Sean Penn criticised for divisive comments over #MeToo

The following article contains a discussion of sexual misconduct that some readers may find distressing.

Sean Penn is under fire for attacking the #MeToo movement, and suggesting that its goal is to "divide men and women".

The two-time Academy Award-winning actor made those controversial comments during an interview that aired on Monday (September 17) on NBC's Today in the US, which was ostensibly to promote his Hulu and Channel 4 series The First.

Penn took issue with co-star Natascha McElhone, when she said that she drew inspiration from the women of the #MeToo movement when playing a female executive responsible for a manned mission to Mars.

"I'd like to think that none of it was influenced by what they call the movement of #MeToo," Penn disagreed. "I think it's influenced by the things that are developing in terms of the empowerment of women who've been acknowledging each other and being acknowledged by men.

"This is a movement that was largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious."

Penn also called the motivations of those behind the #MeToo campaign into question, insinuating that the goal may ultimately be to divide the sexes.

"The spirit of much of what has been the #MeToo movement is to divide men and women," he alleged. "I think it's too black and white. Most things that are very important, it's really good to just slow down."

Those comments drew a swift and sharp response on social media, with many not feeling it was Penn's place to weigh in on the merits of the movement to begin with.

"'I wonder what Sean Penn thinks about #MeToo', said no-one ever," wrote Marie Claire's deputy editor Jenny Hollande.

Below are more critical reactions to Penn's comments (warning: NSFW tweets below)

The #MeToo movement grew out of people sharing their stories of surviving sexual abuse on social media, in the immediate aftermath of sexual misconduct claims against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein last summer. Weinstein has denied committing sexual assault.


Rape Crisis England and Wales works towards the elimination of sexual violence. If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland's helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.

Readers in the US are encouraged to contact RAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.