One day after the Golden Globes — where Hollywood stars supported the Time’s Up crusade against sexual harassment and inequality in a red carpet blackout — French actress and fashion muse Catherine Deneuve, along with more than other 100 French women, signed their names to an open letter published in Le Monde that criticized the #MeToo movement and its French counterpart #Balancetonporc (“Expose Your Pig”).
“Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression,” read the letter. “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. It was necessary. But now this liberation of speech has been turned on its head.”
The letter went on to defend men whose only wrongdoings were “touching a knee, trying to steal a kiss, or speaking about ‘intimate’ things at a work dinner.”
It sparked immediate outrage, heated debate and a divide between women. Now, a week later, Deneuve has backtracked on her controversial stance by clarifying her position and issuing an apology to sexual assault victims in a letter to Libération.
“I’m a free woman and I will remain one. I fraternally salute all women victims of odious acts who may have felt aggrieved by the letter in Le Monde. It is to them, and them alone, that I apologize,” she wrote. In her defense, she stated that the original letter in no way condoned harassment, “otherwise I wouldn’t have signed it.”
And to the other signatories, namely porn star-turned-radio host Brigitte Lahaie, who stated it’s possible for women to enjoy rape, Deneuve lambasted such comments, writing that it’s “spitting in the face of all those who have suffered this crime.”
“Yes, I signed this petition,” she continued. “And yet it seems to me absolutely necessary today to emphasize my disagreement with the way some petitioners individually claim the right to spread themselves across the media, distorting the very spirit of this text.”
Over the weekend, the wave of sexual abuse allegations reached the fashion industry, with a report from The New York Times about photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, who have been accused of misconduct by more than two-dozen male models and assistants.
Both the Conde Nast organization and the Stuart Weitzman brand have responded by ceasing their work with Testino.