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Mayim Bialik, one of the stars of the popular sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” attracted sharp criticism on Saturday over an op-ed she wrote for The New York Times about the multiple allegations of sexual assault and harassment made against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Bialik wrote that although she was “shocked and disgusted” by the accusations against Weinstein, she was not surprised by them.
“I quickly learned even as a preteen actress that young girls with doe eyes and pouty lips who spoke in a high register were favored for roles by the powerful men who made those decisions,” Bialik wrote.
The actress went on to note the choices she makes today that she deems 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,” she wrote. “I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.”
The op-ed drew immediate backlash from critics who said Bialik was insinuating that modesty and a conservative wardrobe can guard one against sexual assault.
Mayim Bialik missed the perfect opportunity to call out men in Hollywood. Instead she blames women. https://t.co/kBJPGXhwI1
— Ines Helene (@inihelene) October 14, 2017
"I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with. I dress modestly." This is disgusting. @missmayim is placing blame on victims and forgetting that rape and assault are about power, not about desire. https://t.co/gVFoct2QyQ
— wikipedia brown (@eveewing) 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
I don't even know where to start with how misguided and at times, mean-spirited this article is https://t.co/FuK43khNwd
— Alana Massey-cre (@AlanaMassey) October 14, 2017
Really want to again congratulate @missmayim on being too SMART to be PRETTY ENOUGH to get raped. What a great take to give to the world.
— Amanda Duarte (@duarteamanda) October 14, 2017
— Lucy (@LSClip) October 14, 2017
Several observers pointed out that Bialik had glossed over the fact that the central motive behind sexual assault and harassment is power, not sexual desire.
“As a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer, I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meeting in their hotel rooms,” she wrote. “Those of us in Hollywood who don’t represent an impossible standard of beauty have the ‘luxury’ of being overlooked and, in many cases, ignored by men in power unless we can make them money.”
Bialik’s comments drew sustained criticism from those who said she was demonizing women based on their attractiveness and implying that they invited sexual harassment because of their looks. Several observers pointed out that a woman’s appearance often has little to do with whether or not she experiences harassment.
Do you know how many times a week dudes show up here to tell me how I'm to fat or ugly to be raped? Do you know how many times I have been?
— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) October 14, 2017
Mayim Bialik is suggesting that Weinstein's targets–many of whom were children at the time of his offenses–could have avoided being harmed if they were good girls like her who didn't get manicures. Which is both offensive and flat-out wrong.
— wikipedia brown (@eveewing) October 14, 2017
“I have to say I was dressed non provocatively at 12 walking home from school when men masturbated at me,” tweeted actress Patricia Arquette. “It’s not the clothes.”
.@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
Um. Is she earnestly complaining about not being desirable enough in a Hollywood profiting off female exploitation?https://t.co/fIwRIerpch
— Zoé (@ztsamudzi) October 13, 2017
— Amanda Duarte (@duarteamanda) October 13, 2017
Bialik’s op-ed came on the heels of designer Donna Karan’s comments last weekend about whether women today are “asking for it” based on how they dress and their behavior.
“How do we present ourselves as women?” Karan reportedly said at an awards ceremony Sunday evening in response to a question about the accusations against Weinstein. “What are we asking? Are we asking for it? By presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? What are we throwing out to our children today? About how to dance, how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?”
The New York Times broke the first bombshell report detailing several allegations against Weinstein, and The New Yorker followed up with a separate report which included additional accounts of sexual harassment and assault, as well as some allegations of rape. Dozens of women, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, have now stepped forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct to varying degrees.
Most of the alleged encounters detail “business meetings” that occurred in Weinstein’s hotel suites that turned into scenes of sexual harassment or assault. These accusations stretch back as far as the 1980s and include a variety of film industry figures, including actresses, assistants, and other employees.
After the stories broke, Weinstein was fired from the Weinstein Company, which he co-founded. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts also suspended Weinstein’s membership, releasing a statement on Wednesday that called his alleged behavior “completely unacceptable and incompatible with BAFTA’s values.”
On Saturday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also voted to oust Weinstein.
Michelle Mark contributed reporting.