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Placido Domingo accusations highlight transatlantic #MeToo split

8 Comments
By Maggy DONALDSON
Spanish opera singer Placido Domingo, 78, is still performing in Europe despite multiple allegations of sexual harassment Photo: AFP/File

Mere weeks after sexual assault allegations against Placido Domingo became public, a chorus of bravos resounded in Salzburg for the prolific opera singer, who blew kisses while receiving a standing ovation.

It was his first of several upcoming European performances -- he appeared in Szeged, Hungary on Wednesday -- that remained on deck despite the #MeToo scandal festering against him, with numerous women saying the 78-year-old sexually harassed them over the course of decades.

Classical music companies stateside were quick to err on the side of caution, with the Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Opera immediately canceling his upcoming performances when news of the accusations broke.

But houses in Europe took more of a wait-and-see stance, with some throwing their support behind the storied tenor-turned-baritone.

And as many American performers publicly condemned the alleged actions, European singers jumped to his defense.

Mezzo-soprano Maria Jose Suarez, who performed alongside Domingo several times, said she saw women "chase after him."

"What I saw was someone who is kind, who is a man who loves women, like I love men, and that is not a problem," she told Spanish news radio.

The divergent reactions underscore a split between the U.S. and Europe over the #MeToo movement, highlighting their longstanding cultural debate on how a society should or should not celebrate the art of individuals despite lurid testimonies concerning their actions.

Filmmaker Roman Polanski is perhaps the most prominent cultural figure that Europe has welcomed despite his conviction for statutory rape in the United States, which continues to seek his extradition since he fled to France in 1978 while awaiting sentencing.

Polanski showed his 13th production at the Venice Film Festival, but still has no U.S. distributor.

Woody Allen's latest film was dropped by Amazon amid renewed scrutiny of his alleged sexual assault of his adopted daughter, an allegation he fervently denies.

It may never be shown stateside, even as it's starting to screen in Europe.

Dubbing the continued acceptance and praise of such figures "just horrible," Audrey Clinet, co-founder of EROIN, a company dedicated to supporting emerging female film directors, said a sort of "free pass" is still being given to creative types valued for their contributions to the arts.

In France, Clinet said, cultural figures "still publish books, they're still invited on TV shows."

"It's insane to see that -- everyone knows what kind of people they are," the 32-year-old Parisian, who is now based in Los Angeles, told AFP. "Why are they still working?"

For decades, many defenders of powerful men accused of sex crimes have cited the cliche that American culture still clings to conservative Puritan sensibilities.

That viewpoint surfaced again as the #MeToo movement took off in 2017, after film mogul Harvey Weinstein fell from grace.

French screen legend Catherine Deneuve was among 100 women to sign an open letter defending men's freedom to "hit on" women and railing against the new "puritanism."

Americans too have pointed to a certain "European" art of seduction in letting accusations slide: actress Anjelica Huston, who was at the party where Polanski's crime took place, says it was just the way things were.

"It's a story that could've happened 10 years before in England or France or Italy or Spain or Portugal, and no one would've heard anything about it. And that's how these guys enjoy their time," the 68-year-old star said in an interview with New York Magazine earlier this year.

"It was a whole playboy movement in France when I was a young girl," said the actress, who has starred in several of Allen's films. "It was de rigueur for most of those guys like Roman who had grown up with the European sensibility."

French historian Laure Murat of the University of California, Los Angeles, rejected that viewpoint in a 2018 interview with French publication Mediapart, saying "to shout about puritanism and censorship is a lazy shortcut."

Behind the systematic defense of the "great artist," Murat pointed to "a deliberate desire to not join the debate."

Two years on, Clinet worries that scandal fatigue is overwhelming the initial fire of #MeToo.

She's optimistic for the future, though, because youth on both sides of the Atlantic are growing up with "a new education" when it comes to issues of sexual harassment and gender equality.

Still, "women's rights is something we have to defend every day," she said. "It will never end."

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


8 Comments
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Metoo has turned Americans into 18th century prudes.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I don't quite understand why women who speak out against sexual harassment are accused of being prudish.

The fact that I don't like men to comment on my body, touch me, try to hug me, or get overly familiar before I even know them doesn't make me a prude.

It seems people equate "having personal boundaries" and "being a prude."

Then in the next breath we get shamed for wearing a skirt above the knee. eye roll Make up your gd minds, guys.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Burning BushToday 07:17 am JST

Metoo has turned Americans into 18th century prudes.

A guy I had one brief date with called me a prude to my friend behind my back because I didn't sleep with him on that brief first date.

Another guy on a dating site called me a prude because I told him "no" when he wanted a nude pic.

Yet another guy told me I was a prude because I refused to take him to a BDSM club. I was a member and he needed me to get in. When he thought I would take him, I was a hot babe. When I said "no" I suddenly became a prude. A prude who belongs to a BDSM club?

Hmmmm.....

It's almost as if any woman who claims her right to sexual autonomy is labeled a "prude."

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

The divergent reactions underscore a split between the U.S. and Europe over the #MeToo movement, highlighting their longstanding cultural debate on how a society should or should not celebrate the art of individuals despite lurid testimonies concerning their actions.

Old Europe has always been more sexually permissive than the anglo-world (not saying it was/is necessarily a good thing).

Very, very different approach re desire, seduction, passion, nudity, love, age of consent, what's ok or not etc.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The fact that I don't like men to comment on my body, touch me, try to hug me, or get overly familiar

So basically it's wrong for a guy to express any romantic interest at all.

Right... Got it.

No wonder a record number of women in the west are unmarried.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Burning BushToday 02:15 pm JST

It's pretty laughable that I say "I don't like men to comment on my body, touch me, try to hug me, or get overly familiar."

And you equate that with

So basically it's wrong for a guy to express any romantic interest at all.

If men don't know the difference between those two things, then yeah...

No wonder a record number of women in the west are unmarried.

It's no wonder at all.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I don't quite understand why women who speak out against sexual harassment are accused of being prudish.

I don't think they are tbh.

Pbm is 'some' women (mostly, some men too) act prudish & holier than thou yet chase blokes like Domingo, hit pick-up joints every w-e, are on tinder/other hookup platforms etc (nothing wrong with that obviously). The hypocrisy/faux feminism & outrage is what gets me.

Reckon most men & women would agree with you though when you say that "men shouldn't comment on your body, touch you etc" in a 'normal' setting, at work, on the train, in a bar etc.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's almost as if any woman who claims her right to sexual autonomy is labeled a "prude."

@girl_in_tokyo In all your postings here you have not said a single sex or relationship positive thing. If everything you say is sex or relationship negative, full of words like "don't", "doesn't", "refused", and "no" well what basis is there to think of anything other than prudishness? Your bare insistence you are not a prude is not going to cut that ice.

Make up your gd minds, guys.

And pinning that on guys and painting us all with the same brush certainly does not help. It has long seemed to me its women doing the most shaming, including women shaming themselves with zero prompting from anyone.

The day women ban together to own their sexuality with bold declarations of sexual positivity is the day words like "prude" and "slut" become rare terms and largely ineffective. But as women generally insist on hiding their sexuality and sexual enjoyment and arousal as if its something dirty and unspeakable that does not some very likely to ever happen. Its like running from the sight of dogs and hoping they don't chase you; its just not going to work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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