PARIS (Reuters) - Actress Catherine Deneuve and 99 other French women on Tuesday denounced a backlash against men following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, saying the #Metoo campaign against sexual harassment amounted to "puritanism" and was fueled by a "hatred of men."
In the aftermath of accusations against the U.S. movie producer, millions of women took to social media to share their stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted, using the #Metoo hastag worldwide or #SquealOnYourPig (#balancetonporc)in France.
"This urge to send men to the slaughterhouse, instead of helping women be more autonomous, helps the enemies of sexual freedom," the 100 women, including 74-year old Deneuve, one of France's most famous screen stars, said in a column published by Le Monde daily.
The man's right to "pester" a woman was an essential part of sexual freedom, they said, describing the campaign as "puritanism".
Marlene Schiappa, the French minister tasked with cracking down on violence against women, said in a comment to Reuters that the Weinstein scandal forced a rethink of attitudes toward sexual harassment in France, a country that cherishes its self-image as the land of seduction and romance.
Schiappa kicked off nationwide consultations on a law that is due to include steps to fight sexual harassment on the streets as well as extend the statute of limitation for rape of minors.
In late October, protesters in Paris disrupted the opening of a retrospective of Roman Polanski's work following new rape allegations against the French-Polish film director.
But for Deneuve and the other signatories of the letter, including writers and journalists, this went too far.
"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 diner," they wrote.
"We defend a right to pester, which is vital to sexual freedom," they said.
Reporting by Ingrid Melander; editing by John Irish and Richard Balmforth