As the conversation around sexual assault and harassment took center stage this year, some celebrities spoke out in support of survivors, with many publicly identifying as survivors themselves.
Other celebrities, however, got more attention for implying (or outright stating) that survivors are in some way responsible for what they went through — instead of, you know, the assaulters or harassers who put them through it. It’s unfortunate that in 2017, public figures are still taking it upon themselves to tell women to dress more conservatively or stop sending an “invitation to be harassed.” (Seriously?) By no means a complete list, ahead are 11 of the public figures called out for their victim-blaming comments this year.
In October, Bialik ruffled feathers with a New York Times piece implying women who flirt, dress immodestly, or are conventionally beautiful are more prone to assault. She referred to the “upside” of not being a “perfect 10”: “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,” she wrote. She added, “I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy… In a perfect world, women should be free to act however they want. But we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.”
Bialik has the right to dress however she wants, but presenting herself as some sort of aspirational example of cautiousness misses the point and shifts responsibility to survivors. Sexual assault is forever and always the fault of the assaulter. Bialik did later apologize, writing on Twitter, “you are never responsible for being assaulted.”
Chris Brown has become notorious for physically abusing Rihanna. In his recent online documentary, Chris Brown: Welcome To My Life, he put blame on her for his abuse. Brown claimed they had been fighting after she saw texts from another woman. “She was trying to grab my phone, but I’m not giving her my phone to throw it out the window,” Brown said. “So I bit her arm.” Let’s make one thing clear: Domestic abuse is never, ever justified.
The 92-year-old actress, best known for starring in Murder, She Wrote, made some particularly ill-received comments after the allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein came out. Lansbury told Radio Times magazine, “There are two sides to this coin… We must sometimes take blame, women. I really do think that. Although it’s awful to say we can’t make ourselves look as attractive as possible without being knocked down and raped.”
Later, she released a statement to Deadline clarifying her comments. “There is no excuse whatsoever for men to harass women in an abusive sexual manner,” it read in part. “And, I am devastated that anyone should deem me capable of thinking otherwise.”
In since-deleted tweets, the Food Network star blamed sexual assault survivors for not speaking out quickly enough. “I refuse to call the 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 10th person to come out and say, ‘me too’, BRAVE. We can call them LATE though,” Anderson tweeted. “In fact I blamed them and still do for not being BRAVE and reporting him before he had a chance to make one more victim.” If anything is victim-blaming, it’s literally saying “blamed” in a tweet about survivors — who are under no obligation to come forward before they’re ready. Anderson later deleted the tweets and posted an apology.
Anderson recently appeared on “Megyn Kelly Today” to discuss the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. “When I came to Hollywood, I, of course, had a lot of offers to do private auditions and things that made absolutely no sense. Common sense ― don’t go into a hotel room alone, if someone answers the door in a bathrobe, you know, leave,” she said, adding, “You know what you’re getting into if you go to a hotel room alone.”
After her comments drew outrage, she published an essay saying of her original comments, “So this is not victim blaming but looking at the issue from the angle of women being aware of certain problems and how to spot them and fight them… I do NOT wish [to apologize] for what I said. And will not get coerced into apology.”
Earlier this year, Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman said she was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. When she tweeted about the need to “create change,” her gold-winning teammate Gabby Douglas responded in a way that was anything but helpful.
“It is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy,” Douglas said on Twitter. “[D]ressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.” That’s not how the world works, it doesn’t matter how Raisman was dressed: She was never asking to be abused. Douglas later apologized, tweeting, “regardless of what you wear, abuse under any circumstance is never acceptable.”
President Donald Trump and Eric Trump
Unsurprisingly, these two make the list. In one example of his retrograde views on women from earlier this year, the president told USA Today that if his daughter Ivanka were to be subjected to workplace sexual harassment, he “would like to think she would find another career or find another company.” Eric Trump rushed to his father’s defense on “CBS This Morning,” saying, “I don’t think [Ivanka] would allow herself to be subjected to that” — as if it were a woman’s choice to be subjected to harassment.
Representative Marcy Kaptur
Victim-blaming happens on both sides of the aisle. This Democratic congresswoman from Ohio may not be a celeb, per se, but it’s no less disheartening to see a legislator blame misconduct on women’s attire.
“I saw a member yesterday with her cleavage so deep it was down to the floor,” Kaptur reportedly said during a private Democratic Caucus meeting earlier this month. “And what I’ve seen … it’s really an invitation.” Kaptur followed up her comments in a statement to Politico, which read in part, “Under no circumstances is it the victim’s fault if they are harassed in any way.”
Williams was recently blasted on social media for comments about a young woman who alleged that rapper Nelly raped her. “If she did not put herself in that situation, this wouldn’t have happened. Young lady, you’ve got to stay out of tour buses,” Williams said on her show. A better message, of course, would have been to tell men not to assault. Williams later apologized on The Wendy Williams Show, but still warned women to “be aware”: “What I meant to say is young ladies, we should be able to go wherever we want to go, but we always have to know where the exits are.”
Speaking with a Daily Mail reporter, the designer came to Weinstein’s defense in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against him. “How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?” she asked. “You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” We repeat: Nobody. Is. Ever. “Asking.” For. It. Karan later apologized, blaming exhaustion for her “inappropriate” comments.
- A Note to Survivors Who Aren’t Ready to Share Their Sexual Assaults
- Why So Many Sexual Assault Survivors Seem to Come Forward All at Once
- Don’t Tell Women Not to Take Nudes, Tell Men Not to Hack Them
If you need a break from the news, find out what it’s like to sink into a $450 red wine bath: