PARIS • French actress Catherine Deneuve has apologised to female victims of sexual assault who were shocked and hurt by the controversial letter she signed attacking the #MeToo campaign.
She said she stood by the statement that caused an international outcry when it was published last week, but distanced herself from a number of other female signatories.
Le Monde newspaper, which ran the original letter, described Deneuve's response to the row as "a form of mea culpa".
About 100 Frenchwomen, including high-profile writers, artists and academics, put their names to the attack on a wave of Anglo-American "puritanism" following the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal. They defended the right of men to "pester" in the name of "sexual freedom" and claimed men were being subject to a witch-hunt.
In her letter, published in Liberation newspaper on Sunday, Deneuve said she had signed the statement because she opposed the "media lynching" of men accused of inappropriate behaviour and found its message "vigorous" if not "entirely right".
"Yes, I signed that petition, however, it seems absolutely necessary today to underline my disagreement with the way certain signatories have individually assumed the right to expand upon it in the media, distorting the spirit of the text," she wrote.
She referred to former radio presenter Brigitte Lahaie, who, during a heated debate on television, said women were able to experience pleasure during a rape. Without mentioning Lahaie by name, Deneuve said this was "worse than spitting in the face of those who have suffered this crime".
"Not only do these words suggest to those who are used to using force or sexuality to destroy that it's not so serious... but when one signs a manifesto that engages other people, one avoids dragging them into one's own verbal incontinence. It's unworthy. And obviously nothing in the text claims that harassment is good, otherwise I wouldn't have signed it," she wrote.
Reminding those who questioned her feminist credentials that she was among 343 women, including feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir, to sign a 1971 declaration admitting they had an abortion when it was still illegal, Deneueve dismissed the "conservatives, racists and traditionalists of all kinds who have found it strategic to give me their support".
"I am not fooled," she wrote. "They will not have my gratitude or my friendship. Quite the opposite. I'm a free woman and I will remain one. I fraternally salute all women victims of odious acts who might have felt assaulted by the letter in Le Monde. It is to them, and them alone, that I apologise."