I always made conservative choices as a young actress, largely informed by my first-generation American parents who were highly skeptical of this industry in general — “This business will use you up and throw you away like a snotty tissue!”— and of its men in particular: “They only want one thing.” My mom didn’t let me wear makeup or get manicures. She 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. I was always aware that I was out of step with the expected norm for girls and women in Hollywood. . . .Bialik's general idea seems to be that while sexual harassment is bad and sexual assault unforgivable, actresses who trade on their beauty are in some sense participating in this culture by objectifying themselves. If you expect to get ahead by displaying your body to filmgoers and flirting with producers, why are you surprised that some of them want to go farther than you do?
I still make choices every day as a 41-year-old actress that I think of as self-protecting and wise. 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.
I am entirely aware that these types of choices might feel oppressive to many young feminists. Women should be able to wear whatever they want. They should be able to flirt however they want with whomever they want. Why are we the ones who have to police our behavior?
In a perfect world, women should be free to act however they want. But our world isn’t perfect. Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.
It's an old argument, of course, which is why I bring it up. I have long had trouble over how to feel about it. If you say to a girl leaving for college, "don't drink around men, don't have them in your room, don't dress too sexy and don't flirt with strangers," is that sound advice or (proactive) victim blaming? Where is the line between pointing out what the world is like and using the threat of that reality to control women? Can you be really disgusted by the men involved and still think that some of the women are foolish? Or does even a glance at the way women dress or act put you on the side of those jurors who think promiscuous women can't be raped, because they are just asking for it? Or on the side of the rapists?
Or is blaming everything on the man, and implying that the woman has no part, a radical sort of disempowerment for women?
So, anyway, what do y'all think?