(If you’re having trouble viewing this video on a mobile device, click here.)
Angela Lansbury’s name was suddenly trending on Twitter on Tuesday, leading people to think that the 92-year-old icon of film, TV and Broadway had, you know, died.
Instead she had said something impolitic at a time of a wrenching national conversation about workplace harassment and sexual assault.
In an interview with Radio Times published Tuesday, Lansbury — who played everyone’s favorite female detective Jessica Fletcher in the TV show “Murder, She Wrote” — said she believes that women must take some of the blame when sexual harassment occurs.
While multiple Hollywood actresses have come forward to condemn Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in entertainment and politics for alleged harassment and abuse, Dame Angela offered a strikingly different take, the Telegraph reported.
“There are two sides to this coin,” Lansbury said. “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,” she continued. “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.”
Not surprisingly, Lansbury’s comments generated plenty of fierce discussion on Twitter, as well as outrage from female celebrities and writers and survivors of sexual harassment. Lansbury’s critics accused her of blaming and shaming victims.
Patricia Arquette was among those who was swift to point out that Lansbury’s comments weren’t just troubling but plain wrong.
“When Angela (Lansbury) blames sexual assaults on victims being too attractive she needs a reminder 3 month old raped,” Arquette tweeted Tuesday.
When Angela Landsbury blames sexual assaults on victims being too attractive she needs a reminder 3 month old raped https://t.co/CrH74tSCvy
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) November 28, 2017
Another woman, Holly O’Reilly posted: “Oh, Angela Lansbury. No, girl. Just no.” O’Reilly said: “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. 3) I agree that “men must be very worried.”
Others wrestled with the fact that Lansbury is 92, and therefore may be voicing attitudes that come from an earlier era when sexual politics were different.
Dear Angela Lansbury,
I understand that you are 92 years old and from a different time, but your views only strengthen the disgusting men who perpetrate such acts against your sex.
It’s NEVER the woman’s fault!
— Brian Krassenstein🐬 (@krassenstein) November 28, 2017
I don’t think Ms. Lansbury intend to “blame” the victim. She is of an era where women were more modest in dress. IMO-she’s saying-“don’t advertise/promise something you’re not willing to give”. “Angela Lansbury”
— Judith McCoy (@JudithM96921275) November 28, 2017
Still others said that critics were ignoring Lansbury’s other remarks in her interview, in which she said that nothing excuses sexual harassment or abuse, including how a woman looks or is dressed.
Lansbury had said, “Should women be prepared for this? No, they shouldn’t have to be! 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.”
Princess Weekes, a writer for the website The Mary Sue, said it was disappointing that, courtesy of Lansbury, America is still having this particularly victim-blaming discussion.
She said the issue had already been hashed out pretty thoroughly during the controversy generated by the “terrible” New York Times op-ed penned by actress Mayim Bialik soon after the Weinstein allegations broke in early October.
In her op-ed, Bialik similarly suggested that women can make themselves targets for mistreatment if they are too attractive or don’t dress modestly.
“The Big Bang Theory” actress explained how she had been “overlooked” by predators during her time in Hollywood because she wasn’t “a perfect 10” and because she has always dressed modestly and never acted flirtatiously with men.
After considerable backlash, Bialik finally showed that she understood why people were mad at her and issued an apology.
In a statement on Twitter, she said, “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.”
Weekes echoed Arquette’s post that people who believe that only attractive, immodestly dressed females get harassed or raped “don’t live in the real world.”
She also pointed out that actresses, for obvious professional reasons, have to make themselves as attractive as possible — or else they don’t get work.
“It’s a tale as old as time … and Lansbury may not have meant to do harm, but she has,” Weekes said. “The only people who are to blame for sexual harassment and assault are those who commit the crime. Period.”