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, received plenty of criticism — including among prominent actresses — as victim-blaming and saddling women with the responsibility for not getting sexually assaulted.
Days after her essay was published, Bialik issued an apology, writing on Twitter, “I am truly sorry for causing so much pain, and I hope you can all forgive me.”
“Let me say clearly and explicitly that I am very sorry,” she wrote. “What you wear and 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; you are never responsible for being assaulted.”
This follows Bialik’s initial defense of the piece over the weekend. “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,” she tweeted on Sunday. “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.”
In the essay for the New York 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 that “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 that 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 that 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 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 concluded the essay by writing that “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—.”
Patricia 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 other 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?”
Others weighed in:
The Weinstein fallout started when the Times published an explosive story Oct. 5 about Weinstein’s numerous settlements with women, including Ashley Judd going on the record to accuse him of sexual harassment.
Many celebrities remained mum in the days after, but then the company Weinstein co-founded fired him Oct. 8. 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 that Weinstein “believes that all of those relationships were consensual” and that “any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”
This post has been updated.