In an open letter published yesterday by the French newspaper, Le Monde, actress Catherine Deneuve along with 99 other French women from academia, publishing, and the entertainment industry are saying that the #MeToo campaign and it’s French version #BalanceTonPorc (“expose your pig”) have gone a bit too far. The women argue that the movement is using social media as a way to prosecute private experiences in a public forum, and created a type of censorship that has put free speech and sexual liberation up for debate.
Since the letter went public yesterday, many have commented, such as American conservative philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers, who is known for her critique of contemporary feminism and who tweeted quotes from the letter in support. Others have been more critical, such as Asia Argento, who famously accused Harvey Weinstein of rape and cites the op-ed as proof that its writers have been all but lobotomized by the patriarchy.
In the letter, Deneuve et al address the patriarchy directly and point out some of the hypocrisies of the movement we are living in—where a women can recognize the difference between a sexually depraved act, such as having a man expose his privates on a subway, and catalogue it as a non-event—but can’t accept a coworker sending a sexually explicit text message. They address the need to expose the power behind certain acts and believe “the Harvey Weinstein scandal sparked a legitimate awakening about the sexual violence that women are subjected to, particularly in their professional lives, where some men abuse their power.” But the women go on to argue that it infantilizes women to believe that they need protection from making the distinction between sexual aggression and the naturally “offensive and primitive” nature of sexual impulses.
The women argue that this new feminism, aside from the cases where power is called into play, is projecting a hatred of men and sexuality. They worry #MeToo could be a movement that sees no boundaries, where censorship is replacing artistic expression.
“Already,” they say, “editors are asking some of us to make our masculine characters less ‘sexist’ and more restrained in how they talk about sexuality and love, or to make it so that the ‘traumas experienced by female characters’ be more evident! Bordering on ridiculous, in Sweden a bill was presented that calls for explicit consent before any sexual relations! Next, we’ll have a smartphone app that adults who want to sleep together will have to use to check precisely which sex acts the other does or does not accept.”
The go on to express concern that these attempts, instead of empowering women, have the opposite effect, “claiming to promote the liberation and protection of women, only to enslave them to a status of eternal victim and reduce them to defenseless preys of male chauvinist demons.”
Though these women are certainly entitled to their opinions, it seems they’ve missed the point. #MeToo is pro-women, not anti-men. It’s a movement that aims to stand behind survivors — and to trust that individual women are smart enough to know what it looks like to cross the line.
What do you think of the open letter? Tell us @britandco.
(Photo by Pascal LeSegretain/Getty)