Mayim Bialik Apologizes After Being Accused of Victim-Blaming Sexual Assault Survivors: 'I Am Deeply, Deeply Hurt'

Posted on

Mayim Bialik has apologized after an op-ed she penned about the allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein sparked major backlash.

The Big Bang Theory star, 41, appeared in a Facebook Live with the New York Times‘ Opinion section on Monday, addressing the criticism she has faced since the newspaper published her story on Friday.

In the piece, she wrote that she deems the choices she makes to “dress modestly” and avoid acting “flirtatiously with men as a policy” to be “self-protecting and wise” — which prompted many to accuse her of victim-blaming sexual assault survivors.

“Obviously it’s been a very exciting and complicated handful of days,” she began. “I have stayed off social media, but it has become clear to me that there are people who think that I either implied or overtly stated that you can be protected from assault because of the clothing that you wear or the behavior that you exhibit.”

“That is absolutely not what my intention was, and I think that it is safe for me to start this conversation by saying there is no way to avoid being the victim of assault by what you wear or the way you behave,” she added. “I really do regret that this became what it became, because literally I was trying to speak about a very specific experience I had in a very specific industry — I was not looking to speak about assault and rape in general.”

Bialik insisted that “the only people who are responsible for their behavior in assault are the predators who are committing those horrendous acts.”

“I’m a human being, and there’s a lot that I’ve chosen not to share, but absolutely I am deeply, deeply hurt if any women who has been assaulted — or man — thinks that in any way I was victim-blaming,” she said. “In 900 words, I did the best I could to describe an entire, very complicated dynamic that is really best left for a thesis or an hourlong talk.”

Viewers continued to bombard the Facebook Live with comments demanding the actress further explain the connection between dressing modestly and harassment, and Bialik reiterated her previous point.

“I will state it again, I’m pretty sure that I said it explicitly: How you dress and how you behave has nothing to do with you being assaulted,” she said. “Assault and rape are acts of power, they’re not acts of sexual desire. I totally get that, and I really do intend to convey that I understand that. What I’m talking about specifically is the culture of Hollywood, the way that women are encourage to present themselves, and the way that men encourage women to present themselves.”

“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, I’m not saying that the way that any women dresses holds them responsible for being assaulted. … I’m simply stating that for some women — and I know I’m not alone — protecting parts of ourselves in terms of how we dress gives a feeling of comfort and a layer of protection, but it does not make you immune to assault.”

“Again, speaking about Hollywood — it’s a very, very specific world that I am speaking from my experience in as a person who chooses to not engage in certain ways,” she continued. “I am not passing judgment on women who do. I sincerely hope that people can hear me when I say that.”

Bialik said she’s “excited and motivated to be part of a larger conversation” and apologized “if this was not the way to do it in these 900 words.”

“This Harvey Weinstein thing has touched a nerve for so many of us,” she said. “I would like to find productive ways for us to work together to find ways that we can all feel empowered and protected despite what is going on.”

Asked what women supporting women looks like when they can have such different opinions, Bialik said for her, it means “we need to see the same end goal.”

“There are a lot of different ways to get there, but I think what I share with a lot of the people who are potentially very mad at me is we all want to work towards a place where women are safe to act how they want, to dress how the want, to be free to be whoever they want without fear, without judgment, without shame from men or from women,” she said.

“As a person who’s kind of more a traditional feminist in terms of my definition, I believe that women have a unique power, all kinds of women, to help others be free from the bonds of race class and gender,” she continued. “Even if disagree about certain things, we can work together to build that kind of society that we all want to live in and that women deserve to live in.”

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

At other points during the 25-minute long Facebook Live, Bialik touched on her upbringing “in a traditional Jewish home” and how she defines herself as a “traditional feminist.”

“I was raised with a lot of very traditional, patriarchal values,” she said. “But I’m very grateful that I had [my mother] as an example. … She was really ahead of her time, and I’m grateful that she also taught me to love being a domestic person — she taught me to cook and clean and darn socks, and I ironed handkerchiefs as part of my childhood duties. So those were also the values that I was raised with. And as we’ve seen, there’s such a broad definition of what it means to be a woman, of what it means to be feminist. I don’t feel conflict about that. I’m a very strong woman — I also like to iron a handkerchief.”

“I know that people got really mad that I used the phrase ‘younger feminist’ — I was doing that so as not to sound pretentious but apparently I failed,” she said. “Third-wave feminism is typically used to describe more of the, forgive me, younger — just because demographically, that’s where it’s kind of falling — women who really are fighting harder to be able to wear what they want, act how they want, in this kind of context.”

“I tend to be more of an old-school, fuddy-duddy, second-wave feminist,” she added.

Bialik, who has two young sons, also said she believes in the importance of teaching boys and men how to intervene in situations of sexual harassment.

WATCH: Mayim Bialik Responds to Backlash Over Weinstein Op-Ed

“I’m theoretically allowed to very prominently tease that I have written a book specifically about boys and their responsibility,” she said. “That is a huge component of what is going on. … I also think it’s important to point out … it’s on men and it’s on women to protect each other, and anyone who sees something needs to be conscious of a responsibility and an obligation to report that.”

Asked how she would feel if she had a daughter who wanted to join the entertainment industry, Bialik — who was a child star on Blossom — admitted that she doesn’t think it’s a “really healthy place for a lot of kids.”

“I think there are wonderful ways for young girls and young boys to have a creative outlet and to experience the beauty of acting and performance, but in an organized industry, that’s not something I would want to deal with as a parent — and in particular for girls, where the pressure is so different,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s the place that I would want my daughter to be, but like I said, it’s not the place that I want my son to be either.”

“I know that I confuse a lot of people, even people closest to me,” Bialik said. “I really do identify as a bleeding heart liberal, but I am also a social conservative. Doesn’t mean that I believe in legislating what other people should wear or act, but there is a broad experience of A, being human and B, being female, and I do appreciate the right to have beliefs about women’s behavior or feminism that may not be popular, but I do hope to convey that I really am trying to come from a place of compassion and love and understanding to build a bigger conversation.”

Outbrain