A French newspaper on Monday published an open letter signed by 100 French women, including actress Catherine Deneuve, who criticized “puritanism” sparked by sexual harassment allegations and the #MeToo movement.
“Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or cack-handedly is not, nor is men being gentlemanly a macho attack,” the letter in the newspaper Le Monde read, according to a translation from the Guardian.
The letter was also signed by writer Catherine Millet and other French women across industries including journalism, psychiatry, dentistry, and the arts. They said the “legitimate” accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein were followed by a “witch-hunt” that threatens sexual freedom.
“Men have been punished summarily, forced out of their jobs when all they did was touch someone’s knee or try to steal a kiss,” they wrote.
The letter criticized social media campaigns including #MeToo and the French equivalent #BalanceTonPorc (meaning “call out your pig”) for encouraging a “wave of purification.”
“As women, we do not recognize ourselves in this feminism, which beyond denouncing the abuse of power takes on a hatred of men and of sexuality,” they said.
The women who signed the letter are in the same camp as skeptics like writer Daphne Merkin who have trouble believing all allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace made against men—not just the particularly “heinous” ones against men like Weinstein and Kevin Spacey—are legitimate.
The letter, in its concern that the #MeToo movement is trying to end “seduction,” misses the same key point as Merkin: Nothing is so central in giving agency to women as the act of believing them when they say they have been harassed or assaulted in the first place.