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Following the backlash to the #MeToo movement in France, Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius has launched the #WeToo hashtag for men in support of women fighting sexual harassment.
The Artist director launched the hashtag last week in a letter published in France’s New Literary Magazine in response to both the Weinstein affair and the controversial anti-#Metoo letter signed by actress Catherine Deneuve.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Hazanavicius said he and co-writer Raphael Glucksmann wanted to launch the hashtag to support women and speak out against the backlash that has overshadowed the movement in recent weeks in France.
“I don’t usually speak as a man, but I felt it was really important to say that we, as men, agree with the movement,” he told THR. “In France we have the tendency to try to be in the gray zone and sometimes say, ‘We don’t like this [point],’ and it can be interpreted as not agreeing with the entire movement. We agree with the movement, even if there are some things that are not perfect sometimes, but this movement is necessary.”
The helmer added that it’s important that women “will be heard” when there are accusations of harassment by men. “Women that are victims of harassment know now their voices will be heard and for the guys who harass women, they have to know that if they are accused, we will listen to the victims,” he said. “This is the thing which is most important because so far it has been your word against mine, and it was always the strongest who would win.”
He added that he hopes with #WeToo, “we are making that change, which is what is important to me.”
Though Hazanavicius said the letter was “not a polemic against” Deneuve, the essay directly countered some of the points in her letter, including the men’s right to “seduce, annoy or flirt” — which Deneuve’s letter said will be lost if #MeToo continues. (Deneuve later backtracked on some of the comments.)
“We do not want these ‘freedoms’ if they fit into situations and structures of domination,” they wrote, adding that one person’s freedom has limits. “We believe that the freedom of women not to be bothered is the central question.”
The movement is “not a revolt of women against men but a common fight against injustices made to women,” they wrote.
While #BalanceTonPorc, “call out your pig,” the French version of #MeToo has made headlines, much of the French film industry reaction has remained muted. No major stars have come forward with stories of harassment.
When asked by THR about her thoughts on the movement, actress Juliette Binoche said the main thing missing from the movement is the voice of men, while Isabelle Huppert said it’s important “that all voices be heard” and that the movement should avoid overzealousness in condemning men. There have certainly been no calls for a sartorial blackout on the upcoming Cesar Awards red carpet.
Hazanavicius addressed why the French film industry has been less outspoken and hasn’t faced a wave of accusations against industry players.
“The economics [of the industry] are different and we have a better balance here,” he said, referring to the funding system that allows for more opportunities for first-time and young directors. “We have a relationship to equality which is very, very different to the U.S. I think it’s better for women, not only in the movie business.”