Anti-'MeToo' letter defends men's right to 'steal a kiss'


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“Me Too” became “Pas Moi,” or “Not Me,” in France, after notable actor Catherine Deneuve and 99 other women published an open letter rejecting a feminism that expresses a “hatred of men.” The group warned of a new “puritanism” that it said overprotected women and denied them their sexual power.

The letter in French newspaper Le Monde follows global reaction to a slew of accusations of sexual misconduct, sparked by multiple accusations against leading Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein. It grew into the #metoo movement where women shared personal experiences of abuse, and a subsequent worldwide reckoning on sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. Numerous men accused of sexual misconduct have resigned or been fired from their jobs in multiple industries.

“Rape is a crime but insistent or clumsy flirting is not, nor is gallantry a macho aggression,” the 100 women wrote, declaring that men should be “free to hit on” women (The Local/AFP).

“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 also stated.

We are continuing to update this story with reaction to the letter:

  • New Yorker staff writer Lauren Collins wrote a comment piece on Wednesday looking at the Frenchwomen’s defense of “a freedom to bother, indispensable to sexual freedom.” Collins argued that women have a right to be traumatized by situations less serious than rape, whether it is a hand on a leg or a man rubbing his hands on a belly, as the writer experienced while pregnant. “The failure to grasp that a woman – another woman with a different history, different values, a different set of likes and dislikes, attractions and repulsions – could grieve a trespass upon her body is really a failure of the imagination,” she wrote.
  • Literary critic Daphne Merkin had an opposing view of the so-called sexual harassment reckoning last week, before the open letter, in an op-ed for The New York Times. She wrote in defence of women’s agency to respond to unwelcome advances, writing: “Perhaps troubling is that we seem to be returning to a victimology paradigm for young women, in particular, in which they are perceived to be — and perceive themselves to be — as frail as Victorian housewives.”

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