In an op-ed for the New York Times, Bialik writes about growing up in an industry that rewards looks and how, in so many words, her own appearance “protected” her from sexual harassment.
But in her argument, Bialik has completely missed an often ignored truth about sexual harassment. Sexual harassment and sexual assault is never the fault of the victim and these crimes have nothing to do with how a woman presents herself.
In the piece, the former Blossom star writes about how she entered the industry in 1986 as “a prominent-nosed, awkward, geeky, Jewish 11-year-old — basically a scrawnier version of the person I am today”.
Bialik says she immediately knew she was different to the other women in the industry.
“Back then we didn’t have the internet or social media or reality TV, but I didn’t need any of that to understand 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,” she writes.
As a preteen actress, Bialik says she very quickly learnt “that young girls with doe eyes and pouty lips” were the ones that got the best roles.
Bialik eventually left the industry for 12 years before returning to play the role of Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory.
The 41-year-old says she now gets to experience the “upside” of not being considered traditionally attractive.
“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.
“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.”
The actress then details the “choices” she makes to avoid sexual harassment on a daily basis.
“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.”
Bialik then acknowledges that her choices might seem oppressive to many “young feminists” but what she doesn’t acknowledge is the amount of entrenched and implied victim blaming in her story.
In her writing, she implies that sexual harassment is more likely to be perpetrated against women who are traditionally attractive and those who put time, money and effort into their appearance. This implies the women are partly to blame for the crime, which is blatantly untrue and unfair.
.@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
Lots wrong with Mayim Bialik’s op-ed but one quick thing: Being an awkward girl with a big nose never protected me from harassment. https://t.co/C0oA7zxAab
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) October 14, 2017
As she writes about Weinstein “meeting ingénues in luxury hotel rooms” she’s reinforcing the idea that these women were “asking for it” – that perhaps they weren’t smart enough, strong enough – and should therefore be considered less sympathetic victims.
Bialik finishes her op-ed with a bewildering message for women.
“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,” she writes.
“The best part is you don’t have to go to a hotel room or a casting couch to find them.”
While Bialik’s motivation for writing this piece is unclear, her reinforcement of harmful stereotypes around sexual harassment and victims of sexual harassment and assault, and to play “perfect 10’s” and “awkward” women against each other, has definitely done more harm than good.
There’s only one person to blame for the years of sexual harassment perpetrated against young, fearful women – and that person is Harvey Weinstein. But there’s also something to be said for the culture that protected him for decades, and continues to – even in the most subtle ways.
LISTEN: Everything Harvey Weinstein explained.
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