Apparently this week my blog is going to stay angry. So, it has taken one man, Harvey Weinstein, to bring the essential conversation regarding the sexual degradation and harassment of women to the surface again. Of course, it’s a conversation that exists constantly at least in the background, but making an example of this one man and his deplorable actions has brought it to the forefront once again. A good thing. Since my blog earlier this week, more and more women have come out to share their experiences, not just with Weinstein, but Hollywood culture in general. It has been totally inspiring to see the anger of the masses, and feel the overwhelming assertion that people want to stop this from happening. However, one women’s response has left many, including me, slightly puzzled.
The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik released an opinion piece for the New York times, with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein in mind, entitled “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s world“. The title gives you high hopes, right? Unfortunately, what followed was a disappointing, exclusionary article elevating Bialik’s version of feminism above what I would call ‘true’ feminism (for one thing, a celebration of women being able to make their own choices and still be treated with respect and as equals), and ultimately implicating women themselves in incidences of sexual harassment and abuse.
“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.”
But the women of social media have proven one inexcusable flaw in her op-ed with the ‘Me Too’ campaign, started by Alyssa Milano on Sunday evening when she asked women who had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted to simply write ‘me too’, on social media. By Monday morning, over 200,000 people on twitter had spoken up using those words, and the number on Facebook surpassed 80,000. It goes without saying that the ‘Me Too’ campaign is nothing but the tip of the iceberg, excluding the millions without social media accounts, or computers.
‘Me too’- those two, tiny, simple words that expose sexual harassment against women for what it is; a phenomenon with seemingly unlimited scope and completely unparalleled effects. I urge Mayim Bialik to read through those comments, to assess every ‘Me Too’ and see how many women who, like her, do not “represent an impossible standard of beauty”, but who, unlike her, have not had the “luxury of being overlooked…by men in power”. I urge her to talk to the women who she calls “perfect ten’s”, and tell them to their faces that it’s their fault they have suffered at the hands of men like Harvey Weinstein; that them being beautiful means they have to go to a “hotel room or a casting couch” to find someone who finds them “stunning, irresistible and worthy of attention, respect and love.”. Overall, there is a disturbing subtext going on, implying that beautiful women are somehow lesser, and are somehow more deserving of this unwanted attention. To suggest that women ought to hide their natural beauty, to be “conservative” or in anyway compromise their physical self to avoid being harassed plays into a dangerous narrative that offers no solution to the problem at hand.
It is wonderful that Bialik feels so confident in her conservative self. It is amazing that she doesn’t feel the need to overly sexualise herself in public, and if it empowers her to keep her sexuality private then I am glad she is sharing her story with others who might relate- unconventional standards of femininity and beauty deserve to be celebrated. This is not where the problem lies. The issue is that she suggests this is the ‘right’ way to do feminism, she takes away the idea that women should be able to choose how they behave and still be treated as equals by both their male and female counterparts. Is a women less worthy, or more deserving of sexual harassment because she chooses to diet? Surely not. Is she less of a feminist because she hires a personal trainer? Honestly, how these suggestions can be taken seriously by anyone is beyond me. By alienating a huge part of the population, Bialik fails to do anything to advance the feminist cause and condemn people like Harvey Weinstein.