As a former child actor, Mayim Bialik’s Hollywood career stretches back to the 1980s, and the “Big Bang Theory” star drew on her decades of experience in the industry to reflect on the Harvey Weinstein scandal for an op-ed in the New York Times.
In her op-ed, Bialik writes that she is “shocked and disgusted by the scope of his alleged predation,” but admits that “the fact that he may have abused his position of power does not surprise me in the least.”
She adds that she quickly recognized, “even as a preteen actress that young girls with doe eyes and pouty lips who spoke in a high register were favoured for roles by the powerful men who made those decisions,” revealing she considered getting a nose job and other cosmetic surgery because she “felt like a troll compared to many of my contemporaries.”
As a result, the former “Blossom” star writes that she’s learned to be “self-protecting and wise. I have decided 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.”
Bialik admits that “these types of choices might feel oppressive to many young feminists,” writing that “in a perfect world” women “should be able to wear whatever they want. They should be able to flirt however they want with whomever they want. Why are we the ones who have to police our behaviour?”
She adds: “But our world isn’t perfect. Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can’t be naive about the culture we live in.”
It was, however, Bialik’s admission of dressing modestly and refusing to be flirtatious that caught the attention of many readers, who took those comments as shifting the blame from Weinstein’s predatory actions to the provocative outfits and flirtatious behaviour of his victims.
This led to a tsunami of outrage on Twitter, where numerous people called Bialik out for what they saw as victim shaming.
Bialik addressed the backlash by insisting that her words were taken “out of the context” and that it was “absurd” to draw that particular conclusion from what she had written.
“I’m being told my N.Y. Times piece resonated with so many and I am beyond grateful for all of the feedback. I also see 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 behaviour,” Bialik wrote on Twitter and Facebook on Saturday.
“Anyone who knows me and my feminism knows that’s absurd and not at all what this piece was about,” she added. “It’s so sad how vicious people are being when I basically live to make things better for women. I am doing a Facebook live with the NY Times Monday morning. Let’s discuss it then.”
She further addressed the controversy surrounding her op-ed in a Facebook live video on Monday. “It’s been a very exciting and complicated handful of days,” Bialik said.
“It has become clear to me there are people who think that I either implied or inadvertently stated that you can be protected from assault from the clothing you were or the behaviour that you exhibit,” she explained. “That is absolutely not what my intention was and I think it is safe for me to start this conversation by saying there is no way to avoid being the victim of assault by what you wear or the way you behave.”
Bialik expressed regret over how her words were received. “I really do regret that this became what it became because I was trying to speak about a very specific experience that I had in a very specific industry,” she continued. “I was not looking to speak about assault and rape in general.”
“The only people who are responsible for their behaviour in assault are the people, the predators who are commuting those horrendous acts,” she insisted. “And the only people I think can turn this around are going to be the kind of women who have been coming forward and sharing their experiences, as well as men who want to join this conversation.”
Bialik concluded, “I’m a human being and there is a lot that I have chosen not to air, but I am deeply, deeply hurt if any woman in particular has been assaulted or man thinks that in any way that I was victimizing or blaming.”
When the furor had still not died down by Wednesday, Bialik returned to Twitter — this time to offer an apology.
“Let me say clearly and explicitly that I am very sorry,” wrote Bialik. “What you wear ad how you behave does not provide any protection from assault, nor does the way you dress or act in any way make you responsible for being assaulted.”
She concluded: “I am truly sorry for causing so much pain, and I hope you can all forgive me.”