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EDITO : In the name of the right of expression

by Caroline Gaudriault

Today, I feel proud to be a French woman. And I am not at all surprised that an anti-puritanical open letter denouncing witch hunts targeting men was published in the newspaper Le Monde and signed by a hundred women whose adhere to a modern form of feminism.

Today, I feel proud to be a French woman. And I am not at all surprised that an anti-puritanical open letter denouncing witch hunts targeting men was published in the newspaper Le Monde and signed by a hundred women whose adhere to a modern form of feminism.

I have found nothing but sensible ideas in the letter.
The signatories denounce sexual violence as a crime. They argue, in the strongest terms, that rape should not be reduced to the status of harassment or locker room banter, acts that they do not sanction in any way.
The authors draw attention to a form of prudishness that eats away at our society, that insults the history of art, and that traps us within a totalitarian ideology.
They reject the idea that women should become informers, “shopping” suspects without any regard to the gravity of the acts they allegedly committed, or that they should exploit a crowd mentality.
They object to the idea of dragging male dignity through the mud by assimilating the great majority of decent men to a very small minority of salacious, phallocentric males.
They defend men who themselves fall victim to ill-intentioned women, for there are very probably as many ill-intentioned women as men.
They recommend education as a form of defence.

In other words, they express a modern form of feminism that refuses to cast women in the role of victims, which some would force them to play.

It would seem that there is nothing in this article capable of generating outrage and insult. However, it has been met by exactly this kind of reaction.
It is likely that the objective of the reaction to the Weinstein affair, which was at the root of this orgy of denunciations, was to spark a constructive debate. It was a chance to talk about education, the freedom to choose, and the strength to say no. But it has descended into a discussion focusing exclusively on alienation.
In spite of what the foreign media may say, it is not the liberated sexuality of French women that encouraged the authors to publish their article, but, doubtless, the emancipation they enjoy. Rather than being a question of sexuality, it is a question of mores. The frontier outlined in the article is situated at the “right to importune” and goes no further.

The core issue here is the ideological desire lurking behind the affair. An affair that is now beyond the control of the whistleblowers who revealed Weinstein’s agonies and Hollywood’s Babylonian misdeeds.
Focusing the debate on trivial jokes, and acts that, albeit reprehensible, are not traumatic, reveals the hidden desire of a minority of people to transform mentalities and encourage the continued devolution of the liberated world of the late 1960s into the increasingly frightened, codified, ultra-governed world of today.
It is sad – and certainly not anodyne – that an article that should reflect freedom of expression has caused such a negative reaction around the world. Is it no longer acceptable to offer a counter-argument? It would have been marvellous had the decision to cover the nakedness of ancient statues in Rome from the eyes of the Iranian delegation to the Italian capital been met with a similar display of energetic outrage.

Perhaps some people have chosen the wrong struggle.

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