Have you ever said something only to discover that it came across not as intended?
Have you ever tried to express your feelings on a subject huge and vast but you didn’t have the time or space to properly explain what you meant?
Have you ever been misunderstood?
Have you ever misrepresented yourself?
And yet, have you been viciously attacked when you did? Have you been called horrible names and had disgusting judgments made about your character? Have you been outright bullied, told you were ugly, unworthy, and a terrible and evil person?
But that is exactly what has been done to Mayim Bialik. For sharing her opinion. For trying to express her point of view. All it took was 900 words to erase all she has said and done up until this point. One article and all we have known about this talented, successful, intelligent woman has been seemingly forgotten.
I actually first learned of Mayim’s piece when I read a searing condemnation of it. The rebuttal was extremely powerful, well written, and responded to specific statements she wrote. I then read her NY Times Op-Ed piece: “Being a Feminist in Harvery Weinstein’s World”. It’s hard to know what I would have thought of the piece had I not approached it with hesitation, but I immediately saw what bothered this other reader.
As someone who has read numerous pieces from Mayim, I didn’t think this was one of her best. Instead of the focus being on empowering women it took a personal direction that didn’t seem to be well timed. She had wording I felt could have been better chosen and concepts that needed further explanation and elucidation to be properly understood.
And yet, I didn’t finish it thinking she was a horrible person. I didn’t suddenly hate her. I didn’t realize anyone could.
How does a reader go from not liking a piece to demonizing its author? How is the leap made from feeling a piece could have been more sensitively written to feeling the need to tell the author that she was never molested because she was too ugly to be molested? How has Mayim Bialik become the focus of endless attacks?
We seem to have lost sight of the fact that she was writing in response to a man who has been accused multiple times of inappropriate sexual behavior, assault and violent rape. Yet it is now Mayim herself who is the new target of attacks?
Here is the thing. We don’t need to like her article. We can even hate her article. But why are we hating her? Why are we allowing all we know about this woman to be deconstructed from 900 perhaps poorly chosen words?
We know she identifies as a feminist. We know she wrote a book called Girling Up whose subtitle is: “How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular.” We know she wrote a book about Attachment Parenting and the need to focus on and spend nurturing and quality time with our children. We know she is a vegan. We know she has a PhD in Neuroscience. We know she spends time, money and resources encouraging girls to enter the male-dominated STEM fields. We know she is an observant Jew, adhering to Jewish law and customs in the world of Hollywood that is not exactly accommodating. And we know she is an incredibly successful actress on the #1 sitcom on television today. Oh, and we know she doesn’t shave her legs.
So let’s ignore her article for just one second and think about all the other things we know about her. And we know them because she has told us. Because numerous articles have mentioned all of these things. Oh, right, because they are facts.
If we focus on those facts, even though they may contradict our feelings, they paint a picture that is not exactly aligned with the “monster” that wrote that NY Times article.
These facts show us an intelligent woman who is dedicated to the empowerment of women and the transformation of society. They paint a woman who has incredible empathy which is why she can’t bear to hurt an animal in any way. They show that this is someone who cares deeply about her children and raising them to be emotionally healthy and sensitive human beings. We see that education is a top priority and concern of hers and she wants all women to recognize their talents and abilities and not be reduced to their looks. We find someone who can go against the grain and stand up for her beliefs and ideals even when they are not popular or supported.
It seems that many of the responses to her article were written with the goal of ripping Mayim apart. There were those that were true constructive criticism, but all too many were outright hateful and bullying. I hope that the painful comments were at least stemming from legitimate pain. But causing more pain isn’t the way to heal. Share that pain. Express that the piece hurt you. That is what is needed. Start a real conversation.
But please focus on the piece and not the person. As the person has time and time again shown that she is not the woman-hating, egotistical, insensitive, crass person that she has been accused of being. And calling her ugly? Really?
And while her piece may have been a missed opportunity, so has been the response. Rather than giving the benefit of the doubt, kindly and sensitively pointing out what we would have liked to have seen, this has turned into a complete and total character assassination.
Why are we allowing ourselves to attack and destroy a woman who dedicates her life to empowering and helping women? We should be better. We must be better. Because when we respond to another woman with hate, we make it clear that we are divided. That we will turn against one another. That it doesn’t take much to write someone off. That we don’t have each other’s backs.
And the more we do that, the more we weaken ourselves as a community of women and the more we empower those who seek to bring us down. We don’t need others to tell us we are worthless and ugly if we are more than willing to do it ourselves.