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French actress apologizes if sexual assault victims were offended by open letter defending men

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French actress Catherine Deneuve said she apologizes if she offended sexual assault victims by signing a letter that said men should be "free to hit on women." (Antony Jones/Getty Images)

French actress Catherine Deneuve apologized over the weekend if sexual assault victims were offended by her signing an open letter last week that sparked outrage from feminists.

"I fraternally salute all the victims of these hideous acts who might have felt assaulted by the letter published in Le Monde. It is to them and them alone that I offer my apologies," Deneuve said in a letter published Sunday on French Daily Liberation, BBC News reported.

Last week, Deneuve was one of more than 100 prominent French women who signed a letter published in the Le Monde newspaper that said men should be "free to hit on women."

There was "nothing in the letter" to Le Monde that said "anything good about harassment. Otherwise, I wouldn't have signed it," Deneuve added.

What about the backlash from feminists?

Some activists said the letter downplayed sexual violence against women.

"There are in this open letter some things that are deeply offensive and false," Marlene Schiappa, France's junior minister for women's rights, told France Culture Radio.

Asia Argento, an Italian filmmaker and actress who is among those who have accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, took to Twitter denounce Deneuve and the other signatories.

"Catherine Deneuve and other French women tell the world how their interiorized misogyny has lobotomized them to the point of no return" Argento tweeted.

What did the letter say?

"Men have been punished summarily, forced out of their jobs when all they did was touch someone's knee or try to steal a kiss," the authors wrote.

"Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or clumsily, is not — and nor is men being gentlemanly a chauvinist attack."

The letter went on to say the signatories did not recognize themselves as part of the feminist social media movement that started as a "legitimate protest against the sexual violence that women are subject to, particularly in their professional lives” has become a “witch-hunt” and led to a “puritanical wave of purification.”

The women say they are defending sexual freedom and that “the liberty to seduce and importune is essential,” according to the Independent.

“[Women are] sufficiently aware that the sexual urge is by its nature wild and aggressive. But we are also clear-eyed enough not to confuse an awkward attempt to pick someone up with a sexual attack.”

What else did Deneuve say?

Last year, the 74-year-old actress spoke out about the social media campaigns, such as #MeToo and the French equivalent #Balancetonporc ("call out your pig") that followed a flood of sexual misconduct accusations after allegations against Weinstein were exposed.

“After ‘calling [out] your pig’ what are we going to have, ‘call [out] your whore?'” she asked, and noted that this type of “feminism” takes on a “hatred of men and sexuality.”

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