Thursday, October 19, 2017

Harvey, Mayim and Me

My latest for Haaretz: How 'Feminist' Mayim Bialik Insulted Countless Jewish Women

OOF. This has been quite a time, eh? Ever since the Harvey Weinstein story 'broke' last week my jaw has been on the floor and my stomach has been in knots. Each new story is simultaneously horrifying and numbing. Hollywood is an industry built on abuse. Our entire society is premised on men's toxic entitlement to women's bodies. Is it really going to be different now? Can women speaking their truth really 'shock the conscience' and change us, fundamentally?

None of us really know what, if anything will come of our sudden attention to sexual harassment, abuse and assault. But I do know we're all fumbling around, trying to make sense of our own stories and the endless stories now being shared.

Which brings me to Mayim. Mayim Mayim Mayim. Mayim Bialik managed to make her own mini-scandal last weekend when she published a New York Times op-ed in which she talked about her brush with Hollywood misogyny. But in her case, or at least, in the story she told herself, she managed to avoid sexual harassment by not being pretty enough but also smart and also dressing modestly?

Bialik's seeming suggestion that modesty, and not trading on one's sexuality, could protect a woman from assault just about broke the internet outrage meter, especially among Jewish women. For women of my age, especially, Bialik is not just a star, she is us. The funny, beautiful, undeniably Jewish overachiever with a wildly successful TV career AND a doctorate in neuroscience. She did it all and never compromised who she was.

But, what was apparent to me from her piece, in which she refers to herself with the same kind of scorn she got from her critics, is that Bialik did not manage to avoid the abusive side of Hollywood misogyny. Internalizing that kind of woman hating beauty bullshit is just a different kind of abuse, one that seeps into your soul and affects every choice you make. It's hard not to see Bialik's embrace of tsnius as a psychological reaction to the degrading ways she had her appearance dissected in the media. Ugh. Anyway...

Read my Haaretz op-ed here and Mayim's apology here.

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