The 92-year-old actress suggested that women carry a responsibility in sexual harassment when they go "out of their way to make themselves attractive."
There are many sides to the debate about sexual assault, however, several of them are problematic as they place responsibility in the hands of the victims rather than the abusers.
Case in point: Dame Angela Lansbury — a legendary stage and screen actress — suggested that women “must sometimes take blame” for sexual assault while simultaneously asserting that there is no excuse for it, The Independent reports.
Lansbury, 92, was offering her insight in the wake of the influx of sexual misconduct and rape claims in Hollywood sparked by the vast number of allegations made against film producer Harvey Weinstein.
She reportedly told the Radio Times Magazine: “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,” 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. Should women be prepared for this? No, they shouldn't have to be! There's no excuse for that.”
She went on to proclaim that sexual misconduct in the workplace must come to an end at this point.
“I think it will stop now — it will have to. I think a lot of men must be very worried at this point,” she said.
The Academy Award nominee, who is originally of British-Irish heritage, has had her own love life scrutinized, particularly after her quick marriage to Richard Cromwell, who turned out to be gay.
“I had no idea that I was marrying a gay man,” she said in the interview. “I found him such an attractive individual. He wanted to marry, he was fascinated with me, but only because of what he had seen on the screen, really.”
She added: “It didn't injure or damage me in any way, because he maintained a friendship with me and my future husband [Peter Shaw]. But it was a shock to me when it ended, I wasn't prepared for that. It was just a terrible error I made as a very young woman. But I don't regret it.”
With an acting career that has spanned more than seven decades, it’s expected that Lansbury would have a wise take on this issue; however, her response was more indicative of the era in which she grew up when gender equality and feminism carried very different meanings than they do today as they were still very new and somewhat radical concepts.
The expectations that women have today for how they should be treated, especially in the workplace, are much higher. Nevertheless, as someone who has seen firsthand the significant progress women have made, Lansbury should have had something more empowering to say on the matter.
Instead, she drew her opinion from the age-old, misogynistic ideology that a woman’s attractiveness makes her more susceptible to harassment and therefore, women must take accountability for how appealing they look.
We must keep saying this until it registers: Instead of teaching women how not to get assaulted, we should focus our energy on eradicating rape culture altogether and teaching men how to respectfully interact with women.