Dear Ms. Bialik,
I'm a busy mother, wife and writer, so I often skim past news pieces unless I see something that strikes me. I saw that you wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about being a feminist in light of recent events regarding Harvey Weinstein and the sexual assault and rape allegations.
I've been a fan of yours since Blossom. In fact, you helped me through my awkward stages. I was not popular. As I got older, my baby fat returned to parts of my body that were harder to hide. I took solace in seeing someone on television that reminded me of myself. You made me believe that being different was cool.
For that, I thank you.
I took the time out to read your piece.
Once to see what you had to say about the heinous situation coming to light in Hollywood at the moment. The second time was just to make sure I didn't misunderstand what I had just read.
I had not.
You said, "I grew up constantly being teased about my appearance, even from members of my family..." to which I can relate to on more levels than I care to admit. But that's not what I take issue with.
"And yet I have also experienced the upside of not being a 'perfect ten.' 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. 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."
Let's start with this: I, too, am not a perfect ten. I'm not even sure I'm a perfect anything.
I attempted an acting career in my late teens and early 20s in NYC. I was beyond thrilled when my "agent" requested a head shot and recommended a photographer. I schlepped downtown from Staten Island, the forgotten borough, to an industrial street with hardly any of the hustle and bustle NYC is known for. I made my way up to the umpteenth floor via elevator, my nerves overpowering my excitement.
When I received the photos back, I cried. Without consent, he photoshopped my face almost beyond recognition. My teeth were no longer my teeth. My nose was slightly adjusted. And the only version that was acceptable for use was the one in black and white; I can only assume the natural coloring of my pale white face was just not good enough.
My appearance didn't land me any roles of significance or send me on a path straight to Hollywood, but you know what did happen?
Despite the "luxury" you speak of...of being overlooked...I was sexually assaulted at my workplace.
I wore tan slacks and a long blue polo shirt (the uniform required by the retail store) that covered my protruding belly, my wide hips, and large ass. I sat in the break room, minding my own business, when a co-worker walked in, picked me up, and dry humped me to my pleas of "No! Stop!" Some luxury, huh? Kind of makes your "I dress modestly, I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy" kind of irrelevant. Sorry about that!
But wait, there's more. This "luxury" also afforded me the experience of rape. Even though I was not part of the group of "young girls with doe eyes and pouty lips who spoke in a high register" (described by you in your op-ed), I was forced to have sex after telling my rapist NO multiple times. But he won, because he had a knife in the car and had more muscular power than me.
"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."
This is where I take the most issue; it feels to me, as a survivor of such assaults, that there is an undercurrent of victim blaming.
Are you saying the women who have come out publicly were, at one point, "naïve" to think that dressing in a way that made themselves feel confident was an automatic invite to nonconsensual sex or groping?
As I've said, I'm not in the Hollywood industry. But I've worked in other places where I was subjected to harassment that no one should be blamed for except the person actually DOING the harassing.
For you, a bona fide feminist who helped me grow into the woman I am today, to make such declarations, saddens me to my core.
You're a mother of two sons, as am I. I can only hope that the culture you wish to change begins with showing our children that a man or woman only has to say NO once. It's these children, yours and mine, who will make the world a better place than the one we live in now that allows this type of harassment and sexual assault to go on unchecked and where women — self-professed feminists like you — blame the victims who deserve nothing but support.
A Former Fan
This post originally appeared on YourTango and is reprinted here with permission.
Top photo: Blossom
Liza Walter is a mom, writer, and lover of all things cheese and Game of Thrones. She can be found on Twitter @NerdyLiza.