Last week, actress Catherine Deneuve was one of more than 100 French women to voice their qualms about the #MeToo movement and its French equivalent #BalanceTonPorc in an open letter published in Le Monde. “As a result of the Weinstein affair, there has been a legitimate realization of the sexual violence women experience, particularly in the workplace, where some men abuse their power,” the open letter said. “It was necessary. But now this liberation of speech has been turned on its head.” After experiencing the backlash to their backlash, Deneuve elaborated on the letter’s intent on Sunday night. “I am a free woman and I will remain so,” the actress said in an open letter published by Libération. “I welcome all the victims of odious acts that may have felt aggrieved by this letter published in Le Monde. It is to them and to them alone that I apologize.”
Deneuve’s follow-up missive seems, at least in part, designed to distance herself from certain signees of the initial letter, specifically former radio host Brigitte Lahaie who, after the Le Monde letter was published, said in a televised debate that some women experience sexual pleasure from being raped. Comments like those, the actress says without specifically calling out Lahaie by name, are like “spitting in the face of all those who have suffered this crime.”
But while Deneuve sends her regards to those victims who might have been hurt by the open letter, she nonetheless doubles down on her insistence that the movement has unfairly maligned some men accused of sexual harassment. “A time where simple denunciations on social media generate punishment, resignation and sometimes, and often, lynching by the media … I don’t excuse anything. I don’t decide the guilt of these men because I am not qualified to do so,” she says, as reported by Deadline. In response to those who felt the anti–#MeToo letter was, at best, beside the point and, at worst, potentially damaging to the feminist cause, Deneuve points to her own feminist credentials, having publicly admitted to having an abortion as a signee of Simone de Beauvoir’s 1971 Manifesto of the 343 in an effort to further the conversation about reproductive rights in France. Abortion was illegal in the country at the time.
In her essay, Deneuve expresses her concern that exiling accused sexual harassers and rapists from creative industries would lead to “the purging of the arts. Are we going to burn Sade from La Pléiade? Designate Leonardo da Vinci as a pedophile artist and erase his paintings? Take Gaugin off museum walls? Destroy the drawings of Egon Schiele? Ban Phil Spector’s records? This climate of censorship leaves me speechless and worried about the future of our societies.” As for the intent of the initial letter, Deneuve hopes it’s clear she and her fellow countrywomen signed it in an attempt to question the method of #MeToo, not its aim. “Obviously nothing in the text claims that harassment is good,” points out Deneuve. “Otherwise I would not have signed it.”