French movie icon Catherine Deneuve thinks the #MeToo movement to hold sexual harassers accountable has gone too far, joining a group of other influential French women arguing that it amounts to “puritanism” and “a wave of purification” that has created “a climate of a totalitarian society.”
The actress was among 100 women ― including journalists, filmmakers, writers and intellectuals ― who signed the letter, published Tuesday in France’s leading newspaper Le Monde. The missive decried the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men as “a witch hunt” and a hindrance to “sexual freedom.”
They claimed that “the Weinstein affair,” referring to the bombshell stories of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual harassment and assault of actresses and employees, has led to unfair punishments in some cases and stems from “a hatred of men and of sexuality.”
“Men have been sanctioned in their professions, forced to resign, etc., when their only wrongdoing was touching someone’s knee, trying to steal a kiss, talking about ‘intimate’ things during a professional dinner, or sending messages with a sexual connotation to a woman who wasn’t attracted to them,” they wrote.
The women went on to suggest that #MeToo has led to “a fever to send the ‘pigs’ to the slaughterhouse” — referring to the French version of the social media hashtag, #BalanceTonPorc, which roughly translates to “call out your pig.”
The letter has sparked backlash in France, as the country grapples with its own debate over sexual harassment and assault. On Wednesday, a group of 30 feminist activists published their own letter in response, criticizing the women for “trivializing sexual violence” and “trying to close the lid that we have started to lift.”
“The ‘pigs’ and their allies have reason to worry,” they wrote. “Their old world is disappearing.”
Italian actress and director Asia Argento, one of Weinstein’s accusers, on Tuesday called the letter “deplorable” and accused Deneuve and the other signatories of “interiorized misogyny.”
In October, Deneuve similarly called the movement “excessive,” saying it was not “the right way to change things.”
“After ‘calling out your pig,’ what are we going to have, ‘Call out your whore?’” she said.
Last year, Deneuve also defended director Roman Polanski, who in 1977 was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl at a party in Los Angeles. He eventually pleaded guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor, but fled the U.S. in 1978 before he was sentenced for the crime. He has lived in France since then.
“I always found the word ‘rape’ was excessive,” Deneuve said.
This article was updated with the activists’ response on Wednesday.