Global Council for Tolerance and Peace

Catherine Deneuve statement letter defending men’s “right” to “hit on women” sparks controversy on social media

By Vanessa Herro

French star Catherine Deneuve and other prominent French women defending men’s ‘right’ to ‘hit on women’ has been the subject of considerable media attention because of its association with the omnipresence of sexual assault scandals which have made headlines in the past few years.

Deneuve was among the 100 French women writers, performers and scholars who signed an open letter published on Tuesday by the newspaper Le Monde condemning the wave of public accusations regarding the mogul Harvey Weinstein scandal as a threat to sexual freedom.

Deneuve and the other 100 signatories have argued that the recent allegations of sexual misconduct by public and powerful figures in various countries have led to what these women called a “witch-hunt”.

“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 stated. “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,” the letter claimed, which was also signed by Catherine Millet, author of the hugely explicit 2002 bestseller “The Sexual Life of Catherine M.”.

In fact, many people raised concern that these accusations are done with the intention of unleashing “this puritanical…wave of purification” as mentioned in the letter which also spared no words in attacking feminist social media campaigns like #MeToo and its French equivalent #Balancetonporc (Call out your pig).

The letter claimed that women were “sufficiently aware that the sexual urge is by its nature wild and aggressive. But we are also clear-eyed enough not to confuse an awkward attempt to pick someone up with a sexual attack.”

The letter drew a lot of controversy and had sparked a social media fight between those who support its statements and those who stand against them, taking into account the French traditions of seduction which is a delicious, integral part of their lifestyle or should I say their “mode de vie”. When we say French woman, we intrinsically have in mind the stereotype image of a woman still seductive and flirtatious in her sixties, dancing on tables, smoking cigarettes and sipping on a good glass of red wine.

Against all the fuss over this subject, my curiosity was piqued, which led me to create my own poll on Instagram to discover people’s opinions on this matter. I was surprised to see that the polls indicated that the results were too close with 45% of the voters agreeing with the letter’s statements against the other 55% who disagreed. What do these results reveal?

Where is the line drawn between attempts at flirting and sexual misconduct?

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