Mayim Bialik addresses backlash over New York Times Harvey Weinstein op-ed
Her essay last week sparked criticism on social media
Mayim Bialik has expressed “regret” for the reaction to her controversial New York Times op-ed from last week about Harvey Weinstein, and said she is “deeply, deeply hurt” that some interpreted the essay as blaming victims.
Bialik’s essay, published Friday, featured a discussion of her specific experiences in Hollywood in the wake of the dozens of allegations of sexual assault made against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. (Weinstein has denied any allegation of non-consensual sex.) The Big Bang Theory actress also described the hidden “luxury” of being an “average-looking” person in Hollywood, in terms of not receiving as much attention from men.
Bialik drew widespread criticism on social media after the piece went up. Many read it as blaming women for men’s abusive behavior — at one point, Bialik wrote that she doesn’t act “flirtatiously with men as a policy” — and indicating that sexual predators will more often leave women who do not dress in revealing clothing alone. Bialik attempted to clarify her essay in a statement on Sunday, noting she’s a supporter of women while also arguing people were being “vicious” as they “twisted” her words.
On Monday, however, Bialik struck a more regretful tone in a Facebook Live interview for the New York Times op-ed section. “There is no way to avoid being the victim of assault by what you wear or the way you behave,” she said in the video’s opening minutes. “I really do regret that this became what it became, because literally, I was trying to speak about a very specific experience I’ve had in a very specific industry. I was not looking to speak about assault and rape in general. The only people who are responsible for their behavior and assault are the predators who are committing those horrendous acts.”
Bialik then discussed her own personal brand of feminism, which includes “[loving] being a domestic person.” She described herself as a “bleeding heart liberal” who is also a “social conservative,” which she acknowledged many find difficult to square. “For me, I feel protected in my industry more when I keep parts of me private than if I did not do that,” she said. “That may not be true for all women — I’m not saying that makes me immune to abuse or assault.”
Bialik did argue in her New York Times essay that her appearance had helped her avoid powerful men. “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,” 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.” She also concluded by connecting her experiences to the larger conversation surrounding harassment and assault: “Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.”
Near the end of her Facebook Live interview, Bialik apologized for perhaps trying to start a conversation in too limiting a space. “I do really want to assert that I’m excited and I’m motivated to be part of a larger conversation,” she said. “If this was not the way to do it in these 900 words, I do apologize for that.”