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SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Feminists want ‘a contract before sex’, claims French author of raunchy memoir

A French writer of explicit novels who backed the recent attack on the #MeToo movement launched a blistering new broadside Friday, claiming that some feminists will not be content until "you have to sign a contract with a lawyer before you can have sex."

Feminists want 'a contract before sex', claims French author of raunchy memoir
AFP

Catherine Millet, author of the bestselling memoir, “The Sexual Life of Catherine M.”, claimed the campaign to counter sexual harassment was casting women as “victims and the fragile prey” of men.

The art critic was one of the movers behind an controversial open letter signed by film star Catherine Deneuve and some 100 other French women condemning the “wave of puritanism” they claim has been unleashed since the fall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

The letter set off an international furore, with feminists in France and elsewhere lashing the signatories for defending men's freedom to pester and “hit on” women.

“We are not idiots,” said Millet, as she hit back on French public radio.

“Rape and sexual violence should be criminalised, but we cannot ban the least little gesture, dirty word or inappropriate behaviour.

“It's crazy, we're stopping flirting now,” she declared.

Thousands took to social media to ridicule the letter's inference that women fondled on public transport should just get over it, and its outrage at men being sacked “when all they did was touch someone's knee or try to steal a kiss”.

But Millet said many women were horrified by the “totalitarian” atmosphere the #MeToo social media campaign had set off, where “everyone is scrutinising everyone else”.

She said several victims, including Samantha Geimer, who was raped by film director Roman Polanski when she was 13, have since signed their letter warning it had gone too far.

'Wish I had been raped' 

Geimer said she “agreed entirely” with Deneuve and the other signatories, tweeting that “women need equality, respect and sexual freedom.

“We get that by standing up for ourselves and each other. Not by asking others to protect us and define what is 'allowed' for ladies,” said the
Hawaii-based writer, who wants the charges against Polanski to be dropped so she can get on with her life.

She said #MeToo was being “used against men rather than for women… to glamorise victimhood rather than to show recovery and strength.”

Millet, who has written graphically about her libertine lifestyle, said she was against a new tougher French law against sexual harassment.

All women need to do was to shout at men who rubbed up against them on the Paris metro, she insisted.

“It happened to me when I was younger but now unfortunately I am too old for it to happen. I would shout at them and forget it a minute later.

“Those feminists who want to cast women as the victim, the fragile prey of men are not helping. We have to teach women to be strong. Don't traumatise yourself for the rest of your life, it is not your fault,” Millet added.

But the 69-year-old writer added further fuel to the flames by standing by her claim last month that she “really regretted not having being raped, because then I could have shown that you get over it.”

Another signatory to the Deneuve letter, porn star-turned-agony aunt Brigitte Lahaie, caused an outcry Thursday by claiming on French television that some women have orgasms when they are raped.

A riposte to the letter by 30 French feminists had earlier branded the signatories as “apologists for rape”.

Reaction to Millet defence of the letter was equally vehement on social media, with her comments trending on Twitter in France and one meme aimed at her — “Excuse me, I have to go and vomit” — going viral.

FEMINISM

Strike calls in France on International Women’s Day

Men and women are being called on to finish work at 3.40pm on Monday to highlight the gender pay gap, one of many actions and demonstrations taking place around France to mark International Women's Day.

Strike calls in France on International Women's Day
Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Several organisations and unions are calling for a strike to denounce pay inequality.

“On March the 8th, we will be on strike along with women all over the world to refuse to pay the price of the crisis with our jobs, our salaries, our bodies,” several unions including the CGT, FSU and Solidaires said in a press conference.

The objective is to denounce the gender pay gap that continues to impair women’s rights, but also to denounce the unfair burden that the past year’s health crisis has put on women.

“The lockdowns have been very heavy burdens on women for the past year, whether it’s in the health, work or home environments, increase in domestic violence. Not to mention the large amount of predominantly female jobs that have continued to maintained a level of normality during the lockdown,” the co-secretary general of FSU, Murielle Guilbert, told Les Echos.

The below map shows the actions planned around the country on Monday.

In Paris, a demonstration will start in Port-Royal at 1pm and move towards the Place de la République.

Organisations including Osez le féminisme, Les Effrontées and Unef have called women as well as men to go on strike on Monday from 3:40pm, in order to denounce the gender pay gap.

For a full list of actions around the country, click here.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been criticised by a junior minister for having only one woman among his closest advisers.

“I told him ‘Mr President, you are not giving a good example,” Elisabeth Moreno, a junior minister in charge of gender equality, told French media on Sunday.

She declined to say how the 43-year-old reacted, but she praised him for making gender equality a public priority and for ensuring balanced governments throughout his time in office.

Every cabinet since Macron came to power in 2017 has featured equal numbers of men and women, although both prime ministers have been male and the majority of the top cabinet jobs are currently held by men.

Macron has also been criticised for appointing Gérald Darmanin as his interior minister – the man nominally in charge of the country’s police force – while he is under investigation for rape.

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