Only the Pretty Girls Get Assaulted: Mayim Bialik, You Are Not a Feminist
In a week where more and more actresses stepped forward to pledge their own allegations of sexual assault and harassment against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, one response stood out for me amongst all the others.
You’ll probably know Mayim Bialik as Sheldon Cooper’s geeky girlfriend Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory. Last week, she published an article in the New York Times entitled ‘Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World’. Like many others, I clicked on the headline, and my first reaction was: how dare she?
What masquerades as a condemnation of Weinstein’s crimes soon reveals itself as the thinly-veiled attack on his victims that it actually purports. Immediately after acknowledging that she works in an industry that profits on the exploitation of women, Bialik goes on to deliver a self-directed pat on the back as she congratulates herself from escaping such exploitation in the workplace due to her policy of dressing ‘modestly’ and not behaving ‘flirtatiously with men’.
The article reads as Bialik attempting to make herself feel better about being a ‘non-traditional’ looking woman. This self-deprecation would be fine, if she weren’t bringing other women down with her. By claiming that abuse such as that committed by Harvey Weinstein doesn’t happen to her because she doesn’t diet, get plastic surgery or use a personal trainer trivialises a serious issue and short-sightedly places the blame straight at the victims’ doors. In Bialik’s eyes it seems, it’s only brash, bold, sexy women throwing themselves into the paths of these Hollywood villains, and more fool them.
This argument is so fundamentally flawed it is laughable. A twitter hashtag kick-started by Alyssa Milano, which urges anyone who has ever been sexually harassed or assaulted to simply write ‘me too’ as a status has been used more than 200,000 times in the past week. If anything exposes the magnitude of the problem that we’re dealing with, it is this. Mayim Bialik, this is not just a Hollywood problem. This is not just something suffered by ‘the pretty girls’, as you call them. This is a ubiquitous problem of a colossal scale. Sexual assault and harassment Affects. All. Women.
Harvey Weinstein didn’t abuse women because they were beautiful. He didn’t harass and rape movie stars because they went to the gym a lot, or because they were on no-carb diets. Harvey Weinstein assaulted women because he could, because he wanted the power and the control, and because he knew damned well that no one was going to stop him.
Bialik’s constructive advice then, targeted at young girls, to dress modestly, to remember that it’s what’s inside that counts, serves as nothing more than a sickening punch in the gut to everyone out there that would ever have cause to say ‘me too’. She says we ‘can’t be naïve about the culture we live in’, but I’d argue it’s she who is being naïve. Covering up our curves and staying out of the spotlight is never going to be the answer. Wearing a nun’s habit wouldn’t stop me looking over my shoulder when I walk home at night-time because what I wear and how attractive I am has precisely nothing to do with whether or not I get assaulted.
If restricting how you dress and censoring the way you behave makes you feel better, makes you feel more protected against this kind of attack, then good for you. Go for it. Just please, please don’t patronize thousands of other women by claiming that this is how they too, should be behave. It is never the responsibility of the victim to defend themselves against abuse, so please don’t suggest that it is and then call yourself a feminist.
(Image courtesy of Fox)