French artists rebuff #MeToo witch-hunt

HELP ENLIGHTEN YOUR FELLOWS. BE SURE TO PASS THIS ON. SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON IT.

By Linda Tenenbaum

“…the #metoo partisans confuse being hit on clumsily with being sexually assaulted.”

Deneuve: A merciful voice of maturity and common sense.

Just one day after the #MeToo movement dominated the Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles, with the full complicity of the Hollywood celebrity audience and corporate-controlled media, its sexual witch-hunt campaign has received a major rebuff.

In a comment published in the French newspaper Le Monde January 9, entitled “We defend the liberty to inconvenience people, which is indispensable to sexual liberty,” 100 French actresses, intellectuals, and professionals expressed their opposition and hostility to the #MeToo movement, its anti-democratic modus operandi and its attempt to intimidate, silence and destroy its male victims and their careers.

The signatories include well-known French actress Catherine Deneuve, veteran German actress Ingrid Caven, art critic and writer Catherine Millet, and writer and journalist Abnousse Shalmani, as well as numerous visual artists, stage and film performers and writers.

Their document follows hard on the heels of the publication of a column by American critic and novelist Daphne Merkin in the New York Times, one of the main platforms for the #MeToo witch-hunt, expressing major misgivings about the campaign, and conceding that, even within its target demographic, including readers of the NYT, there were numbers of opponents.

The French comment counterposes the crime of rape, to “persistently or clumsily hitting on someone,” and correctly insists that the two are simply not the same. It attacks #MeToo for branding as “traitors” and “accomplices” those who make such a distinction, creating a climate of intimidation, where freedom of speech “is today turning into its opposite.”

Importantly, it emphasises the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the #MeToo movement and its total repudiation of due process and natural justice.


The French comment counterposes the crime of rape, to “persistently or clumsily hitting on someone,” and correctly insists that the two are simply not the same. It attacks #MeToo for branding as “traitors” and “accomplices” those who make such a distinction, creating a climate of intimidation, where freedom of speech “is today turning into its opposite.” The authors insist on distancing themselves from “this feminism, which… takes the shape of hatred for men and sexuality.

The campaign had led, in the press and social media, to “public denunciations and indictments of people who have been denied the right to reply or to defend themselves, and have been put on the same level as sexual aggressors. This summary justice has already claimed victims, men who have been disciplined in their professional life, forced to resign, etc., when their only fault was to have touched a knee, tried to steal a kiss, spoken of ‘intimate’ things at a professional dinner or sent messages with a sexual connotation to a woman for whom the attraction was not mutual.”

Far from developing women’s independence, the witch-hunt served “the interests of the worst enemies of sexual liberty, religious extremists, the worst reactionaries …” Its victims have been forced to “beat their breasts and to search, looking back in the deepest recesses of their conscience, for ‘inappropriate behavior’ from 10, 20, or 30 years ago for which they must repent. Public confessions, the incursion of self-appointed prosecutors into private lives—all of this sets up a climate like a totalitarian society.”

The comparisons drawn between the conduct of the #MeToo movement and the actions of repressive regimes, are particularly apt. And the implications are dire: censorship throughout the arts, repression of all forms of opposition to the status quo; and immense damage to sexual relations between women and men.

“The purifying wave seems to know no limit,” the authors write, referring to the current censoring of sexually explicit artworks: a nude by Egon Schiele, a Balthus painting, demands to ban a Roman Polanski retrospective, the postponement of another one on director Jean-Claude Brisseau, attacks on the film Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni and writers being instructed to rewrite their works to conform with the demands of #MeToo.

The depths of absurdity being plumbed by the campaign find consummate expression in the fact that “a draft law in Sweden … wants to require explicitly notified consent for all candidates to a sexual encounter!”

And where will this lead?

“A little bit more, and two adults who want to sleep together will have to first check, via an app on their telephone, a document in which the sexual practices they accept and those they refuse will be duly listed.”

The document boldly defends “the liberty to offend as indispensable to artistic creation,” and the “liberty to inconvenience, which is indispensable to sexual liberty,” explaining that the signatories are sufficiently “experienced” and “clear-sighted” to know “not to confuse being hit on clumsily with being sexually assaulted.”

The authors insist on distancing themselves from “this feminism, which… takes the shape of hatred for men and sexuality. We believe the liberty to say no to a sexual proposition goes along with the liberty to inconvenience. And we believe that one should know how to react to this liberty to inconvenience in other ways than shutting oneself up inside the role of the victim.”

Moreover, they emphasize that humans are not monolithic. “[A] woman, in the same day, can run a professional organization and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a ‘whore’ or a filthy accomplice of the patriarchy. She can make sure her salary is equal to that of a man, but not feel traumatized for life by a groper in the subway, even if groping is considered a crime. She can even see this as the expression of great sexual misery, or simply a non-event.”

The decision of the document’s authors and signatories to take a stand against #MeToo and similar reactionary campaigns is a courageous political act. Predictably, it has been denounced by leading #MeToo figures, including Italian actress Asia Argento, who tweeted Tuesday: “Deneuve and other women tell the world how their interiorised misogyny has lobotomised them to the point of no return.”

The French statement, however, has also been praised and widely shared on social media.

Disqus comments to entertainment industry journal Variety salute the women. One commentator, Ashley M, states: “I am so, so grateful to Catherine Deneuve and the other wonderful French actresses, writers, doctors and I’m sure women and men of many professions who signed this letter. We are letting the media be the dictator of the Western world. Some of these accusations seem almost hellbent on creating a chasm between men and women; as though they want women to ‘fear’ men. This is extremely demeaning to women.”

Another commentator, Blue Silver, states: “This whole #MeToo BS is reeking with wealthy snobbish women inciting hateful, sarcastic indirect and direct attacks on men, both guilty and innocent on almost every level… [W]hen you get a Golden Globe (for what it’s worth) awards show and the damn show becomes more of a political showcase than an actual show celebrating the craft of film, then there is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed and remedied….. I really hope the Oscars don’t become a freak propaganda show like the Golden Globes were!” 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 Linda Tenenbaum writes arts and social commentary for wsws.org, a socialist publication. 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

ALL CAPTIONS AND PULL QUOTES BY THE EDITORS NOT THE AUTHORS

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5 thoughts on “French artists rebuff #MeToo witch-hunt

  1. Ah yes, Catherine Deneuve in her little black leather dress. So chic. So unaware. Was it the french who created foie gras? Little bit of sadistic pleasure must be preserved. It is not puritanism to respect a woman’s right to remain free from groping.

    just as little bit of animal abuse is not good… Just as it does not matter if a woman is wealthy or poor…. being hit on ala trump style of groping is not wanted…. not fun and not harmless to clumsy flirtation. It is an abuse of power intended to humiliate and keep women in their place…. according to the patriarchy.

  2. Nice liberal comments from the French theatre booboisie who like their US counterparts are better at imitating life (via Erasmus, who criticized theoretical dogmatism) than facing reality. Accustomed by their doctrinaire philosophy which allows for very little if any deviation at all, the trusty Trotskies will trot out their nonsense about a fictional hatred between men and women being fostered by the #metoo movement. Oh well, just transpose woman with black and see what you get. Discrimination does not stop at the door of Tiffany’s or of Bonwit Teller’s, women anywhere and everywhere partake of the same fate, of being approached as objects. Objectification is what the #metoo is all about and it is time that the capitalist US learns a bit of humility and understands that not everything is fine in this mythical land of Cockayne. We are not robots, women say and that is to be supported fully and forget about radical Trotskyist correctness. Idealists of that sort form an enduring danger anyway to a liberating movement because their theories weigh heavier than any rests of humanitarianism left in this mechanical world.

  3. Yeah, I was groped on the subway when I was 12 years old. I remember it, but it doesn’t affect my life every day. I had at least one man I can remember expose himself to me on the subway. Oh well. I was asked out more than once by guys I wasn’t interested in. And I was unpleasantly followed by more than one person who was interested in me. But I sure don’t equate my experiences with the real sexual abuse many women suffer, be it rape or harassment in the workplace. (And not always just grown women.) MeToo can be good for bringing awareness of what many, probably the majority of, women experience. But don’t you think it has tipped over into another one of those witch hunts we are so good at in this society these days? Not all the experiences covered by the term MeToo are equivalent. Not by a long shot.
    BTW, what REALLY makes me mad is the decades I’ve worked for lower wages than I would have been paid were I a man.

    1. Being groped is not a badge of honor…. Your cases indicates anonymous offenders….

      In cases where a job and livelihood may be denied for rejecting advances, being groped becomes an issue of power, domination and part of the reason you are receiving lower wages than your male counterparts…. Patriarchy doles out it privileges to men as it gropes women to keep them in their place.

      You seem to accept being groped as given…. it should not be. It is a bid deal and represents much more than having your personal space invaded…

    2. Tormels,

      It is great that you were strong enough to shrug aside being groped…. Many women are not…. Neither you nor they should have been subjected to this invasion of your personal space.

      Groping as described in #METOO are all too often intended to control and humiliate and all too often go on to become full fledged assaults. No woman should have to endure this infringement on the grounds that ‘boys will be boys’.

      It is great that many are finding the voice to tell their stories & that their stories have cause some of the most offensive offenders to lose status and income, along with the possibility of criminal prosecution.

      Ruth

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