The internet wasn’t too happy with her remarks
Revelations of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s history of rampant sexual assault have hit the world like a bombshell. Almost daily women are coming forward and sharing their experiences of harassment and rape at the hands of Weinstein – and other big players in the industry.
Although many articles have been written, interviews filmed, and criticism flown, one opinion piece has struck a chord with readers for the wrong reasons. Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik penned an op-ed in the New York Times which has been widely criticised for allegedly purporting that women are sexually assaulted because of the clothes they wear and what they look like.
Bialik addressed the backlash on Twitter on Sunday, writing in a post: ‘A bunch of people have taken my words out of the context of the Hollywood machine and twisted them to imply that God forbid I would blame a woman for her assault based on her clothing or behavior.
‘Anyone who knows me and my feminism knows that’s absurd and not at all what this piece was about. It’s so sad how vicious people are being when I basically live to make things better for women.’
— Mayim Bialik (@missmayim) October 15, 2017
Bialik started the op-ed by reflecting on entering ‘the Hollywood machine in 1986 as a prominent-nosed, awkward, geeky, Jewish 11-year-old’ while being aware ‘I didn’t look or act like other girls in my industry, and that I was immersing myself in a business that rewarded physical beauty and sex appeal above all else.’
Innocent enough. But then she continued by writing that she made conservative choices as a young actress. Her parents warned her that men ‘only want one thing.’ She wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or have manicures and was ‘encouraged me to be myself in audition rooms, and I followed my mother’s strong example to not put up with anyone calling me “baby” or demanding hugs on set. I was always aware that I was out of step with the expected norm for girls and women in Hollywood.
‘In a perfect world, women should be free to act however they want. But our world isn’t perfect. Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.’
Bialik wrote that she still makes choices that she considers ‘self-protecting and wise’ and that ‘my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with. I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.’
The essay immediately drew condemnation from all corners of the internet for putting the onus on women to protect themselves. Prominent writers and figures weighed in too:
Though I was raped by a stranger who raped me at gunpoint after robbing the store, I was still asked by a female “friend” what I had worn
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) October 15, 2017
.@missmayim I have to say I was dressed non provocatively at 12 walking home from school when men masturbated at me. It’s not the clothes.
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) October 14, 2017
Sad it still needs to be said: people who look, dress all kinds of ways are also sexually assaulted or harassed. https://t.co/KR074UPKS6
— Irin Carmon (@irin) October 14, 2017
Lots wrong with Mayim Bialik’s op-ed but one quick thing: Being an awkward girl with a big nose never protected me from harassment. https://t.co/C0oA7zxAab
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) October 14, 2017
Someone tell mayim bialik you don’t have to be hot to get sexually assaulted
— Kath Barbadoro 🍁🍂 (@kathbarbadoro) October 14, 2017