Europe’s Americanisation is ongoing. That may well sound paradoxical. So many transatlantic gaps have appeared in the age of Trump. This American president repels many Europeans, and in unprecedented ways. Many on the old continent seek solace in the contrast: perhaps Europe’s hour could be on the horizon? But it’s striking how European debates on issues such as racism and feminism are now so strongly influenced by movements across the Atlantic. In the realm of ideas and campaigning, Europe and the US are drawing closer, not sliding further apart.
This week offered a fantastic moment of transatlantic sharing. Almost simultaneously two events unfolded. At the Golden Globes ceremony in California, the #MeToo movement took centre stage, while many Europeans watched in fascination. Meanwhile in France, Catherine Deneuve and 100 other French women published an article in which they distanced themselves from what they see as the excesses of that same movement. The piece received a lot of attention, much of it critical. Of course, Deneuve’s fame was one reason. She and others pointed to the difficulty of drawing a clear line between “galanterie”, or insistent flirting by men, and abuse. They warned against “puritanism”.
What has been somewhat drowned out in the outcry is that the letter got a lot of pushback in France itself. Similarly, it can hardly be said there is absolute unanimity in the US about the #MeToo movement, even among the liberal-minded. The New York Times ran a piece last week by the American novelist Daphne Merkin, headlined: “Publicly we say MeToo. Privately, we have misgivings”, which made similar arguments to Deneuve’s.
Of course, American cultural influence in Europe goes way back, and grew in the post-1945 period. But by 2005, the historian Tony Judt had spotted important differences between Europe and America that, he believed, pointed to a growing rift. “The presumptively ‘un-American’ values of Europe,” he wrote in his book Postwar, became “the highest common factor in European self-identification”. European puzzlement at America’s fondness for guns, horror at the death penalty and opposition to the Iraq war, as well as support for the European “social model”, whereby the state has a responsibility to shield citizens, are all symptomatic of the perceived gulf in values. Read More …