Following days of harsh backlash, Catherine Deneuve has published a public explanation of why she signed her name to this week's letter from 100 French women denouncing the Me Too movement. The actress apologizes to victims of "odious acts," such as sexual assault and harassment but still defends her decision to sign the letter.
"I don’t like this aspect of our times where each feels the right to judge, arbitrate, condemn — a society where simple denunciations on social networks lead to punishment, job losses and often lynching in the media," Deneuve began her letter to the French paper Liberation, published Sunday night, echoing the initial sentiment of the controversial Le Monde letter. She then seems to criticize the quick removal of Kevin Spacey from All the Money in the World and to New York Ballet leader Peter Martins' resignation following allegations he abused and harassed dancers because neither men had a trial before losing their jobs.
But then Deneuve pivots to criticism of fellow signers of the letter, in particular, actress Brigitte Lahaie who said in a TV interview that women can have an orgasm while being raped. Statements like that, she said, are like "spitting in the face" of victims.
Deneuve said there is nothing in the original letter that says harassment is good, otherwise, she would not have signed it. Since she became an actress at 17, she said she's witnessed filmmakers abuse their power over women.
"What creates situations that are traumatizing and unbearable is always the power, the subordination or some sort of overpowering," she wrote. "The trap occurs when it becomes impossible to say no without risking one’s job, or being subjected to humiliations and degrading sarcasm."
That statement does contradict the original letter, which seemed to defend men's right to harass women, stating, "Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not – nor is men being gentlemanly a macho attack."
Nowhere in this new explanation does the actress address why she has in the past defended director Roman Polanski, a convicted statutory rapist. But she does bring up her feminist credentials by reminding readers that in 1971, she signed another controversial public letter from "343 sluts" admitting to having had abortions. That's why the only women to whom Deneuve feels the need to apologize, she concludes are any victims of sexual violence who were offended by the letter.
"I am a free woman and I will remain so,"she said.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).