A public letter signed by more than 100 French women that denounced the #MeToo movement has sparked debate over everything from the appropriate limits of flirtation to the extent to which the French should absorb American sexual norms.
Among those who disagreed with the public letter was Leïla Slimani, a novelist who won the Prix Goncourt in 2016. “I am not asking to be protected but to exercise my rights to security and respect,” she wrote in the newspaper Libération.
“I am not a victim,” Ms. Slimani continued. “But millions of women are. That is fact and not a moral judgment.’’
“Walk around the streets. Ride the metro at night,” she wrote. “Wear a miniskirt and high heels, show cleavage. […] Flirt with a man, change my mind and move on […]. Nurse my child in public. Ask for a raise. In all these life’s moments, daily and banal, I am claiming the right to not be pestered. The right to not even think about it. I claim the freedom to not get comments on my behavior, my clothes, my way of walking, the shape of my buttocks, the size of my breasts. I claim my right to peacefulness, to solitude, the right to keep going without fear.”
And thinking of future generations of women, she added, “I hope someday, my daughter will walk around all night wearing a miniskirt and a décolletage, that she will travel the world on her own, that she will ride the metro at midnight without fear, without even thinking about it. The world in which she will live then will not be a puritanical one.”
Catherine De Haas seconded Slimani’s views. Along with 30 other French feminists, she published a letter in France Info. The authors wrote that the Le Monde letter reminded them of “the embarrassing colleague or the tiresome uncle who doesn’t understand what is happening.”Ten years ago, “an op-ed like that one would have had a lot more support in France,” De Haas said. She added that the letter reflected “stereotypes that are held by many people in France.”
Referring to the signers and supporters of the public letter, Geneviève Fraisse, a philosopher who writes about feminist thought, said, “They are in the minority, but they had not understood that they were in the minority.’’ #BalanceTonPorc (#ExposeYourPig). She supports Slimnai and believes the letter “has had consequences that… are very profound.”
Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for gender equality, called the Le Monde letter a “potpourri of ideas,” some of which were “not uninteresting,” while others were “profoundly shocking.”
Twitter users also expressed their support for Slimani’s views. “A beautiful text by Leïla Slimani, simple and extremely pertinent given the current turbulent debate,” one Twitter use wrote. “Thank you Leïla Slimani for your vision of man that you hope for and defend,” another tweeted.
“No text is final, but this one here is important and it’s the only in which I felt completely acknowledged. Thank you Leïla Slimani,” wrote journalist Laura-Mai Gaverieux.
Others tweeted: “Very well said. 100% in agreement. And on top of that it’s a beautiful text by Leïla Slimani!”
“Sometimes, in a sea of stupidity and ridiculous remarks, we find an island of intelligence and good sense,” another added.