Updated Oct. 19, 2017, 9:50 a.m. PT: On Thursday, Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik officially and without a doubt apologized for her divisive op-ed that was published on Friday, Oct. 13. She posted an apology taking responsibility for her actions (versus the slight, more roundabout apology she gave on Facebook Live earlier in the week).
— Mayim Bialik (@missmayim) October 18, 2017
She wrote, “I want to address my op-ed in the NY Times, and the reaction to it. Let me say clearly and explicitly that I am very sorry. What you wear and how you behave does not provide any protection from assault, nor does the way you dress or act in any way make you responsible for being assaulted; you are never responsible for being assaulted.”
Bialik went on to write, “I applaud the bravery of the women who have come forward. I support these women as we seek out and demand accountability from the only ones responsible for assault and rape: the people who perpetrate these heinous crimes. I am motivated and driven to work hard to empower women,” before reiterating her apology to readers.
Updated Oct. 16, 2017, 10:15 a.m. PT: Mayim Bialik appeared in a Facebook Live video interview with The New York Times opinion section Monday, and unsurprisingly, her weekend op-ed was the first thing she discussed. Bialik was heavily criticized for the wording of her op-ed in which many thought she victim-blamed survivors of sexual assault by saying that wearing conservative clothing and not flirting could protect women.
“I’ve gotten a lot of really positive reception, which honestly I was very surprised how passionately people felt about it. And yes, I have stayed off social media, but it has become clear to me that there are people who think I either implied or overtly stated that you can be protected from assault because of the clothing you wear or the behavior that you exhibit,” Bialik said. “That is absolutely not what my intention was. 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. I really do regret that this became what it became, because 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 in assault is the predators who are committing those horrendous acts.”
She also put responsibility on the women who have been telling their Hollywood sexual harassment stories to “turn this around,” saying they need to keep the conversation going.
“I’m a human being and… absolutely I’m deeply, deeply hurt if any woman in particular who has been assaulted, or man, thinks that in any way I was victim-blaming,” Bialik added. “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 and not a 900-word piece.”
On Friday, the New York Times published an op-ed by The Big Bang Theory‘s Mayim Bialik titled “Being Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World.” Although Bialik is an open advocate for women’s rights, many accused the actress of shaming victims in the piece. Now, Bialik has responded to the “vicious” backslash.
In the original op-ed, Bialik described herself as an outsider by many standards in Hollywood. She admitted to feeling pressure to conform but maintains that she stayed true to herself and made the kind of “conservative choices” that her first-generation American parents taught her were important.
However, in making her point, Bialik ruffled feathers by seeming to imply that the clothes women wear and even the actions of the men around them are contributing factors in harassment and abuse and that women themselves are responsible for controlling those factors.
Bialik’s mom “encouraged me to be myself in audition rooms, and I followed my mother’s strong example to not put up with anyone calling me ‘baby’ or demanding hugs on set,” she wrote. “I was always aware that I was out of step with the expected norm for girls and women in Hollywood.”
She went on to reference her extended absence from Hollywood, followed by her comeback playing “androgynous, awkward” Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. But again, in elucidating the significance of portraying such a relatable woman on-screen and being one in real life, Bialik made points that proved polarizing to readers.
“As a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer, I have almost no 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,” she penned.
“I still make choices every day as a 41-year old actress that I think of as self-protecting and wise,” she continued. “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.”
Female readers quickly put Bialik on blast for this perceived victim shaming — among them actress Patricia Arquette, who wrote on Twitter, “I have to say I was dressed non provocatively as a 12 year old when men on the street masturbated at me. It’s not clothing.”
@missmayim229 I have to say I was dressed non provocatively as a 12 year old when men on the street masturbated at me. It's not clothing.
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) October 14, 2017
On Sunday night, Bialik also took to Twitter to address the now-controversial Times op-ed.
— Mayim Bialik (@missmayim) October 15, 2017
“I’m being told the N.Y. Times piece resonated with so many and I am beyond grateful for all of the feedback,” she wrote. “I also see a bunch of people have taken my words out of the context of the Hollywood machine and twisted them to imply that God forbid I would blame a woman for her assault based on her clothing or behavior. Anyone who knows me and my feminism knows that’s absurd and not at all what this piece was about. It’s so sad how vicious people are being when I basically live to make things better for women.”
At this point, many women appear to still find fault with Bialik’s original sentiments and with her response. Comments to the latter accuse Bialik of hypocrisy, faux feminism, internalized misogyny and more.
However, Bialik further noted in her response tweet that she will be participating in a Facebook Live segment with the Times on Monday morning to discuss the backlash further. “Let’s discuss then,” she signed off, inviting women who don’t agree with or understand her commentary to engage in conversation.