We republish here our (rather poor) machine translation (supplemented (?) by our own additions) of the recent declaration of French women, led by Catherine Deneuve, in opposition to the reactionary aspects of the anti-sexual-harassment #metoo movement launched in the US in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
This article originally appeared in the French newspaper “Le Monde” [http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2018/01/09/nous-defendons-une-liberte-d-importuner-indispensable-a-la-liberte-sexuelle_5239134_3232.html]. Our translation was done primarily by the Microsoft/Bing Translator and was then improved (we hope) by our own additional interpretations of the meanings of difficult-to-translate French vernacular. Our additions are in brackets.
We agree substantially that the direction in which the #metoo movement is heading is fundamentally reactionary and seeks to do away with the rights of the accused while simultaneously mandating that every investigation into a sexual assault allegation should “start by believing” the accuser. This medieval concept of “justice” has already claimed the careers and even the lives of several people who have been convicted in the press on the basis of mere accusations of having committed “sexual assault”. There are also moves afoot by facile politicians to capitalize on the #metoo hysteria by promulgating reactionary laws that will raise the age of consent – to 18 or 20! – and to broaden the definition of “rape” to include all kinds of what have long been considered to be mere sexual misdemeanors. Also their is a movement afoot to make unsolicited comments to women an illegal act! Truly, the USA is becoming the world’s largest open insane asylum; and the malicious tentacles of its anti-sex witch-hunters are crossing borders and influencing similar movements around the world. The French women who published this declaration are responding to not just the US #metoo movement but to attacks on the rights of artists and writers being launched by right-wing politicians in France who are seeking to advance their careers on this wave of anti-sex puritanism sweeping the globe.
Sexual harassment and sexual violence is all too real – and it is far too serious to be trifled with by cheap political hacks of the left and right who seek to further their careers by launching a campaign to straightjacket normal human sexual behavior under the pretense of defending women from sexual assault. While the new determination of women to aggressively fight sexual harassment in the workplace and on the streets is a very positive development, this goal can not be successfully pursued by criminalizing normal human sexual behavior, even if that behavior can be often annoying and obnoxious. Criminalizing such things as clumsy street pick-up attempts or “unwanted touching” as “sexual assaults” or “sexual harassment” will make life more miserable for everyone and will only fill our already overcrowded prisons with more innocent people. Normal human sexual behavior, though often awkward, messy and obnoxious, must never be criminalized. We agree with the French women’s collective and their declaration: “We defend the freedom to annoy, indispensable to sexual freedom”!
Note: If we find a better translation, we’ll print it here; if you find one please send it to us.
“We defend a freedom of annoyance, indispensable to sexual freedom”
Rape is a crime. But the insistent or clumsy [pick-up move] is not a misdemeanor, nor gallantry a macho aggression.
In the aftermath of the Weinstein case, there was a legitimate awareness of sexual violence against women, particularly in the professional context, where some men abused their power. It was necessary. But this liberation turns today [in]to its opposite: if one wishes to be intimate one must speak the right way; those who annoy us must be silenced; and those who refuse to bow to such injunctions are regarded as treacherous accomplices!
But it is pure puritanism to borrow, in the name of a so-called general good, the arguments of the protection of women and their emancipation to better chain them to the status of eternal victims, poor little things under the influence of phallocratic demons, like [in] the good old days of witchcraft.
Denunciations and indictments
In fact, #metoo has brought [to] the press and social networks a campaign of public denunciations and indictments of individuals who, without being given the opportunity to answer or defend themselves, have been placed exactly on the same plane as sexual aggressors. This hasty justice already has its victims, men sanctioned in the exercise of their profession, forced to resign, etc., when their only wrong was to have touched a knee, tried to steal a kiss, talked about “intimate” things at a business dinner or to have sent messages with sexual [connotations] to a woman in whom the attraction was not reciprocal.
This fever to send the “pigs” to the slaughterhouse, far from helping women to empower themselves, actually serves the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom: religious extremists, the worst reactionaries and those who believe, in the name of a substantially Victorian value and the morality that goes with it, that women are “[special]” beings, children with adult faces, [needing] to be protected.
Now, men are summoned to [rack] their brains and to find, in the depths of their retrospective consciousness, an “inappropriate behaviour” that they might have had […] ten, twenty or thirty years ago, and of which they should repent. The public confession, the incursion of self-proclaimed prosecutors into the private sphere, is setting up a totalitarian climate of society.
The cleansing wave does not seem to know any limits. There, a nude of Egon Schiele is censored on a poster; Here there are calls for the removal of a painting of Balthus from a museum on the grounds that it would be an apology of paedophilia; In the confusion of the man and of the work, one asks for the ban of the retrospective on Roman Polanski at the film library and we get the postponement of that devoted to Jean-Claude Brisseau. One academic judges the film Blow-Up, by Michelangelo Antonioni, “misogynist” and “unacceptable”. In the light of this revisionism, John Ford (The Prisoner of the desert) and even Nicolas Poussin (the abduction of the Sabines) are not far away.
Already, some publishers are asking some of us to make our male characters less “sexist”, to talk about sexuality and love with less of an imbalance or to make sure that the “traumas suffered by the female characters” are rendered More obvious! On the brink of the ridiculous, a proposed bill in Sweden wants to impose a consent expressly notified to any candidate for sexual intercourse! One more effort and two adults who will want to have sex together must first check through an “app” of their phone a document in which the practices they accept and those they refuse will be duly listed.
Indispensable Freedom to offend
The philosopher Ruwen Ogien defended a freedom to offend indispensable to artistic creation. Similarly, we are defending a freedom of annoyance, indispensable to sexual freedom. We are now sufficiently warned to admit that sexual impulse is by nature offensive and Savage, but we are also sufficiently perceptive to not confuse an awkward pass and sexual assault.
Above all, we are aware that the human person is not a monolith: A woman can, on the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a “slut” or a vile accomplice of patriarchy. She can ensure that her salary is equal to that of a man, but does not feel traumatized forever by a [lecher] in the subway, even if this is considered a misdemeanor. [She] can even consider it as the expression of a great sexual misery, even as a non-event.
As women, we do not recognize ourselves in this feminism which, beyond the denunciation of abuse of power, takes the appearance of a hatred of men and [male] sexuality. We believe that the freedom to say no to a sexual proposition does not [exist] without the freedom to annoy. And we consider that it is necessary to be able to respond to this freedom of annoyance other than by locking ourselves in the role of prey.
For those of us who have chosen to have children, we feel that it makes more sense to raise our daughters so that they are sufficiently informed and aware to be able to live their lives fully without being intimidated or [racked with guilt].
Accidents that may affect a woman’s body do not necessarily [impugn] her dignity and must not […] 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 risk or without responsibility.
The editors of this text are: Sarah Chiche (writer, clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst), Catherine Millet (art critic, writer), Catherine Robbe-Grillet (actress and writer), Peggy Sastre (author, journalist and translator), Abnousse Shalmani (writer and journalist).
[Co-signers to this declaration]: Kathy Alliou (curator), Marie-Laure Bernadac (honorary general curator), Stéphanie Blake (author of children’s books), Ingrid Caven (actress and singer), Catherine Deneuve (actress), Gloria Friedmann ( visual artist), Cécile Guilbert (writer), Brigitte Jaques-Wajeman (director), Claudine Junien (geneticist), Brigitte Lahaie (actress and radio presenter), Elisabeth Lévy (Director of the writing of the Causer), Joëlle Losfeld ( Editor), Sophie de Menthon (President of the Mouvement ETHIC), Marie Sellier (author, president of the Society of the people of letters).
[Full list of signers of the declaration:] Les-signataires-de-La-tribune (PDF)