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FEMINISM

French film star Deneuve apologises to sex assault victims after bashing #MeToo campaign

French film star Catherine Deneuve who touched off a worldwide feminist backlash over an open letter she had signed bashing the #MeToo movement apologised to victims of sexual assault, and said there was "nothing good" about harassment.

French film star Deneuve apologises to sex assault victims after bashing #MeToo campaign
Photo: AFP
“I warmly greet all the victims of these hideous acts who might have felt offended by that letter which appeared in Le Monde (Tuesday). It is to them and them alone that I offer my apologies,” the actress said in a letter published Sunday on the website of French daily Liberation.
   
Deneuve also said that there was “nothing in the letter” to Le Monde that said “anything good about harassment, otherwise I wouldn't have signed it.”
   
France's most revered actress was among 100 prominent women to sign the open letter defending a man's right to “bother” women, complaining that the campaign against harassment had become “puritanical”.
 
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'Revolting': French feminists hit back at actress Deneuve over defense of sleazy menPhoto: AFP

They deplored the wave of “denunciations” which has followed claims that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted and harassed women over decades.
   
They branded it a “witch-hunt” that they claim threatens sexual freedom.
   
“I love freedom,” Deneuve wrote in the letter to Liberation. “I don't like this characteristic of our era where everyone feels they have the right… to condemn. An era where simple denunciations on social networks cause punishment, resignation, and… often media lynching,” she wrote.
   
She also protested not being considered a feminist. She recalled that she had been among the women who had signed a manifesto “I had an abortion” in defence of abortion rights written by French feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir.
 
'Broken legal system'
 
As an actress since she was 17, Deneuve admitted that during her career she had been “a witness to indelicate situations” between men and women.
   
Other signatories of the Le Monde letter including author Catherine Millet and actress Catherine Robbe-Grillet welcomed Deneuve's response, saying the episode had “reaffirmed the need to preserve sexual freedom and fight media lynching”.
   
The letter they signed “does not claim harassment is good”, they said.
   
Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid's Tale”, also weighed in on the debate at the weekend, labelling the #MeToo movement “a symptom of a broken legal system”.
 
Sexual harassment: Thousands of French women take to streets to say #MeToo
Photo: AFP
 
“All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn't get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet,” she wrote in Canada's The Globe and Mail.
   
She said “vigilante justice” was a “response to a lack of justice – either the system is corrupt, as in prerevolutionary France, or there isn't one, as in the Wild West – so people take things into their own hands”.
   
But she also warned: “Understandable and temporary vigilante justice can morph into a culturally solidified lynch-mob habit, in which the available mode of justice is thrown out the window.”
   
   
Italian actress Asia Argento, who was among the first to denounce Weinstein, said in a tweet: “Deneuve and other French women tell the world how their interiorised misogyny has lobotomised them to the point of no return.”

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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