Six disheartening times celebrities’ comments have related women’s clothing to sexual assault

The conversation surrounding the prevalence of sexual harassment across a multitude of industries and the urgent need to address it has been steadily growing since the stream of allegations came out against ex-Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in October 2017.

Thanks to movements like Time’s Up and #MeToo, numerous survivors of sexual assault have felt able to come forward about their experiences.

Sadly, misunderstandings of the movement continue, as evidenced by several celebrities, including most recently Matt Damon and Henry Cavill, who have questioned how it might affect their ability to talk to women in the future.

Others, including many female celebrities, have suggested that it is women’s clothing that is to blame for harassment and assault.

Actor Maureen Lipman has this week been heavily condemned for claiming that female celebrities frequently dress like “prostitutes”, stating in an interview with Radio Times: “Young female pop stars, for example, are saying: ‘It’s my body, and I’m empowered to show it to you,’ But then, ‘Don’t touch it, don’t come near it, don’t flirt with it.'”

“We’re batting our eyelids and clenching our teeth at the same time. And that is very confusing.”

#MeToo campaigner Rose McGowan responded to Lipman’s comments on Good Morning Britain, saying: “It’s not that inflammatory because I’ve heard that same argument for what, 5,000 million years.

“If I felt like walking down the street naked, nobody has the right to rape me.

“Everyone has a sovereign right to their body.”

There have been several instances over the past few years when celebrities have made controversial statements regarding the way in which a woman’s choice of attire can supposedly increase her likelihood of being sexually assaulted.

Here are six times celebrities have related women’s clothing to sexual assault:

1. Mayim Bialik

In 2016, actor and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, famous for her role as Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times in which she explained that she is a “proud feminist” who doesn’t feel the need to have cosmetic surgery or hire a personal trainer.

“I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meetings in their hotel rooms,” she said, referencing the Weinstein scandal.

“I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy. I am entirely aware that these types of choices might feel oppressive to many young feminists.”

She continued, explaining that while nothing justifies the sexual abuse of women, “we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.”

Bialik later apologised on Twitter for her comments as some claimed that they implied that women who don’t dress “modestly” are more likely to be assaulted.

“What you wear and how you behave does not provide any protection from assault, nor does the way you dress or act in any way make you responsible for being assaulted; you are never responsible for being assaulted,” she wrote in the apology. 

2. Gabby Douglas

Last year, US Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas sparked a backlash after making comments regarding the sexual assault that fellow gymnast Aly Raisman had experienced at the hands of disgraced doctor Larry Nassar.

After Raisman tweeted about women being victim-shamed for the clothes that they wear, Douglas responded saying: “However, it is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy,” according to Complex.

“Dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.”

Douglas reportedly then deleted the tweet and clarified her comments by saying that she “didn’t correctly word” her response.

She apologised for the initial tweet, stating that “regardless of what you wear, abuse under any circumstance is never acceptable.”

3. Floyd Mayweather

Boxer Floyd Mayweather, who previously defended the US president’s remarks about grabbing women “by the p***y”, once shared a post on his Instagram page concerning the way in which women are treated when they dress a certain way.

He captioned the 2014 post: “Dress how you want to be addressed”, with the post reading: “How a female dresses is her advertisement. If a female shows half of her body, she’s asking to be disrespected.

“If she dresses classy, expect to be treated like a lady. 

“How you’re addressed lies on your attire. Sexy is a spirit, not an outfit.”

One person who commented on the post stated: “Could you be any more narrow-minded, sexist, and egocentric? It’s honestly amazing.”

Mayweather has been accused of battery and domestic violence several times in the past.

In 2011 he pleaded guilty to a battery domestic violence charge and in 2004 was convicted of two counts of misdemeanour battery after fighting with two women at a nightclub.

In 2002, the boxer entered a plea bargain for domestic violence charges.

4. Donna Karan

In 2017 American fashion designer Donna Karan weighed in on the allegations of sexual assault made against Weinstein, stating that the victims were “asking for” it.

While being interviewed on the red carpet at the CinéFashion Film Awards, Karan started by saying that it’s hard to witness the way in which women are treated all over the world, especially in developing countries.

“To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking?” she said.

“Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?”

Following the outrage caused by Karan’s comments, she later told WWD that she had been confused by the question.

5. Joanna Lumley

One of Joanna Lumley’s most famous roles was the heavy-drinking Patsy Stone in Absolutely Fabulous, which she starred in alongside Jennifer Saunders.

Despite Patsy’s proclivity for debauchery in the show, Lumley expressed her opposition to women acting in a similar manner while speaking with The Telegraph in 2013.

“Don’t look like trash, don’t get drunk, don’t get sick down your front, don’t break your heels and stagger about in the wrong clothes at midnight,” she said.

“I promise you it is better to look after yourself properly, which means behave properly, be polite, be on time, dress properly – I don’t mean dully – but don’t be sick in the gutter at midnight in a silly dress with no money to get a taxi home, because somebody will take advantage of you, either they’ll rape you, or they’ll knock you on the head or they’ll rob you.”

In a previous interview conducted with The Telegraph in 2012, Lumley questioned why so many people have “started to dress like lap dancers.”

6. Angela Lansbury

Last year, actor Angela Lansbury caused controversy when she stated that women must sometimes accept responsibility for being sexually harassed due to the way they present themselves.

“There are two sides to this coin. We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive,” she told Radio Times.

“And unfortunately it has backfired on us – and this is where we are today.

“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.”

Rape Crisis England & Wales issued a statement in regard to her comments, which read: “It is a deeply unhelpful myth that rape and other forms of sexual violence are caused or ‘provoked’ by women’s sexuality or ‘attractiveness’,” according to The Telegraph.

Lansbury later said that her words had been “taken out of context”, as reported by Deadline.

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