The op-ed piece criticizing the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc movements co-signed by French actress Catherine Deneuve has transformed the debate on sexual harassment into a Franco-American quarrel.
One conclusion of the stance taken by the actress and some 100 other French figures from the worlds of academia, publishing, and media was that the Americans are supposedly seeking to impose a “puritanical dictatorship” on the French, infantilizing women while denying men all acts of seduction. French women, so we are to believe, are strongly attached to courtly love and all our fine romantic traditions.
These developments have been the occasion to dredge up a strange text written by Simone de Beauvoir. While in Chicago in 1947, she observed that relationships between the sexes in America were steeped in hostility, whereas interactions between men and women in France were underpinned by seduction. “Another of my surprises was the American woman,” she wrote in Force of Circumstance (1963). “While it is true that her vengeful spirit has been pushed to the point of making her a sort of ‘praying mantis,’ she remains no less of a dependent and relative being for all that: America is a male world.”
The extract does beg the question how the high priestess of feminism came to that conclusion. Simone de Beauvoir would herself be faced with a number of legal problems today, as she “seduced” her underage students — both boys and girls.
This wave of confessions is in fact quite absurd, as the only voices heard are those of celebrities, intellectuals, and business leaders; women of a certain age already well-established in their careers and accustomed to appearing in the media spotlight. These women, for whom Catherine Deneuve seems to have elected herself the standard-bearer, in no way speak for the entire female sex, and even less so for all victims of sexual harassment and assault. When will a platform be finally given — in both our countries — to the workers, cashiers, and cleaners, the women most exposed to harassment and intimidation by bullying bosses?