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Sean Penn Criticizes #MeToo Movement for Dividing Men and Women, Being ‘Too Black and White’

The actor and director says the #MeToo movement has been "shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious."

Sean PennSean Penn 'Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff' book launch and conversation, Central Presbyterian Church, Austin, USA - 03 Apr 2018

Sean Penn

Suzanne Cordeiro/REX/Shutterstock

Sean Penn made his thoughts on the #MeToo anti-harassment movement clear during an interview with “Today” reporter Natalie Morales on the September 17 edition of the NBC morning show. The actor was promoting his new Hulu original drama series “The First” but raised eyebrows when he said #MeToo has been “largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious.”

“We don’t know what’s a fact in many of the cases,” Penn said when asked to elaborate. “Salacious is as soon as you call something a movement that is really a series of many individual accusers, victims, accusations, some of which are unfounded…The spirit of much of what has been the #MeToo movement is to divide men and women.”

Morales told Penn that many women would disagree with him and say the movement has united them, to which Penn explained, “I’m gonna say that women that I talk to, not in front of a camera, that I listen to, of all walks of life, that there’s a common sense that is not represented at all in the discussion when it comes to the media discussion of it, the discussion where if Sean Penn says this, so and so’s going to attack him for saying this, because of that.”

“I don’t want it to be a trend, and I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed onto in great stridency and rage and without nuance,” he continued. “And even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked. I think it’s too black and white. In most things that are very important, it’s really good to just slow down.”

Penn made headlines earlier this year when his debut novel, “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff,” included similarly controversial thoughts on the #MeToo movement, which is referred to in a poem as “an infantilising term of the day.” “Is this a toddler’s crusade?” the book asks. “Reducing rape, slut-shaming and suffrage to reckless child’s play?”

You can watch Penn’s “Today” interview in its entirety on the show’s official website. “The First” is now streaming on Hulu.

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