Men should have the right to “pester” women. “This urge to send men to the slaughterhouse, instead of helping women be more autonomous, helps the enemies of sexual freedom.” So says a column published in French newspaper, Le Monde, and signed by more than 100 powerful French women.
It strongly criticises the #MeToo movement as puritan, and argues women are being infantilised by a need to protect and separate them. The translation of the letter by the New York Times quotes it as saying: “a woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a ‘promiscuous woman,’ nor a vile accomplice of patriarchy.”
Which, of course they can. They can also do both those things without being sexually harassed or assaulted.
The women who signed this letter appear to believe that #MeToo, and the French counterpart, #BalanceTonPorc (Expose Your Pig) have become a kind of vigilante justice where innocent men are being punished for perfectly acceptable behaviour.
Listen: Tracey Spicer joins Holly Wainwright and Rachel Corbett to deep dive on why the #metoo movement has kick-started a new way of thinking worldwide.
The French women, including famous actress Catherine Deneuve, have provoked a kind of weary eye-rolling among many women who engaged in the movement. Just like women who say they’re not feminists, they just believe men and women should be treated equally, the women who’ve started this “backlash” appear to have fundamentally, willfully misunderstood.
#MeToo is not a “witch hunt” (that was Woody Allen’s argument, so let’s just consider that for a second), it’s not a way to infantalise men and women or force people into consent contracts that steal all the fun from sex. It’s not a tool of the humourless, frigid, man-hating feminists who just don’t want anyone else to have a love life if they can’t. #MeToo is a movement that highlights and calls out inappropriate and criminal sexual behaviour.
It isn’t coming for you if you smiled at your crush in line at the cafeteria. It’s not after you if you asked them out and they said yes. It’s not going to have an issue if you both have a good time and decide to go out again. #MeToo isn’t anti flirt, it’s anti-harassment. It isn’t anti sex, it’s anti rape. These things aren’t interchangeable.