Deserving of an unnervingly hollow Big Bang Theory laugh track, is Mayim Bialik’s latest take on feminism in Harvey Weinstein’s world.
Earlier this week, the scientist/actress published an op-ed for the New York Times, not about her personal experiences with Harvey Weinstein, but rather how she avoided those types of situations in Hollywood by dressing modestly and not being a perfect 10.
As you can imagine, many young women in and out of Hollywood cringed while reading it.
.@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
I’ll spare you the reading; here are a few quotes from the piece.
“And yet I have also experienced the upside of not being a “perfect ten.” 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 meetings in their hotel rooms.”
“I still make choices every day as a 41-year-old actress that I think of as self-protecting and wise.” She continues, “I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with. I dress modestly.”
“And if — like me — 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.”
By focusing so much on her looks and insecurities, Bialik seems to miss the point that assault is never by fault of the victim’s clothes or physique. `
There are a few things I’d like to point out about this whole intentional fallacy:
Firstly, if a bunch of people are interpreting your words the same way, that’s on you Bialik. They’re not twisting your words, you just didn’t do a good job of communicating them.
(Readers, never let a writer scoff at you that you “just didn’t get” their writing. It’s elitist and frankly a projection of their inability to “get” the reader.)
Secondly, the notion that she is above “absurd” criticism because she’s a Gold Star Feminist™ is annoying. Some of the women people associate most with feminism have said off the mark things that collective modern feminism rejects.
Lena Dunham has shown this so many times.
There was recently, when she self-projected her insecurities onto Odell Beckham Jr. at this past MET ball. Sat across from him, she said to Amy Schumer on her podcast that she felt, “It was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, ‘That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.’ It wasn’t mean — he just seemed confused. The vibe was very much like, ‘Do I want to f**k it? Is it wearing a … yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone.”
She later apologized for sexualizing black men and projecting her industry insecurities onto someone that had never even met her prior.
There was also the time she said she wished she could have an abortion. Or the time she wrote in her memoir that her open sexuality led to her inappropriately touching her sister’s vagina often when they were kids.
Despite these headaches, many still see Lena Dunham as a feminist icon for her work on Girls, The Lenny Letter, and for her involvement in Hillary’s presidential campaign.
Gloria Steinem, who was the leading activist and spokeswoman for the American feminist movement in the late 60’s – early 70’s, in this past year said that young women supporting Bernie Sanders only did it to impress men.
I’ll admit, before this op-ed I would point to Mayim as a woman whose feminism I admired. She’s a neuroscientist, funny, a mother, and a successful woman on TV. I admired her pushes to get more young girls involved in science (which is still great!)
More than anything, this op-ed was another reminder for me to not blindly follow anyone. Since it’s publishing, people pointed out that she’s made these types of remarks before:
Though it wasn’t Bialik’s intention, her op-ed brought the exhausting “not pretty enough to be raped” narrative back into circulation.
Let’s not forget that last year on the campaign trail Donald Trump joked that he couldn’t have groped Jessica Leeds because, “Believe me, she would not be my first choice. That I can tell you. You don’t know. That would not be my first choice.”
Donna Karan came out defending Harvey Weinstein, citing the way the women dressed to blame.
The most important thing we can do right now, as feminists, since we are really into that wording at the moment, is to listen to the women bravely coming forward about sexual assault.
Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, Gwenyth Paltrow, Lynette Anthony, Blake Lively, Gabrielle Union and dozens more…deserve your attention.
If you want to support victims of sexual assault directly, here’s how:
Donate directly to the cause.
6 Organizations That Support Sexual Assault Survivors To Donate To In The Aftermath Of Donald Trump’s Election
How To Be A Male Ally To Survivors Of Sexual Assault & Harassment
Alternative possibility: what you wrote was actually hurtful to many sexual assault survivors, who @-ed you to say so. Maybe the feminist (and kind) thing to do would be to listen to them. https://t.co/o6mkSwxqEe
— wikipedia “you can go read a book” brown (@eveewing) October 15, 2017
Don’t let Mayim Bialik muddy up the narrative with internalized misogyny. Also, you may notice most of the people defending her on social media right now are men, so that’s peculiar.
If you’re taking anything from this Bialik’s narrative, let it be to avoid inserting yourself into a story hastily.
You may notice the “Me too.” social media campaign suffocating your Facebook timeline right now that identifies victims of sexual assault and harassment.
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
— Reductress (@Reductress) October 16, 2017
The only people who don’t get the magnitude of this problem are men. This a male-gaze oriented social media campaign for women to air out and potentially relive their trauma.
If you are a woman who feels power in doing this, by all means. If you are a woman who chooses to stay silent, your trauma isn’t any less valid.
For a more responsible take on Weinstein, you may want to check out Sarah Polley’s The Men You Meet Making Movies instead.