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Catherine Deneuve and Me

January 31, 2018

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Elite men and women who have benefitted from the current system are getting tired of feeling apprehensive when thinking about men interacting with women. Newsflash: women are tired too… so, so, so tired. In the words of the Saturday Night Live sketch Welcome to Hell: “So, we’re all here now…”

Andrew Sullivan charts the backlash to the #MeToo movement. I have to admit, Catherine Deneuve’s statements have struck me harder than most. Perhaps like the #FreeMelania movement, we should have a #FreeCatherine. I’m sure she has seen some bad sh*t. After all, wasn’t the whole point of French New Wave films older directors leering at nymph-like ingenues; Catherine Deneuve, Romy Schneider, Anna Karina, Brigitte Bardot, Anne Wiazemsky? Their expected contribution to the films only to “be pretty and shut up.”

Ultimately, the backlash to #MeToo proves only that men and women (gay and straight, old and young, rich and poor) have internalized mysogny, this in itself is nothing new. Far from being the moral defenders of liberal sexuality, the French 99 women, Andrew Sullivan, Masha Gessen and others prove only that the movement has struck a nerve. It is always safer to defend what you know than to strike out bravely into new territory. But strike we must. The most important takeaway from all this is that this moment is not at all about sex, not about attraction, not about flirting and not about relationships in the workplace. This cultural moment is about learning to recognize power and abuses of it.

In these strange new hours, it is not women but men who are clearly confused about which behaviors are acceptable. The burden is on men to navigate a new course, to create a new ethics, not on women. The movement desperately needs men to step up and do this work. It is not the responsibility of Moira Donegan to investigate every claim on the Media Men list, it is not even her responsibility to come forward, not in a moment that demands transparency of women and then crucifies them for it. Her intention was to keep herself and her colleagues safe. That is enough. And when law enforcement and HR departments cannot be trusted to advocate for women, this is all women have.

After all these years, decades, centuries of silently suffering untold horrors or discreetly whispering survival strategies to our daughters, friends, coworkers, women deserve this moment of honesty, of freedom, of reckoning. We deserve it. And we won’t let anyone take it away.

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