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100 French women say men unfairly "punished" by new "puritanism"

French women on sexual violence

PARIS - French movie star Catherine Deneuve and other prominent French women say men are being unfairly targeted by sexual misconduct allegations and should be free to hit on women.

Deneuve was among about 100 performers, scholars and others who signed an open letter published Tuesday by the newspaper Le Monde saying the "legitimate protest against sexual violence" stemming from the Harvey Weinstein scandal has gone too far and threatens hard-won sexual freedoms.

The letter reflects France's mixed feelings about widespread accusations of systematic sexual misconduct by powerful men in multiple countries in recent months.

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France is home to famed feminists and its own "me too" movement, and the Deneuve-signed letter drew much criticism. However many people echo Deneuve's concerns of a new "puritanism" that goes against French traditions of seduction.

"Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not -- nor is being gentlemanly a macho attack," said the letter, according to French news agency AFP.

"Men have been punished summarily, forced out of their jobs when all they did was touch someone's knee or try to steal a kiss," said the letter.

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AFP said the letter, which was published in full by daily newspaper Le Monde, also criticized social media campaigns including #MeToo and French equivalent #Balancetonporc (Call out your pig) for unleashing a "puritanical... wave of purification."

Women are, "sufficiently aware that the sexual urge is by its nature wild and aggressive. But we are also clear-eyed enough not to confuse an awkward attempt to pick someone up with a sexual attack," the letter says.

On Monday, Hollywood stars used the occasion of the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony to criticize the old ways of doing business. Actresses dressed in black, and men wearing buttons reading "Time's Up" were outspoken about the need to change disparities in representation, hiring and pay.

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On "CBS This Morning" Monday, New York Times reporter and CBS News contributor Jodi Kantor said, "I woke up this morning and said, 'Did I have a crazy dream last night in which the leading actresses of Hollywood effectively dismantled and challenged the traditions of the red carpet by saying we're not here just to be pretty objects — we're going to talk about substantive issues on the red carpet, and we're going to use the red carpet, which was traditionally seen as pretty retrograde, to change the gender dynamics of Hollywood."