Coup De Foudre (Love at First Sight)
“Once I had a love and it was a gas.
Soon turned out, had a heart of glass…”—Blondie
The year was 1983. The movie was The Hunger. It took Catherine Denueve what seemed like forever to sink her fangs into Susan Sarandon’s neck, and from there it took just mere seconds for her to be forever etched into the Lesbian Iconic Moments Hall of Fame.
Flash Forward to 1995. Catherine Deneuve, who by now has portrayed lesbian and/or bisexual characters in multiple films, files a lawsuit against Deneuve Magazine, a classy, lesbian glossy, which was then five years old and running in the black …at least until the legal fees began piling up.
And thus, despite claiming it actually had nothing to do with the actress, the publishers decide to rename their magazine… and et voilà, January 1996, Curve Magazine is born, featuring a proud to be out and about, Martina Navratilova.
And there you have it.
But then a funny thing happened along the way to what might have become queer ignominy.
A new generation comes of age and discovers The Hunger on VHS or DVD, or Blu-Ray or Netflix, or even Pirate Bay, and they don’t know anything about the Curve debacle. And after “finding” Catherine, learning she is still lesby-ing about—ssing Fanny Ardent in Eight Women as recently as 2002—her iconicism is restored.
Which is why, what has now transpired should not have been a surprise, and yet, it still is.
“… Rape is a crime. But trying to pick up someone, however persistently or clumsily, is not—nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression…”
Catherine Deneuve joined 99 other French Women to sign a letter arguing that men’s “freedom to pester” is “indispensable to sexual freedom.”
And I am aghast and appalled…and actually somewhat afraid. MEN’S FREEDOM TO PESTER?! Not to mention the last time I checked, trying to pick someone up—however persistently—actually might be a crime. We call it stalking. So to message my response bluntly, “WTF?”
Ms. Deneuve, if I might ask you for clarity’s sake, when a man takes your head and pushes it down toward his zipper, is that behavior covered in his “freedom to pester?” Or maybe you’re just working late and the boss comes in and sticks his tongue down your throat? “Hey baby, no harm, no foul! It’s just in my freedom to pester lexicon!” Or, I know, maybe it’s that unrequested pat on the ass. C’mon, it’s just a little pester freedom between boss and employee, senator and page, studio executive and actress. Don’t like it, don’t work here. No biggie.
Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Matt Lauer (and friends)…do you think their money, their position, their power gives them freedom to pester? And therefore we who are demanding they no longer be in those positions are being…hmmm…whiney? Unfair? Melodramatic?
Obviously this could go on all day.
And although I do understand your fear of a misstep or two, because they have happened and will surely happen again, I don’t understand defending the indefensible. Because we must stop this culture of Phallocrats Are Us, whereby men assume authority over women simply due to their maleness.
Which brings me right back to sadly needing to shatter a gay icon. Ms. Deneuve you are the epitome of privilege: white, blonde, enigmatic, successful, etc. You describe yourself as a feminist. And yet, there is something about, “with friends like this, who needs enemies?” It wouldn’t be surprising if Bill Cosby is reaching out to add you to his defense team. And if not Bill, perhaps it will be Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who after being convicted of raping an unconscious woman and shockingly being given only six months, is now appealing his sentence as too harsh…because he has to register as a sex offender.
Ms. Deneuve, your signed position for men’s freedom to pester is not simply sad, not only wrong, but ultimately dangerous.
The gay community has been the recipient of lifelong campaigns of blackmail, threats and bullying. We fought to get out of a closet and stand as equals. The right wing is now saying (basically by our existence as equals) we infringe on their rights, as a way to force us back in.
The women’s community is saying sexual abuse, with its blackmail, threats, bullying, etc., must end now and those who oppose are saying, we are infringing on men’s freedom to pester.
Coincidence? Or Playbook?
Madeline Albright recently said, “There is a special place in heaven for women who help one another.” Ms. Deneuve, I hope she’s right.
And I hope we shall meet each other there.
Stefani Deoul is the author of the YA mystery novel On a LARP from Bywater Books. Contact Stefani.