ICYMI, France is having a #MeToo moment of its own. Millions of French women have taken to social media to tell their own stories of sexual harassment and assault. They call it #balancetonporc, or #SquealOnYourPig, and prominent figures—including President Emmanuel Macron, who declared gender equality a primary goal of his presidency—have supported the movement. The French government, according to the Wall Street Journal, has also launched a public service campaign called “Stop Them” to explain the existing penalties for sexual harassment, which include five years imprisonment for non-consensually touching a woman’s butt or rubbing up against a girl on a bus.
But on Tuesday, 100 French writers, performers, businesswomen, and academics, including famed actress Catherine Deneuve, signed a letter published in La Monde that asserts #balancetonporc has gone too far. They argue that the movement has become a witch hunt against men and will usher in an era of sexual puritanism.
“Rape is a crime," the letter begins, "But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression. As a result of the Weinstein affair, there has been a legitimate realization of the sexual violence women experience, particularly in the workplace, where some men abuse their power. It was necessary. But now this liberation of speech has been turned on its head."
“This urge to send men to the slaughterhouse, instead of helping women be more autonomous, helps the enemies of sexual freedom," they wrote. "This vigilante (online) justice has punished men in their jobs, forced some to resign, when all they did was touch a knee, try to steal a kiss, talk about ‘intimate’ matters in a work dinner."
The letter goes on to say, "We defend a right to pester, which is vital to sexual freedom."
Some French feminists immediately pushed back. Marlène Schiappa, France’s secretary of state for equality, called the letter "dangerous," and 30 French women, led by feminist Caroline De Haas, published a rebuttal on Wednesday.
“Sexual violence is not ‘intensified flirting,'” they wrote. “One means treating the other as your equal, respecting their desires, whatever they may be. The other is treating them as an object at your disposal, paying no attention to their own desires, or their consent.”