A collective of 100 actresses, female academics and writers have signed an open letter in the French newspaper Le Monde (translated in parts and published by The Guardian) denouncing the “witch hunt” that has begun against men in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. The letter states that the sexual freedom of men is under threat and has attacked social media campaigns such as the #MeToo movement and its French version #BalanceTonPorc (Call Out Your Pig) for bringing about a “puritanical wave of purification.”

The signatories include, among others, French actress Catherine Deneuve best known for playing self-possessed, elusive women in films directed by Luis Bunuel, Francois Truffaut and Roman Polanski. Deneuve has earlier spoken against the “Me Too” movement stating that the call to round up “pigs” is akin to religious extremism and would attract the worst reactionaries.

“Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not – nor is men being gentlemanly a macho attack,” the open letter said.

The letter pointed out the fate of men who just wanted to steal a kiss or touch someone’s knee, and in return, were fired from their jobs.

The letter also argued that men have been demonised for discussing intimate subject matter during professional dinners and sending “sexually charged messages to women who did not return their attentions.”

The letter continued to say that 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.”

Deneuve’s stance against the “Me Too” movement which has raised a storm in the West, across the entertainment industry in particular, has invited criticism on Twitter. Actress Asia Argento, one of the prime accusers of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, shared the letter on Twitter saying that the signatories’ “interiorised misogyny has lobotimised them to the point of no return.”