Last week we published a post about the #MeToo movement that’s overtaken social media since October 2017, when allegations of sexual abuse and harassment from Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were published in a New York Times article. Used as a hashtag to demonstrate personal experiences with sexual violence as well as allegiance and solidarity against it, the #MeToo phrase was tweeted more than 200,000 times by the end of the day on October 15th, 2017, after Alyssa Milano first encouraged users to post it. On Facebook, it was used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts in the first 24 hours of its viral posting. While the #MeToo movement and subsequent support against sexual harassment and assault have grown to never-before-seen proportions, a group of 100 women—actors, academics, and activists—signed an open letter against the movement in January 2018.
The list of signatories included many famous French individuals, including writers and Catherine Deneuve, arguably the country’s most well-known actress. The letter was published by French newspaper Le Monde, and reportedly warned against a new “puritanism” resulting from recent sexual abuse allegations throughout the film and TV industry, while defending men’s ability to freely “pester women.” Additionally, the letter reportedly argued against publicly denouncing abusers, stating it benefited “the enemies of sexual freedom,” while also proposing that such a movement labeled women as “eternal victim(s).”
The letter went on to talk about concerns for the accused and/or other males in power, who may feel afraid that their behaviors will be misinterpreted, or that they might be penalized without receiving the chance to defend themselves. The letter stated that men may be forced to resign “when all they did wrong was touch a knee,” which a CNN article stated was a reference to UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon leaving his post in November 2017 after admitting to touching journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee multiple times at a dinner in 2002.
An article in The Guardian included 89-year-old French historian and feminist Michelle Perrot’s viewpoint on those who’d signed the letter: “They are triumphant free women who show a certain lack of solidarity with the #MeToo victims … But they say what they think, and many people share their point of view.” Perrot continued by stating that the goals of the signatories—to fight the denial of creative, artistic, and sexual freedom and a new censorship of desire—is founded if perhaps demonstrated in a polarizing way through the letter’s word choice.
French psychoanalyst Sarah Chiche (and one of those who signed the letter) also voiced her thoughts in the article about how the culture’s new aversion and public correctness in the arts and film industries have led to revisions of movies and art installations, and might’ve even prevented the publication of such books as Nabokov’s bestselling Lolita. (The book is written from the perspective of a middle-aged professor in love with a 12-year-old who lives in the same house where he’s renting a room, and who he begins a sexual relationship with after becoming her stepfather. It’s been included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005).
More information about the letter and the motives of those who signed it, including Deneuve, can be found in articles posted here and here.
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