Olga Zeveleva
January 2018.

Why are Catherine Deneuve and other French female public figures speaking out against the #metoo campaign that aims to tackle sexual harassment?

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As actresses, I really respect some of the signatories of this letter. I’m a huge fan of Deneuve and Ingrid Caven. Bunuel’s Belle de Jour and Fassbinder’s Love Is Colder Than Death are among my favourite films. I am therefore a bit saddened to see them taking the route they have taken, and while I respect their right to say whatever it is they want to say, I feel there was no need for this letter.

I think they wrote it because they completely fail to get what Me Too was and still is about. Out of their position of privilege, they failed to listen to the voices of women that have spoken up. To claim Me Too was about punishing flirtation shows that you haven’t listened. The allegations that mattered were about rape, sexual violence, men abusing their power in the workplace to try to get sexual favours, getting women dismissed, pressuring and scaring them, hindering their careers. That we need to be careful with how the allegations are handled because they can break men’s lives is true, but this doesn’t mean we should turn our back to women speaking up. There’s a generational gap here, as many of the signatories of the letter are older. They feel, as French feminist Caroline De Hass said, a bit like this old uncle who keeps babbling at a family dinner and completely misses the point. It’s also no surprise they are French. We, the French, have been particularly good at closing our eyes to allegations of sexual violence. The Strauss Kahn case was a wake up call, but it is clear it didn’t wake up everybody. The letter also demonstrates a class gap, a failure to extend solidarity to women who don’t share the signatories’ (mostly white) privilege.

Finally, the claim that these women are speaking up against puritanism, and that Me Too campaigners are basically a bunch of boring prudes, is ludicrous. The new movement that has started isn’t against men. It’s against men who commit sexual violence. Just don’t do that. Love sex, hate sexism, for they are not the same thing.

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