“Blossom” child star and “Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik was forced to apologize on Twitter Thursday after daring to suggest that women may play a role in helping create a sexually dangerous culture.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times last week responding to the Harvey Weinstein scandal involving the sexual abuse of young actresses, Bialik had the absolute audacity to point out that many women in Hollywood are willing participants in their own sexual objectification, a voluntary choice that, while no justification for sexual abuse, contributes to a hyper-sexualized culture in which abuse and harassment are not only rampant, but excused.
Beyond going from child star to a sitcom leading lady and one of Hollywood’s most beloved personalities, Bialik is perhaps best known for her overt modesty. Never one to flash much skin, Bialik stands apart from many of her Tinseltown counterparts less for what she does, and more for what she doesn’t do – or show. This refusal to kowtow to the hyper-sexualized Hollywood culture, she says, is both “self-protecting and wise.” She wrote in the Times:
I always made conservative choices as a young actress, largely informed by my first-generation American parents who were highly skeptical of this industry in general — “This business will use you up and throw you away like a snotty tissue!”— and of its men in particular: “They only want one thing.” My mom didn’t let me wear makeup or get manicures. She 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.
…I still make choices every day as a 41-year-old actress that I think of as 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.
I am entirely aware that these types of choices might feel oppressive to many young feminists. 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 behavior?
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.
Nowhere in her entire lengthy piece detailing her own experiences in Hollywood does Bialik suggest that women who choose less conservative attire or behavior are asking to be sexually assaulted. In no way does she insinuate that harassment is acceptable or justified simply because a woman is wearing a low-cut top or a dress with a slit up to her ribcage. She never victim-shames survivors. She never blames women for the depraved actions of their abusers.
But what she does suggest – and correctly so – is that some women have allowed themselves to become complicit in their own objectification, voluntarily displaying themselves as sexual objects to be ogled only to turn around and feign shock the ogler. Far from victim-shaming, Bialik’s argument is actually quite empowering, suggesting that women can make personal choices to help dismantle the sexually pervasive culture that breeds and enables the Harvey Weinsteins of the world. That women have at least some control over how they are perceived, and what permissions they appear to be offering. Don't want to be groped by some balding middle-aged record producer in the backseat of his limo? Here's a thought: don't be alone with him in the backseat of his limo.
Out of the myriad voices now “speaking up” about sexual violence in Hollywood, it seems Bialik is one of the few offering at least some modicum of a solution.
But of course, in society in which the same crowd that screams "Women are not objects!" one day are launching campaigns to "#FreeTheNipple!" the next, the mere suggestion that women can themselves be contributors to the very sexually depraved and dangerous cesspool that threatens them cannot be allowed to stand.
Following an outcry from feminists who scoff at the slightest notion of personal accountability and consequences, Bialik issued an apology on Twitter Thursday recanting her very logical, if not societally unacceptable, argument.
(Then again, this is the same treatment Vice President Mike Pence received when he very reasonably explained why he doesn’t have dinner alone with women who aren’t his wife, a life choice that was met with mockery and outrage from many of the very celebrities now admitting that maybe going up to a hotel room alone with a sleazy movie producer wearing a bathrobe at 2 a.m. may not've been the brightest move, after all.)
Mayim Bialik shouldn’t be shamed into apologizing simply for stating a truth based on her own experiences that some don’t want to hear. Sexual abuse is never justified.
But frankly, neither is walking around in a dress made out of a spool of dental floss, only to be shocked when some pervert makes a grab for something other than your stellar conversation skills.