French cinema icon Catherine Deneuve — along with more than 100 other women in various industries — came out Tuesday against the #MeToo movement and its French equivalent, “#BalanceTonPorc” (“Expose Your Pig), in an open letter published in the Le Monde newspaper.
“Rape is a crime,” the letter begins. “But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression.”
The women said that although the allegations of sexual assault and harassment against producer Harvey Weinstein have opened the floodgates for more women to speak out about sexual misconduct in the workplace, they believe the movement has gone too far.
“This liberation of speech has been turned on its head,” they write.
The women argue that movement has conflated the actions of men who have been of accused of sexual misconduct with those whose transgressions may have been “to touch a knee, try to steal a kiss, speak about intimate things during a professional dinner or send messages that are sexually loaded to a woman who wasn’t attracted to them.”
Reception to the open letter has been met with backlash.
Asia Argento, an actor who has accused Weinstein of rape, said, “Catherine Deneuve and other French women tell the world how their interiorized misogyny has lobotomized them to the point of no return.”
Author Colleen Doran said Deneuve’s views might differ if she weren’t speaking from a position of “heightened privilege.”
However, some used social media to express their support for Deneuve’s views, calling the mounting allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood a “witch hunt.”
The letter that Deneuve and company published also said that the recent movement against sexual assault caters to “the enemies of sexual freedom, of religious extremists, of the worst reactionaries,” and not the empowerment of women.
“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,” they write.
In March, Deneuve, who starred in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, defended the director, who pleaded guilty to a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He then fled the US before sentencing and remains a fugitive.
“It’s a case that has been dealt with, it’s a case that has been judged,” she said. “There have been agreements between Roman Polanski and this woman.”
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Deneuve’s representative for comment.