Photo via Drama League/Flickr (CC-BY)
‘We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive.’
The conversations around sexual assault and sexual harassment have changed drastically since reports on Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct first surfaced last month, but as Angela Lansbury revealed in a new interview, some outdated ideas about sexual assault still persist.
Speaking with Radio Times (via the Telegraph), Lansbury talks about the revelations of systematic sexual harassment and pinned it—in part—on women trying to “make themselves attractive.”
“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. 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.”
Although Lansbury, who said that she was never on the receiving end of sexual harassment during her early years in Hollywood, sees the larger issue of sexual assault as something women should shoulder some blame for, she attempted to clarify that individual women shouldn’t be blamed for their own sexual assault.
“Should women be prepared for this? No, they shouldn’t have to be,” Lansbury said. “There’s no excuse for that. And I think it will stop now—it will have to. I think a lot of men must be very worried at this point.”
Lansbury’s comments drew almost instant backlash as many criticized her for victim blaming, and her name quickly trended online.
*sees Angela Lansbury is trending*
"OH NO SHE BETTER NOT BE DEAD"
"oh wait it's worse" https://t.co/zJJVhE2MUm
— Olly Smith (@OllyWrites) November 28, 2017
Murder She Wrote would have been quite a different show if in each episode Angela Lansbury blamed the victim.
— StanHengen (@StanHengen) November 28, 2017
Oh, Angela Lansbury.
No, girl. Just no.
1) Rapists don't rape because of the way we dress. They rape to exert power over women. It has nothing to do with how we look.
2) It's never the woman's fault. Never.
— Holly O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) November 28, 2017
Angela Lansbury, star of the 1944 version of Gaslight, which gave us the term ‘Gaslighting’, has just declared that attractive women share the blame for sexual harassment. pic.twitter.com/x3ruL22cIR
— Dr Fern Riddell (@FernRiddell) November 28, 2017
Stupidity, She Wrote. https://t.co/rhAaiDUl7F
— Stefan Stevenson (@StevensonFWST) November 28, 2017
The idea that women are to be blamed for their own sexual assaults because of how attractive they are is a myth, one that some—including Lansbury—still believe.
“The belief that only young, pretty women are sexually assaulted stems from the myth that sexual assault is based on sex and physical attraction,” the Department of Justice (via Georgetown Law) stated in a list of facts and myths about sexual assault. “Sexual assault is a crime of power and control, and offenders often choose people whom they perceive as most vulnerable to attack or over whom they believe they can assert power.”
Rape Crisis England & Wales released a statement that strongly condemned Lansbury’s words and called it “as insulting to men as it is to anyone to suggest they’re unable to take responsibility for their own behaviors.”
“There is no excuse or mitigation for sexual violence and there is no circumstance in which it’s even partially the victim’s or survivor’s fault,” Rape Crisis England & Wales said in a statement. “Until we accept and acknowledge that, it will be very difficult for us as a society to reduce or prevent rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or sexual abuse.”
Update 8:47am CT, Nov. 30: Lansbury responded to the backlash to her Radio Times interview Wednesday night. In a statement, Lansbury reiterated that “there is no excuse whatsoever” for women to suffer harassment at the hands of men and was “devastated” at the reaction to her remarks.
“There is no excuse whatsoever for men to harass women in an abusive sexual manner,” she said in a statement. “And, I am devastated that anyone should deem me capable of thinking otherwise. Those who have known the quality of my work and the many public statements I have made over the course of my life, must know, that I am a strong supporter of Women’s Rights.”
She also noted her worry at how people immediately took her comments out of context and attributed her response—which many took as perpetuating an outdated myth about sexual harassment and sexual assault—on other factors.
“Lastly, I would like to add that I am troubled by how quickly and brutishly some have taken my comments out of context and attempted to blame my generation, my age, or my mindset, without having read the entirety of what I said.”