Veteran French actress Catherine Deneuve was among 100 women who signed an open letter last week, slamming what they termed “expeditious justice” spurred by the #MeToo movement and defending a man’s “freedom to importune.” The letter published in Le Monde has been the source of much debate in the past several days. Denueve herself is now responding.
In her own open letter published by Libération Sunday night local time, the actress stands by signing the manifesto while also explaining her position and apologizing to “all victims of odious acts who may have felt offended” by the letter whose text she says does not claim that harassment is a good thing.
Saying she felt a need to clarify her position, Deneuve writes, “Yes, I like freedom. I don’t like this characteristic of our times whereby everyone feels they have the right to judge, to arbitrate, to condemn. 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. And few are… No, I don’t like this pack mentality.”
Saying she found the manifesto “vigorous” if not “perfectly right,” she declares, “Yes, I signed this petition, and yet it seems to me absolutely necessary today to underline my disagreement with the manner in which some of the signatories claim the right to permeate the media, distorting the spirit of the original text.” She goes on to cite, without naming her, a woman who appeared on television saying it is possible to have an orgasm during a rape. Such a declaration “is worse than spitting in the face of all those who have suffered this crime,” Deneuve writes.
She adds, “Obviously nothing in the text claims that harassment is good, otherwise I would not have signed it.”
The Oscar-nominated star of Indochine points out she has been an actress since age 17 and could say she has “witnessed situations that were more than indelicate, or that I know through other actors that filmmakers have abused their power in a cowardly manner.” But, “it is not for me to speak in the place of my sisters.”
An essential reason Deneuve says she signed the text is “the danger of 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.”
Deneuve concludes, “I have sometimes been reproached for not being a feminist,” and reminds that she was one of 343 women who signed the 1971 manifesto defending abortion rights that was written by Simone de Beauvoir. “Abortion was punishable by criminal prosecution and imprisonment at the time. That is why I want to say to conservatives, racists and traditionalists of all kinds who have found it strategic to support me, I am not fooled. They will have neither my gratitude nor my friendship, quite the contrary. I am a free woman and I will continue to be. I warmly salute all the victims of odious acts who may have felt offended by the letter published in Le Monde, it’s to them and them alone that I apologize.”