Famed French actress Brigitte Bardot dismissed the so-called #MeToo movement which has been inspired by sexual harassment accusations directed by women at various men in politics and the entertainment industry. Rather than joining other women in the U.S. or France, the 83-year-old Bardot denounced the movement as a “witch hunt” against men. Bardot told the French magazine Paris Match, “The vast majority are being hypocritical and ridiculous.” 

Bardot claimed that “lots of actresses try to play the tease with producers to get a role. And then, so we will talk about them, they say they were harassed . . . I was never the victim of sexual harassment. And I found it charming when men told me that I was beautiful or I had a nice little backside.”

Just days before Bardot entered the fray, 100 French women shared their views about sexual harassment and rape in a letter published in French daily Le Monde. “Rape is a crime but insistent or clumsy flirting is not, nor is gallantry a macho aggression,” the letter read. “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.” Among the signatories was equally famous French actress Catherine Deneuve.

Deneuve, 74, who has starred in movies such as the semi-porn “The Hunger” and “Belle du jour,” had a later apparent change of heart. In the pages of leftist Libération newspaper, she apologized to victims of sexual harassment. “I fraternally salute all women victims of odious acts who may have felt aggrieved by the letter in Le Monde,” she wrote. “It is to them, and them alone, that I offer my apologies.”

She went on to acknowledge that she has witnessed over her long career some uncomfortable situations and has heard stories of abuse at the hands of filmmakers. Deneuve has not been reported to have denounced specific instances of such abuse.

Deneuve denounced French radio host and former porn star Brigitte Lahaie,who was one of the women who signed the letter published in Le Monde. Lahaie was later quoted as saying that some women enjoy rape. Lahaie then apologized, saying, “What I meant to say,— because I know matters of sexuality by heart—, is that sometimes the body and the mind do not coincide.” Deneuve characterized Lahaie’s comments as “worse than spitting in the face of all those who have suffered this crime.”

Catherine Deneuve in "Belle du jour", 1967

Distancing herself still further from the signatories of the original letter, Deneuve wrote in Libération, “That is why I would like to say to conservatives, racists, and traditionalists of all shades who decided it was strategic to give me their support that I am no dupe. They will have neither my gratitude nor my friendship. To the contrary. I am a liberated woman and I will stay that way.”

Bardot takes on Islam

In 2015, prosecutors asked a court in Paris to sentence Bardot to a two-month suspended prison sentence and fine her 15,000 euros ($23,760) for saying the Muslim community was “destroying our country and imposing its acts." Bardot is a prominent animal rights activist but has also been embroiled in controversy for denouncing Muslim traditions and immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. By 2015, Bardot had been fined four times on charges of inciting racial hatred. Prosecutor Anne de Fontette told the court in 2015 that she was seeking a tougher sentence than usual, and added: “I am a little tired of prosecuting Mrs. Bardot.” Bardot did not attend the proceedings because she said she was physically unable to do so.

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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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