Deneuve attacks #MeToo ‘witch-hunt’, defends men’s ‘right’ to hit on women

The #MeToo movement that motivated victims of sexual abuse to share their stories from Hollywood and far beyond has sparked a ‘witch-hunt’ threatening the sexual freedom of men to hit on women, legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve (pictured) says.

In an open letter signed by 100 female French writers, performers and academics and published in the newspaper Le Monde, Deneuve has denounced a new wave of ‘puritanism’ created by sexual harassment scandals linked to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein who allegedly raped and sexually assaulted women over decades.

While the #MeToo campaign raised awareness of sexual violence against women by naming and shaming the alleged perpetrators, the witch-hunt has gone too far, the letter said.

Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone is not – nor is gallantry a macho attack, said the letter.

Men have often been unfairly targeted, thrown out of jobs for touching someone’s knee, trying to steal a kiss, talking about intimate subjects during professional dinners or sending sexually charged messages to women, said the letter which was also signed by Catherine Millet, author of the explicit 2002 bestseller The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

The letter attacked feminist social media campaigns like #MeToo and its French equivalent, #BalanceTonPorc (Call out your pig), for unleashing a puritanical wave. The campaigns have promoted hatred towards men and sexuality by wrongly projecting women as powerless and perpetual victims of sexual abuse.

The letter drew criticism from Italian actress Asia Argento who was among the first to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault. She tweeted: “Catherine Deneuve and other French women tell the world how their interiorised misogyny has lobotomised them to the point of no return.”

Deneuve is an Oscar-nominated actress best known for her role in the 1967 international classic Belle de Jour in which she played a bored housewife who worked in a brothel. She had sparked controversy last year for backing film director Roman Polanski, who is wanted in the US on charges of statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Deneuve told the channel TMC that describing Polanski’s actions as rape was “excessive”.