The French writer and art critic Catherine Millet spoke at the latest edition of the series of debates at Frontiers of Thought, held in São Paulo. Millet presented the lecture “The old-fashioned ideas of #MeToo,” and approached democracy, harassment, feminism and freedom of speech.
This year, the events hosted by Frontiers of Thought have a main theme: “World in disagreement, democracy and the culture wars”.
Catherine Millet, 70, is the founder of Art Press, one of the main editorial references of the art scene in France. Since 1972, she is the author of “The Sexual Life of Catherine M.” (Ediouro, 2001) and “The other life of Catherine M.” (Ed. Agir, 2009) – her publications sold more than 2.5 million copies in 45 countries.
In January 2018, she was one of the five women who signed the open letter published by French newspaper “Le Monde” against the #MeToo campaign, which reported cases of sexual assault and gender violence, initially in Hollywood. The art critic defends men’s “freedom to pester” while trying to seduce women and stated at the event: “I forgive men for their inappropriate behavior because they are a result of an unstoppable and unconscious primitive impulse, which we do not understand.”
“Sometimes it is so powerful that destroys what we are,” says Millet.
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For Millet, #MeToo is violent and authoritarian
Millet’s main argument against the movement is that it is authoritarian and violent against men. During the lecture, she talked about an incident with a friend, choreographer Daniel Dobbels. The French newspaper “Libération” published a series of sexual abuse allegations from dancers against him, causing the theater to call off his presentation season, and the University where he taught to fire him. Millet says that Dobbels retired from arts and teaching and got depressed; soon after, the allegations were dismissed.
“There’s an issue of media overexposure. Newspapers are so glad to replicate what’s on social media that they don’t even do their own research. There’s too much accusation and few defenses,” said Millet. She believes this media phenomenon gives the impression that harassment episodes are more common than they really are.
Millet quoted French philosopher and feminist Elizabeth Badinter, author of the book “Fausse Route: Réflexions sur 30 années de féminisme” (Publisher: Odile Jacob, 2003), to distinguish the type of harms caused by male behavior. She argues that some cases, such as verbal offense and some degrees of harassment suffered by women, shouldn’t be categorized as “real physical violence”. “The word is used by both genders. Where does the insult begin? Where do we draw the line between objective and subjective? It’s impossible to judge the impact of an offense,” she said.
“It is hard to get to the ‘truth’. Even militant jurists and lawyers recognize how difficult it is to make laws, as well as to judge harassment and violence cases. Often, there is no proof and it turns into a ‘one word against the other’ situation,” says Millet. She also says that this shouldn’t prevent feminists from seeking Justice or even stop them from trusting the rule of law.
According to Millet, exposing the accusations, instead of taking them into the right spheres of justice, turns the incident into a case of symbolic lynching, which will have consequences in the private and professional lives of those accused, and such act should be condemned.
The art critic believes such behavior originally comes from the utopian feminist desire to build a new man. “The criteria are only convenient to them. They want men that never give up to their impulses,” she says. “However, their libidinal energy breaks down barriers, it’s part of the eroticism. I think feminists are ignorants when it comes to Freud’s sexuality approach,” says Millet.
“Feministically correct” is the new censorship for Millet
The French art critic questions a widespread concept. She completely rejects the idea of sorority among women. “Sorority is women’s voice release, but when our article says something different, other women want to silence us. They look at me as if I were an enemy,” she says.
It is censorship, or worse, self-censorship imposed by the “feministically correct”, according to Millet. She mentions an article that suggests you should stop reading “Sleeping Beauty” to kids, claiming the prince kisses the princess without her consent. “Associating art to morals is a setback. It is a typical situation of a totalitarian society,” she said.
At the end of the presentation, she was questioned by the audience about the real consequences of the culture of violence against women – in Brazil, a woman is raped every 11 minutes and 946 women were murdered in feminicide cases, in 2017 alone.
“It is hard to judge because I talk about it based on what I read and on my personal experience, I am not a political scientist or sociologist,” she said. “But it is hard for courts to find the truth in these cases,” she concluded.