Feminists angry as Catherine Deneuve defends men's right to 'hit on women'
French feminists have denounced an open letter signed by film star Catherine Deneuve that said men are being unfairly targeted by sexual misconduct allegations and should be free to hit on women.
In a text published on the Franceinfotv website on Wednesday, feminist Caroline De Haas and over 30 activists strongly criticised the letter.
"This letter, it's a bit like the awkward work colleague or annoying uncle who doesn't understand what's happening", they said.
They said Deneuve and other signatories are using media exposure to make sexual violence appear "normal".
Deneuve was among about 100 performers, scholars and others who signed an open letter on Tuesday published by the newspaper Le Monde.
It said the "legitimate protest against sexual violence" stemming from the Harvey Weinstein scandal has gone too far and threatens hard-won sexual freedoms.
The letter reflects France's mixed feelings about widespread accusations of systematic sexual misconduct by powerful men in multiple countries in recent months.
France is home to famous feminists and its own "me too" movement, and the Deneuve-signed letter drew much criticism.
However many people echo her concerns of a new "puritanism" that goes against French traditions of seduction.
Marlene Schiappa, France's junior minister for women's rights, told France Culture radio: "There are in this open letter some things that are deeply offensive and false."
The letter signed by Deneuve said some women may see being rubbed against by a man in the metro as an expression of "sexual deprivation" or a "non-event".
Ms Schiappa countered that "it's dangerous to say such things," and insisted such an act constituted sexual assault punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euro (£66,500).
Writer Abnousse Shalmani, one of those who signed the open letter, said she was surprised by the "extremely violent reactions" it prompted.
"I consider myself to be a grown up. I am capable of receiving a sexual proposition and even more capable of saying no," she said on Europe 1 radio.
Italian filmmaker and actress Asia Argento, one of the dozens of women who have alleged Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, called the letter "deplorable" in a tweet.