January 10, 2018 / 12:31 PM / 9 days ago

French feminists liken Deneuve and fellow #Metoo critics to "tiresome uncle"

PARIS, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Catherine Deneuve and other critics of the #Metoo movement against sexual harassment sound like “the tiresome uncle at the family dinner”, leading French feminists said on Wednesday.

Deneuve and 99 other women on Tuesday signed a column in Le Monde daily which argued that the #Metoo movement amounted to puritanism and was fuelled by a hatred of men.

Their column struck a radically different tone from that of Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony at which Oprah Winfrey and major Hollywood figures backed #Metoo and other initiatives to fight gender inequality and sexual assault.

“With this column they are trying to build back the wall of silence we have started breaking down,” feminist activist Caroline De Haas and some 30 other women said in their own column, published by franceinfo TV’s website.

In the aftermath of accusations against U.S. movie producer Harvey Weinstein, millions of women took to social media to share their stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted, using the #Metoo hashtag worldwide or #SquealOnYourPig (#balancetonporc)in France.

But 74 year-old Deneuve and the other signatories to the column said the #Metoo movement had gone too far, defending what they termed as a right for men to “pester” women. They said this was essential to sexual freedom and that women could be strong enough “not to be traumatised by gropers in the metro.”

“I think it’s a bit out of sync with what many women may experience,” Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne told France 2 television, saying sexual harassment on public transport was a serious issue the government tried to tackle.

Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa last year told Reuters she believed the Weinstein scandal would force a rethink of attitudes towards sexual harassment in France.

Deneuve received international acclaim for her acting which included starring roles in films by renowned directors including François Truffaut, Roman Polanski and Luis Bunuel.

Deneuve also occasionally worked as a model, including as the face of Chanel No 5 and representing Marianne, the national symbol of France for some years during the 1980s.

De Haas and the other activists argued that those of a mind with Deneuve ignore the reality of sexual harassment.

“As soon as there is some progress with (gender) equality, even by half a millimetre, some good souls warn that we may be going too far,” they wrote. (Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Additional reporting by Caroline Pailliez; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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