the French entertainment, academic and publishing industry have signed a letter calling the #MeToo movement a "witch-hunt" in the wake of the explosive Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal. #MeToo's French counterpart, #Balancetonporc, which translated to 'Expose Your Pig', too earned the ire of these influential women

According to these Frenchwomen, the "totalitarian" climate created as a result of women's zero-tolerance resolve against sexual misconduct is a "threat to men's sexual freedom."

Disappointingly, one of the women to have signed this letter, a missive to defend men's (endless) sexual rights and protect their fragile egos from shattering is revered actress, singer, producer and model Catherine Deneuve.

We'll pause for a moment to allow the full import of these enlightening words to sink in.

Here are some more gems from the letter, published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Tuesday, and translated by the New York Times:

"Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression."

"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."

"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."

"The philosopher Ruwen Ogien defended the freedom to offend as essential to artistic creation. In the same way, we defend a freedom to bother, indispensable to sexual freedom."

"As women we do not recognise ourselves in this feminism, which beyond denouncing the abuse of power takes on a hatred of men and of sexuality."

"Women were "sufficiently aware that the sexual urge is by its nature wild and aggressive. But we are also clear-eyed enough not to confuse an awkward attempt to pick someone up with a sexual attack."

golden globes 2018

The letter is particularly disappointing, given that it came a mere day after the women (and men) united in an almost unprecedented show of solidarity at the Golden Globes on Sunday to decry sexism and sexual abuse across industries and stratas of society, under the Time's Up legal and PR-led initiative. And no, we're not just talking about their decision to unanimously wear black.

It's tough not to be incensed by the tone-deafness and lack of awareness that the letter reveals its writers and supporters to be guilty of.

Exactly which part of the right to not be bothered, sexualised, touched or harassed at the workplace (or anywhere else, for that matter) are these women not able to wrap their heads around?

Here's a thought for Deneuve and her coterie to mull over: if men have to "steal" kisses from women, instead of having them given to them with pleasure and consent, they are sexual predators. Showing interest in a woman is not a crime, insisting that she return the sentiments definitely is; especially when the man in question is in a position of power over the woman. It is (highly) improbable that a woman suddenly develops romantic inclinations for a man because he persistently pawed her while she wasn't interested, as a show of affection. No, Ms Deneuve, the way to a woman's heart is not by groping her knee (or anything). And if a man was fired from his job for terrorising his colleagues with sexual advances, he got off lightly. Very, very lightly.

catherine deneuve

The fact that these women can defend the "rights" of men to harass women while suggesting, without a hint of irony, that the two movements are playing to the gallery of extremists against sexual freedom is not only an grievous insult to the intelligence of women, but also a collective slap in the faces of the many, many victims of sexual assault who have bravely come forward to talk about their experience of abuse.

No, Catherine and Co. we don't need you and your lot to tell us the difference between harmless flirtation and a looming threat of sexual assault. As fully-functioning adults who have navigated the choppy waters of balancing unbridled sexualisation and objectification in almost every space we occupy, we're more than capable of recognising the difference between the two.

As soon as the letter became public, there was an outpouring of criticism on social media against the vile opinions expressed in it.

As ghastly as the letter is, perhaps it is not entirely unexpected. From the time the #Me Too and #Balancetonporc gained momentum, France has been embroiled in a national debate on drawing the line between romance and harassment. One would think there is a stout black line that separates the two, easily comprehensible by people of average intelligence and a modicum of decency, but perhaps not.

Victim-blamers like Catherine have, for a while, been defending sexual harassment by claiming that movements like #MeToo threaten France's romantic culture and the idea of a French kiss or French lover.

Again, how is it so difficult to understand that a man forcing his tongue into your mouth to play tonsil hockey is no woman's idea of a kiss, or a lover?

How is this a question so many of us are STILL grappling with, in 2018?

 

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