Photo Ops and the Mean Meme Machine
My first job as a reporter, I sometimes filled in as a photographer or a photographer/reporter. At one particular banquet, I was flagged down by a group of African American attendees who, in a time before cellphones with camera and the cult of the selfie, desperately wanted a photograph. I was only shooting black and white, and took a photo for them which was then processed and printed by the photo department staff. In gratitude, I received a dozen long stem roses. The group didn’t know the celebrity well; it was just a photo op, but one of some importance to them. I’m not sure what.
When I’ve done events, I try to figure out who is important to the organization. As a photographer, you’re always looking to group famous faces together. Those people might not even know each other particularly well, but they may run in the same circles. For the photographer, the more familiar faces, the better. The more famous, the better. But that was a different time and today we live in the era of the mean meme machine.
During the Golden Globes I noticed how those photo ops in today’s world can easily be transformed into memes of mass destruction, constructing fake news from few facts. Although he doesn’t really know Meryl Streep—he’s not a personal friend or confidante, the Los Angeles-based artist has taken a photo of a smiling Streep with Harvey Weinstein and made it into revenge art. Over her eyes, he has placed a red rectangle with white words: She Knew.
The meme uses another person’s photograph and for that reason, the Los Angeles-based artist cannot sell it as his own. According to a report in The Guardian, this campaign is “retaliation” against Meryl Streep for using her latest movie to “bash Trump.” He said, “She’s swiping at us so we’re swiping back.” Sabo is a former US marine and he “considers leftism a ‘disorder.'”
The reference, “She knew,” is about knowledge to Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual abuse and harassment of women. The campaign includes putting conversation balloons on posters for the Streep and Tom Hanks movie that insinuate that not only did Streep know, but Hanks did as well.
Sabo admits that he doesn’t really know if Streep knew about the alleged abuse because, “I wasn’t sitting in a room with her. I can’t say 100%. But I’d say anyone in the (film) industry had a pretty good idea. I think she knew. Maybe she was providing Weinstein with the fresh meat.”
Sabo slides down the slippery slope between the free speech afforded artistic expression and libel. Sabo and his cohorts do not know if this claim is true, but they are putting it forth much in the same way as Rose McGowan did in her criticism of Streep.
McGowan tweeted, “Actresses, like Meryl Streep, who happily worked for The Pig Monster, are Mwearing black @goldenglobes in a silent protest. YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real change. I despise your hypocrisy.”
McGowan had previously accused Ben Affleck of telling lies (10 October 2017) tweeting:”
@benaffleck ‘GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT’ you said that to my face. The press conf I was made to go to after assault. You lie.” Then later she accused all of the A-list stars. Not everyone was convinced that McGowan was above accusations herself because she stayed silent for 20 years after receiving a settlement.
Streep responded in a statement provided to CNN:
It hurt to be attacked by Rose McGowan in banner headlines this weekend, but I want to let her know I did not know about Weinstein’s crimes, not in the 90s when he attacked her, or through subsequent decades when he proceeded to attack others.I wasn’t deliberately silent. I didn’t know. I don’t tacitly approve of rape. I didn’t know. I don’t like young women being assaulted. I didn’t know this was happening.I don’t know where Harvey lives, nor has he ever been to my home.I have never in my life been invited to his hotel room.I have been to his office once, for a meeting with Wes Craven for ‘Music of the Heart’ in 1998.HW distributed movies I made with other people.HW was not a filmmaker; he was often a producer, primarily a marketer of films made by other people- some of them great, some not great. But not every actor, actress, and director who made films that HW distributed knew he abused women, or that he raped Rose in the 90s, other women before and others after, until they told us. We did not know that womens’ silence was purchased by him and his enablers.
HW needed us not to know this, because our association with him bought him credibility, an ability to lure young, aspiring women into circumstances where they would be hurt.
He needed me much more than I needed him and he made sure I didn’t know. Apparently he hired ex Mossad operators to protect this information from becoming public. Rose and the scores of other victims of these powerful, moneyed, ruthless men face an adversary for whom Winning, at any and all costs, is the only acceptable outcome. That’s why a legal defense fund for victims is currently being assembled to which hundreds of good hearted people in our business will contribute, to bring down the bastards, and help victims fight this scourge within.
Rose assumed and broadcast something untrue about me, and I wanted to let her know the truth. Through friends who know her, I got my home phone number to her the minute I read the headlines. I sat by that phone all day yesterday and this morning, hoping to express both my deep respect for her and others’ bravery in exposing the monsters among us, and my sympathy for the untold, ongoing pain she suffers. No one can bring back what entitled bosses like Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, and HW took from the women who endured attacks on their bodies and their ability to make a living.. And I hoped that she would give me a hearing. She did not, but I hope she reads this.
I am truly sorry she sees me as an adversary, because we are both, together with all the women in our business, standing in defiance of the same implacable foe: a status quo that wants so badly to return to the bad old days, the old ways where women were used, abused and refused entry into the decision-making, top levels of the industry. That’s where the cover-ups convene. Those rooms must be disinfected, and integrated, before anything even begins to change
Other memes implicated Oprah Winfrey. Trump supporter @Gr8AmericanMvmt used photo ops as proof that #SheKnew.
Another favorite implies Winfrey was pimping out young female stars to Weinstein. Trump-supporter James Woods (also a Golden Globe winner in 1986 for Best Actor in a Mini Series or Television Film for “Promise”) was one such person who supported that view.
Yet what is really happening here? Basically anyone who has caught in a photo op with Harvey Weinstein can now become a target for mean memes and the truth be damned.
As troubling as these wild accusations are, McGowan further proved that she was not the best leader for any type of civil rights movement. While facilitating a roundtable discussion for New York magazine’s The Cut, she stated, “I would challenge the media to stop using the word ‘alleged.’ My beef is really with all the people who are complicit. It’s the first time in history women are being believed, even though we get slagged.”
McGowan doesn’t seem to understand the legal implications. Until one is proven guilty, one is considered innocent in the United States. For that reason, responsible publications used the word “alleged” or “allegedly” or similar words like “professed” or “purported” or “unproven.”
Because she made unfounded accusations, it is small wonder that McGowan wasn’t invited to the Golden Globes. The Time’s Up organization seems to have a more professional, level-headed approach and the relatively small Golden Globes Awards ceremony is limited to people with nominated shows and their guests. McGowan, Asia Argento, Annabella Sciorra, Daryl Hannah and Mira Sorvino do not have projects that were nominated.
The problem with any hashtag activism is that you can’t control all the voices and some of the voices will be shrill and angry in the extreme. It should be clear that McGowan didn’t start the #MeToo campaign. That predates the revelations about Harvey Weinstein.
Angela Lansbury Comments
There was a former Golden Globe winner who was critical of the #MeToo movement. In November, the 92-year-old Angela Lansbury weighed in during a Radio Times interview saying, ““We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive. And unfortunately it has backfired on us — and this is where we are today.”
Lansbury noted, “We must sometimes take blame, women. I really do think that. Although it’s awful to say we can’t make ourselves look as attractive as possible without being knocked down and raped.”
Lansbury then added, “Should women be prepared for this? No, they shouldn’t have to be! There’s no excuse for that. And I think it will stop now — it will have to. I think a lot of men must be very worried at this point.”
After receiving criticism, Lansbury responded with the following statement: “There is no excuse whatsoever for men to harass women in an abusive sexual manner. And, I am devastated that anyone should deem me capable of thinking otherwise. Those who have known the quality of my work and the many public statements I have made over the course of my life, must know, that I am a strong supporter of Women’s Rights.” In conclusion, she stated, “Lastly, I would like to add that I am troubled by how quickly and brutishly some have taken my comments out of context and attempted to blame my generation, my age, or my mindset, without having read the entirety of what I said.”
Lansbury has not only received six Golden Globes, but five Tony Awards, an honorary Oscar and one Grammy. She has been nominated for fifteen Golden Globes. She won her first in 1945 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (“The Picture of Dorian Gray”) and in the same category for the 1962 “The Manchurian Candidate.” The other four Golden Globes were for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for “Murder, She Wrote.”
The important point that Lansbury brings up is women’s responsibility. Women chose to be silent and that includes McGowan. Women also choose to be part of the problem.
Consider Addie Zinone, a former intern for the “Today” show who came forward to give a face to the women who accused Matt Lauer of sexual harassment. Zinone, then Addie Collins, was a production assistant on NBC’s “Today” in 2000. Zinone got the internship after writing to Katie Couric and “formed really close bonds with Katie, Al Roker and Ann Curry, who showed me what to do, guided me, loved me, supported me.”
Lauer was already married and Zinone was aware that he was married. She had already accepted a job offer elsewhere as a local anchor on (WDTV Channel 5 in West Virginia). She didn’t need Lauer to get or keep that job. However, she agreed to a consensual sexual relationship.
In another case, Ben Vereen was accused of sexual misconduct during a 2015 production of the musical “Hair.” Some of the accusations seem odd. “Hair” is known for its nude scene and Vereen was part of the original production. In preparation for the nude scene, the cast has to strip and Vereen joined them. One cast member, Kim, was shocked by Vereen’s scars.
Kim, who later entered into a consensual sexual relationship with Vereen alleges that after that exercise Vereen asked her if she wanted to have sex with him. Kim, then 23, and another actress, Kaitlyn Terpstra, 22, both accepted invitations to private rehearsals at the house Vereen was renting and willingly soaked naked in a hot tub there. Kim consented to performing oral sex on Vereen. One of her complaints is that while she was sleeping with him, she didn’t want to have sex, but still agreed to it. Essentially, she said yes, but meant no.
One of the problems of the 1960s and the concept of free love was that women were convinced to be sexually promiscuous. That is also a choice. The question becomes what is one willing to do to be one of the cool people? Vereen, who was around 69 at the time and is now 71 seems to have seduced women who were not actual employees, but volunteers hoping to get that equity card.
More recently, an unknown actress Sarah Tither-Kaplan @sarahtk tweeted: “Hey James Franco, nice #timesup pin at the #GoldenGlobes , remember a few weeks ago when you told me the full nudity you had me do in two of your movies for $100/day wasn’t exploitative because I signed a contract to do it? Times up on that!”
Again, as an adult, Tither-Kaplan agreed to appear nude in two movies. Why is that sexual harassment? She offers no evidence that she was coerced into signing the contract.
Similarly, Violet Paley@VioletPaley tweeted: “Cute #TIMESUP pin James Franco. Remember the time you pushed my head down in a car towards your exposed penis & that other time you told my friend to come to your hotel when she was 17? After you had already been caught doing that to a different 17 year old?”
Paley was involved in a consensual relationship with Franco when he apparently wanted to have oral sex.Replying to @peasandkaris @MomJar1 and 2 others she noted “another reason it’s been hard to come forward about this. we did have a consensual relationship as well. unfortunately & fortunately, there are others who went through this same thing as me with him, and worse. I’m glad I am strong enough to speak up for all of us despite trolls.”
Basically, Paley is, like Kim, complaining about bad boyfriend behavior but not sexual harassment in the workplace nor sexual violence.
Elsewhere it was noted that Violet Paley @VioletPaley is not necessarily a nice person:
Some of those trolls might be pointing out that bad boyfriend experiences do not really apply to the #MeToo or #TimesUp movements. Women who decide to have consensual relationships with famous people should take responsibility for their decisions. #MeToo and #TimesUp shouldn’t be used to accuse famous men of boorish and non-criminal bad boyfriend behavior.
Catherine Deneuve and Witch Hunts
On Monday, 8 January 2018, a collective of 100 women including Catherine Deneuve, sent an open letter that was published in Le Monde. Below (at the very end of this entry), I have included the entire text of that letter in both the original French and in English translation.
First, it is important to note that the letter was co-written by five women: Sarah Chiche (writer/psychoanalyst), Catherine Millet (author/art critic), Catherine Robbe-Grillet (actress/writer), Peggy Sastre (author/journalist) and Abnousse Shalmani (writer/journalist). It was signed by about 100 other women, including Catherine Deneuve. Deneuve signed but did not write the letter.
Before reading the letter, one also must consider a few things. Kissing is customs in France are different. This is a cultural difference that has been satirized in movies. According to LivingLanguage.com, kissing is common between friends and family members. “The ubiquitous kiss in France is la bise (kiss on the cheek), or le bisou (kiss on the cheek typically, but can be used for kissing on the lips if in love). People say: faire la bise (to give a kiss on the cheek).” Familiars kiss each other on the cheek at least two times.
Further, in France, there is no age of consent. Law makers are considering making 15 the age of consent. And attitudes toward topless sunbathing differ although with social media, that might be changing.
As with Lansbury’s statement, the women make clear that rape is a crime, however, not everything that has come under the umbrella of #MeToo or in France, #BalanceTonPorc, is a crime. The examples of this are men trying to chat up or pick up a woman is not a crime and the letter implies that men should not be treated as criminals for non-criminal acts.
France is grappling with the topic of sexual harassment, but #BalanceTonPorc encourages the naming of names. In France, that is, as in the US, legally problematic.
The letter also notes “But what was supposed to liberate voices has now been turned on its head: We are being told what is proper to say and what we must stay silent about — and the women who refuse to fall into line are considered traitors, accomplices!”
This is very true in the case of Meryl Streep and Lansbury as well as an obviously well-meaning Matt Damon who attempted to share frustration that “I do believe there’s a spectrum of behavior. … You know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated.” Damon admitted to knowing about allegations that Weinstein had sexually harassed Gwyneth Paltrow, but that was after Paltrow had broken up with Brad Pitt and while she was dating Ben Affleck. He did not know about it through Paltrow, but second-hand (hearsay) through Affleck.
However as to the rape allegations, Damon said “nobody who made movies for him knew. … Any human being would have put a stop to that, no matter who he was.” Damon has been accused of “mansplaining.” Yet from what little we know about Garrison Keillor, what happened was not sexual assault. (Keillor is currently in mediation.)
McGowan was critical of the Golden Globe black dress protest, calling it “Hollywood fakery.” According to McGowan, the party she was excluded from didn’t do it right. While McGowan claims “And not one of those fancy people wearing black to honor our rapes would have lifted a finger had it not been so” (that McGowan was supposedly the first to speak out), According to the BBC Timeline the 5 October 2017 New York Times article included both McGowan and Ashley Judd. However, the actual New York Times article opens with Judd in an incident that happened during the filming of the 1997 “Kiss the Girls.” There’s a discussion about McGowan, mentioning that in 1997 an out-of-court settlement was reached with the then 23-year-old McGowan regarding an incident in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival, but the article also notes that McGowan “declined to comment.” Much of the article is devoted to a memo addressed to several executives that was written by Lauren O’Connor. O’Connor asserts sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct by Harvey Weinstein.
Asia Argento’s contention in her tweet to McGowan that “No one should forget that you were the first one who broke the silence” is incorrect. In The New York Times article, it was a brave Ashley Judd and the non-celebrity Lauren O’Connor who broke the silence. Judd did attend the Golden Globes and she was wearing black.
Argento is mentioned in the 10 October 2017 The New Yorker article along with Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, but not McGowan. McGowan tweets on 12 October 2017 that Weinstein raped her.
Since 17 October, Reese Witherspoon has been outspoken about the sexual assault and harassment she has allegedly experienced in the industry. Witherspoon said an unnamed director assaulted her when she was 16. Witherspoon spearheaded the Time’s Up movement, including the pins and the idea to bring activists to the Golden Globes.
Instead of supporting fellow victims such as Witherspoon and America Ferrera, McGowan has been critical. This seems to align with the Le Monde open letter.
The letter also noted, “Just like in the good old witch-hunt days, what we are once again witnessing here is puritanism in the name of a so-called greater good, claiming to promote the liberation and protection of women, only to enslave them to a status of eternal victim and reduce them to defenseless preys of male chauvinist demons.”
According to Merriam-Webster, a witch hunt is ” the act of unfairly looking for and punishing people who are accused of having opinions that are believed to be dangerous or evil” (definition for English Language Learners), or “the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (such as political opponents) with unpopular views.” The first definitions refers to actual witches, “a searching out for persecution of persons accused of witchcraft.”
This statement seems to apply to the adult women who entered consensual relationships with Vereen or Franco. While is sounds as if both acted like cads, being a bad boyfriend or a womanizer is not against the law. One could even include the accusation against George Takei by the person he was dating who felt that Takei should have known that he wasn’t interested in a person Takei’s age. Scott R. Brunton was 23; Takei was about 43. Brunton said, “I had no interest in him and he knew that, or he should have. He was so not my type. He was 20 years older than me.” What Brunton seems to be saying is he did not explicitly tell Takei that he was not interested in him, but Takei should have read his mind. Takei claims not to remember the encounter. This incident which happened nearly 40 decades ago is not sexual harassment in the workplace, but he-said, he-said personal and private behavior.
Argento responded to The Guardian account of the Le Monde open letter by tweeting, “Catherine Deneuve and other French women tell the world how their interiorized misogyny has lobotomized them to the point of no return.” This, too, seems in line with the open letter. Instead of respectfully considering other women’s comments, Argento denigrates them.
There were also critics of the letter in France. According to Deadline, thirty self-described “militant feminists” led by Caroline De Haas, a founder of women’s organization Osez Le Feminisme, that the women of the Le Monde open letter were“using their media visibility to trivialize sexual violence” even though the letter begins by denouncing rape. De Haas also makes the accusation that “Many of the women (who signed the Le Monde piece) are often quick to denounce sexism when it comes from men in working-class neighborhoods. But a hand on the ass when it’s put there by men of their own milieu, according to them, falls under the ‘right to importune.’”
Deadline also noted: “The journalist who coined the French #MeToo equivalent, #BalanceTonPorc (“expose your pig”), also chimed today, saying the Le Monde piece was ‘from another century.'” That woman, Sandra Muller, is a New York-based French journalist.
According to Wikipedia, Sarah Chiche is 41. Catherine Millet is 69. Catherine Robbe-Grillet is 87. Peggy Sastre is 37. Abnousse Shalmani is 41. Unless you are under 17, you are pretty much from another century, but the five writers cover different generations.
In the US media and on Twitter, too much is made of Deneuve signing the letter. Some people have noted that Deneuve supports Roman Polanski, but this is not an important point because she is one of 100 people and she did not write the letter. The letter does note that “Cinémathèque Française is told not to hold a Roman Polanski retrospective and another for Jean-Claude Brisseau is blocked.” The question seems to be more about the censorship of work.
During the Golden Globes there was a Natalie Wood rumor that became part of the #MeToo discussion. Essentially a person who have never been accused (in one social media conversation the supposed victim is dead) or even named. This is slightly worse than the case of Nate Parker; the supposed victim is dead and Parker was acquitted yet even before the #MeToo became a movement, Parker was negatively impacted.
I am not of the same generation as the 74-year-old Deneuve, but I feel that as I have noted above, there are problems with the #MeToo activism and some hashtag activism that threatens an equitable understanding between men and women in France, in the UK and in the United States. We need to be able to listen respectfully to what other people say and consider legal ramifications. Some matters may be he-said, she-said and without enough evidence to prove in court; substituting the court of public opinion for actual legal action seems to be calling for mob rule. We must also differentiate between boorish or rude behavior. Being rude and offensive is not against the law, even if it involves hateful speech like white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” or some sexist motto.
I support the Time’s Up movement and on Sunday wore black. For the most part, the blackout helped focus the conversation on a serious social movement in a respectful manner in which both men and women could be heard.
The entire text of the open letter published in Le Monde is below in both the original French and in English translation.
Le viol est un crime. Mais la drague insistante ou maladroite n’est pas un délit, ni la galanterie une agression machiste.
A la suite de l’affaire Weinstein a eu lieu une légitime prise de conscience des violences sexuelles exercées sur les femmes, notamment dans le cadre professionnel, où certains hommes abusent de leur pouvoir. Elle était nécessaire. Mais cette libération de la parole se retourne aujourd’hui en son contraire : on nous intime de parler comme il faut, de taire ce qui fâche, et celles qui refusent de se plier à de telles injonctions sont regardées comme des traîtresses, des complices !
Or c’est là le propre du puritanisme que d’emprunter, au nom d’un prétendu bien général, les arguments de la protection des femmes et de leur émancipation pour mieux les enchaîner à un statut d’éternelles victimes, de pauvres petites choses sous l’emprise de phallocrates démons, comme au bon vieux temps de la sorcellerie.
De fait, #metoo a entraîné dans la presse et sur les réseaux sociaux une campagne de délations et de mises en accusation publiques d’individus qui, sans qu’on leur laisse la possibilité ni de répondre ni de se défendre, ont été mis exactement sur le même plan que des agresseurs sexuels. Cette justice expéditive a déjà ses victimes, des hommes sanctionnés dans l’exercice de leur métier, contraints à la démission, etc., alors qu’ils n’ont eu pour seul tort que d’avoir touché un genou, tenté de voler un baiser, parlé de choses « intimes » lors d’un dîner professionnel ou d’avoir envoyé des messages à connotation sexuelle à une femme chez qui l’attirance n’était pas réciproque.
Cette fièvre à envoyer les « porcs » à l’abattoir, loin d’aider les femmes à s’autonomiser, sert en réalité les intérêts des ennemis de la liberté sexuelle, des extrémistes religieux, des pires réactionnaires et de ceux qui estiment, au nom d’une conception substantielle du bien et de la morale victorienne qui va avec, que les femmes sont des êtres « à part », des enfants à visage d’adulte, réclamant d’être protégées.
En face, les hommes sont sommés de battre leur coulpe et de dénicher, au fin fond de leur conscience rétrospective, un « comportement déplacé » qu’ils auraient pu avoir voici dix, vingt ou trente ans, et dont ils devraient se repentir. La confession publique, l’incursion de procureurs autoproclamés dans la sphère privée, voilà qui installe comme un climat de société totalitaire.
La vague purificatoire ne semble connaître aucune limite. Là, on censure un nu d’Egon Schiele sur une affiche ; ici, on appelle au retrait d’un tableau de Balthus d’un musée au motif qu’il serait une apologie de la pédophilie ; dans la confusion de l’homme et de l’œuvre, on demande l’interdiction de la rétrospective Roman Polanski à la Cinémathèque et on obtient le report de celle consacrée à Jean-Claude Brisseau. Une universitaire juge le film Blow-Up, de Michelangelo Antonioni, « misogyne » et « inacceptable ». A la lumière de ce révisionnisme, John Ford (La Prisonnière du désert) et même Nicolas Poussin (L’Enlèvement des Sabines) n’en mènent pas large.
Déjà, des éditeurs demandent à certaines d’entre nous de rendre nos personnages masculins moins « sexistes », de parler de sexualité et d’amour avec moins de démesure ou encore de faire en sorte que les « traumatismes subis par les personnages féminins » soient rendus plus évidents ! Au bord du ridicule, un projet de loi en Suède veut imposer un consentement explicitement notifié à tout candidat à un rapport sexuel ! Encore un effort et deux adultes qui auront envie de coucher ensemble devront au préalable cocher via une « appli » de leur téléphone un document dans lequel les pratiques qu’ils acceptent et celles qu’ils refusent seront dûment listées.
Indispensable liberté d’offenser
Le philosophe Ruwen Ogien défendait une liberté d’offenser indispensable à la création artistique. De même, nous défendons une liberté d’importuner, indispensable à la liberté sexuelle. Nous sommes aujourd’hui suffisamment averties pour admettre que la pulsion sexuelle est par nature offensive et sauvage, mais nous sommes aussi suffisamment clairvoyantes pour ne pas confondre drague maladroite et agression sexuelle.
Surtout, nous sommes conscientes que la personne humaine n’est pas monolithe : une femme peut, dans la même journée, diriger une équipe professionnelle et jouir d’être l’objet sexuel d’un homme, sans être une « salope » ni une vile complice du patriarcat. Elle peut veiller à ce que son salaire soit égal à celui d’un homme, mais ne pas se sentir traumatisée à jamais par un frotteur dans le métro, même si cela est considéré comme un délit. Elle peut même l’envisager comme l’expression d’une grande misère sexuelle, voire comme un non-événement.
En tant que femmes, nous ne nous reconnaissons pas dans ce féminisme qui, au-delà de la dénonciation des abus de pouvoir, prend le visage d’une haine des hommes et de la sexualité. Nous pensons que la liberté de dire non à une proposition sexuelle ne va pas sans la liberté d’importuner. Et nous considérons qu’il faut savoir répondre à cette liberté d’importuner autrement qu’en s’enfermant dans le rôle de la proie.
Pour celles d’entre nous qui ont choisi d’avoir des enfants, nous estimons qu’il est plus judicieux d’élever nos filles de sorte qu’elles soient suffisamment informées et conscientes pour pouvoir vivre pleinement leur vie sans se laisser intimider ni culpabiliser.
Les accidents qui peuvent toucher le corps d’une femme n’atteignent pas nécessairement sa dignité et ne doivent pas, si durs soient-ils parfois, nécessairement faire d’elle une victime perpétuelle. Car nous ne sommes pas réductibles à notre corps. Notre liberté intérieure est inviolable. Et cette liberté que nous chérissons ne va pas sans risques ni sans responsabilités.
World Crunch published the full English translation:
PARIS — Rape is a crime. But trying to pick up someone, however persistently or clumsily, is not — nor is gallantry an attack of machismo.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal sparked a legitimate awakening about the sexual violence that women are subjected to, particularly in their professional lives, where some men abuse their power. This was necessary. But what was supposed to liberate voices has now been turned on its head: We are being told what is proper to say and what we must stay silent about — and the women who refuse to fall into line are considered traitors, accomplices!
[Compare to The New York Times translation: Rape is a crime. 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.]
Just like in the good old witch-hunt days, what we are once again witnessing here is puritanism in the name of a so-called greater good, claiming to promote the liberation and protection of women, only to enslave them to a status of eternal victim and reduce them to defenseless preys of male chauvinist demons.
Ratting out and calling out
In fact, #MeToo has led to a campaign, in the press and on social media, of public accusations and indictments against individuals who, without being given a chance to respond or defend themselves, are put in the exact same category as sex offenders. This summary justice has already had its victims: men who’ve been disciplined in the workplace, forced to resign, and so on., when their only crime was to touch a woman’s knee, try to steal a kiss, talk about “intimate” things during a work meal, or send sexually-charged messages to women who did not return their interest.
This frenzy for sending the “pigs” to the slaughterhouse, far from helping women empower themselves, actually serves the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom, the religious extremists, the reactionaries and those who believe — in their righteousness and the Victorian moral outlook that goes with it — that women are a species “apart,” children with adult faces who demand to be protected.
Men, for their part, are called on to embrace their guilt and rack their brains for “inappropriate behavior” that they engaged in 10, 20 or 30 years earlier, and for which they must now repent. These public confessions, and the foray into the private sphere or self-proclaimed prosecutors, have led to a climate of totalitarian society.
The purging wave seems to know no bounds. The poster of an Egon Schiele nude is censored; calls are made for the removal of a Balthus painting from a museum on grounds that it’s an apology for pedophilia; unable to distinguish between the man and his work, Cinémathèque Française is told not to hold a Roman Polanski retrospective and another for Jean-Claude Brisseau is blocked. A university judges the film Blow-Up, by Michelangelo Antonioni, to be “misogynist” and “unacceptable.” In light of this revisionism, even John Ford (The Searchers) and Nicolas Poussin (The Abduction of the Sabine Women) are at risk.
Already, editors are asking some of us to make our masculine characters less “sexist” and more restrained in how they talk about sexuality and love, or to make it so that the “traumas experienced by female characters” be more evident! Bordering on ridiculous, in Sweden a bill was presented that calls for explicit consent before any sexual relations! Next we’ll have a smartphone app that adults who want to sleep together will have to use to check precisely which sex acts the other does or does not accept.
The essential freedom to offend
Philosopher Ruwen Ogien defended the freedom to offend as essential to artistic creation. In the same way, we defend a freedom to bother as indispensable to sexual freedom.
Today we are educated enough to understand that sexual impulses are, by nature, offensive and primitive — but we are also able to tell the difference between an awkward attempt to pick someone up and what constitutes a sexual assault.
Above all, we are aware that the human being is not a monolith: A woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being a man’s sexual object, without being a “whore” or a vile accomplice of the patriarchy. She can make sure that her wages are equal to a man’s but not feel forever traumatized by a man who rubs himself against her in the subway, even if that is regarded as an offense. She can even consider this act as the expression of a great sexual deprivation, or even as a non-event.
As women, we don’t recognize ourselves in this feminism that, beyond the denunciation of abuses of power, takes the face of a hatred of men and sexuality. We believe that the freedom to say “no” to a sexual proposition cannot exist without the freedom to bother. And we consider that one must know how to respond to this freedom to bother in ways other than by closing ourselves off in the role of the prey.
For those of us who decided to have children, we think that it is wiser to raise our daughters in a way that they may be sufficiently informed and aware to fully live their lives without being intimidated or blamed.
Incidents that can affect a woman’s body do not necessarily affect her dignity and must not, as difficult as they can be, necessarily make her a perpetual victim. Because we are not reducible to our bodies. Our inner freedom is inviolable. And this freedom that we cherish is not without risks and responsibilities.