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Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Deneuve is among 100 notable French women who signed an open letter published Wednesday in Le Monde, saying the #MeToo movement — or rather its French equivalent — has gone too far and placed women’s sexual liberation at risk.
“Insistent or awkward come-ons aren’t a crime,” the letter said. “This fever for sending ‘pigs’ to the abattoir, far from helping empower women, in reality serves the interests of the enemies of sexual liberation.”
The French version of the #MeToo hashtag is #BalanceTonPorc — which has been translated by some as “squeal on your pig.”
Among other things, the letter lamented a “puritanical wave” creating restrictions on free speech, consensual sexuality and a lack of due process for the accused.
In response, French feminist activist Caroline De Haas penned her own open letter Wednesday to counter arguments made by the Deneuve group. That letter, signed by more than 30 other women and presented via Franceinfo, slammed what it saw as a conflation of seduction and sexual violence.
“When will we ask the question about men's responsibility to not rape or abuse?” the De Haas letter asked. The first letter was described as being “a bit like the annoying colleague or the tiring uncle who doesn’t really understand what’s going on.”
Sandra Muller, the woman behind #BalanceTonPorc, told CNN that the 100 women and their message in Le Monde “are just going to sap the morale of the numerous victims who try to have a bit of courage.”
The Deneuve letter isn’t the first cultural pushback seen in France since the Harvey Weinstein scandal opened the floodgates on allegations of sexual harassment and abuse.
There is an “idealization of seduction ‘à la Française,’ and that anti-feminism has become almost part of the national identity and is seen as a retort to Anglo-American culture,” Christine Bard, a professor of feminism at the University of Angers, told the New York Times in November.
However, French President Emmanuel Macron said in October, after the Harvey Weinstein story broke, that the producer would be stripped of a Legion of Honor award “because his actions lack honor.”
Around the same time, the French government considered enacting a law — to be voted on this year — that would fine men on the spot for catcalling and other street harassment. The country is also considering setting a minimum age for consent to sex.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Alexandra Zavis in Beirut contributed to this report.
For the record
12:50 p.m.: An earlier version of this post spelled President Emmanuel Macron’s first name as Emile.