Are women helpless? It is a fair question after the response Mayim Bialik faced from the well-publicized editorial in the New York Times last week about her Hollywood experience.
Bialik wrote that as a young Jewish girl she heeded her mother’s advice to dress respectfully, to decline invitations to meet with producers and directors in private and to say no to hugs or other offers of personal displays of affection.
I am a father of four daughters and have offered similar advice. Don’t make yourself vulnerable. While I send my children for an Orthodox Jewish education and look towards traditional Jewish values, it does not mean, by any means, that I seek to isolate my children from modern civilization. That being said, I want them to be able to defend themselves from predators.
Bialik received criticism, suggesting she was “blaming the victim.” Bialik was explaining that predators are not necessarily evil. But sometimes they seek opportunity. If targets present less opportunity, then there is likely to be less chance of sexual assault.
The fact is that traditional Judaism and traditional Democratic values actually coincide in this matter. Jews and women have a right to self-respect. Jewish women have a right to demand respect. This is not a political issue, ethnic issue, religious issue or gender issue.
Bialik was suggesting that women take defensive measures to prevent assault. That does not mean she suggests predators are blameless. She is saying that women who dress or act in ways that expose themselves sexually might be making themselves more open to abusers who, perhaps, might be misreading a situation, thereby making themselves more vulnerable.
Weinstein had power. A greater man would not have taken advantage of his position. He was not a greater man. His victims—or at least most of them—did not care, so long as Weinstein helped them achieve their objective.
But in the end, as is clear, truth wins out. Women are permitted to dress as they choose and be who they are. But if they expose themselves sexually, or even flirt, they are not at all at fault if they are molested. The predator is responsible—no matter the circumstances. So does that mean women can never prevent assault?
When people ride the train, they are instructed to hide their valuables. When they leave their homes, it is expected that they lock the entrances to their houses. Yet, for whatever reason, some people suggest that sexual crimes are different. No. Not really.
Villains take advantage of vulnerabilities. Should we expect that sex offenders are different?
So here is the bottom line. Perpetrators are responsible. But victims are not completely helpless.