The list of celebrities weighing in on allegations of sexual harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein is growing longer by the day. But one op-ed, written by The Big Bang Theory and Blossom actress Mayim Bialik, is being criticized as victim-blaming and placing responsibility on women for not getting sexually assaulted.
Bialik addressed the backlash early Sunday morning via a message posted on Twitter, writing “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 added that she’d discuss the story on Monday during a Facebook Live with the New York Times.
In an essay for the Times published Friday, Bialik wrote about her entering “the Hollywood machine in 1986 as a prominent-nosed, awkward, geeky, Jewish 11-year-old” while also knowing “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.”
But as she went on to describe the pressures young girls like her faced to alter their appearance, and getting teased both by family and in the press, she added that she “always made conservative choices as a young actress.” Her parents warned her men “only want one thing.” Her mother forbade makeup and manicures and “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,” Bialik wrote. “Nothing – absolutely nothing – excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.”
She wrote that she still makes choices she considers “self-protecting and wise” and “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.”
Bialik concluded the essay by writing “if you’re not a perfect 10, know that there are people out there who will find you stunning, irresistible and worthy of attention, respect and love. The best part is you don’t have to go to a hotel room or a casting couch to find them.”
The essay immediately drew ire online, including among prominent writers and actresses who took issue with Bialik’s framing.
“Reminder. I got raped at work at a Payless shoe store,” Gabrielle Union wrote on Twitter. “I had on a long tunic & leggings so miss me w/ ‘dress modestly’ s—.”
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
Patrica Arquette (whose sister, Rosanna, has publicly accused Weinstein of sexual harassment), wrote directly to Bialik on Twitter, “it is also not outrageous for anyone to (be) expected to be treated in a professional manner (sic) by anyone in a professional relationship.”
She continued in a series of tweets: “Is choosing to portray complicated characters an invitation for predators? Does that mean (you’re) fair game? Should we all just chose to tackle material that doesn’t explore that side of different women? Because Hollywood (and the world) has predators, is it a woman’s responsibility?”
.@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
Others weighed in:
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
The Weinstein fallout started last week when the Times published an explosive story about Weinstein’s numerous settlements with women, and including Ashley Judd going on the record to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment.
Since then, the New Yorker published its own bombshell story, with even more serious on-the-record accusations by women, including some who said Weinstein raped them.
Weinstein’s representative, Sallie Hofmeister, said regarding on-the-record allegations, Weinstein “believes that all of those relationships were consensual” and that “any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”