Mayim Bialik’s Car Accident and Having Women’s Backs
Updated at the Bottom
Mayim Bialik was in a car accident. I learned this when she wrote on Kveller, “In case you live under a rock, I was in a significant car accident last week.” I personally do not live under a rock, though I was unaware of her accident until Keiko sent me a link to the post. My lack of knowledge is not due to any dearth of concern for Mayim Bialik whom I’ve heard from people who have met her is a pretty rockin’ woman. Beyond the fact that I like her as an actress, we hold her up to our American kids as a famous-person-who-also-cannot-find-their-Israeli-names-on-keychains-at-gift-shops example. As in, “do you think Mayim Bialik cries that there are no glitter keychains spelling out ‘Mayim?’ I bet she’s thrilled to have such a kickass name in a world full of commonplace names.”)
I didn’t know about it mostly due to the fact that we live in a fast-paced world where information is shooting at us at breakneck speed, and I can barely keep up with the sites I frequent daily much less the news happening in other corners of the Web. And I’ll admit it: there’s a hierarchy of people whose life events I’m following. The twins, Josh, family, and friends come long before politicians, musicians, and actresses (and tucked in the middle of the list are other bloggers, old friends via Facebook, and neighbours).
So we’ve established that I care about Mayim Bialik but because she’s not a friend, I miss out on things happening in her life until they hit People magazine (and if it’s in there, I apologize. I’m always a few weeks behind). I’m not saying this to mock her; I’m writing about that opening because it factors into what comes below.
Later in the post, she writes an observation about women:
At the scene of the accident, I’m certain there were women standing around. For whatever reason, not judging, no woman came up to me to comfort me or console me at the accident site. As a modest woman and a feminist woman, I craved a woman to hold. Just as in labor, I believe women can give women special support and I missed out on that.
Those lines resonated with me because I can think of dozens of times in life when I wanted to be helped by a woman, when I expected comfort to come from a woman, and it either didn’t come at all or came from a random man. Which is not to say that men cannot be just as comforting or just as helpful, and perhaps this is cultural, but there are times when I want women and only women.
There are two sides to the same thought, both revealed in Mayim’s choice of words:
- We expect people to know things about us. We expect them to be able to read what we need without spelling it out for them. And we get frustrated with people when they don’t know things we expect them to know about us. And this applies to both strangers AND loved ones.
- We instinctively know what we’d want if the situation were reversed (eg. comfort), and yet as women, we don’t offer it. We know we want others to have our back, yet we don’t reach out and have the backs of other women. We don’t want to be ridiculed, yet we belittle other women. We don’t want our bodies picked apart, yet we pick apart other women. I just read two posts on the same site: one talked about how detrimental it was to a woman’s self-esteem that our features are constantly being ridiculed by the media (we’re too fat, too thin, too tall, too short) and the other expressed glee over LeAnn Rimes checking into a treatment center and insinuated that she had an eating disorder because she could “hide behind a drinking straw.”
Women have the potential of being each other’s biggest comfort, but we equally have a history of not coming to each other’s aid. Is that because we aren’t mind-readers even if other women expect us to be? If that’s the case, is the problem with women not speaking up and saying what they need? It’s one thing if Mayim had locked eyes with a woman and implored her to come over and had been rejected. But are those women who were at the scene of the accident failing if they didn’t know she wanted them to step forward? Does the problem stem from women not being clear about our needs? Because we’re accustomed to putting our needs last?
Or is the problem that women don’t step forward enough? That we second-guess our helpfulness? That we think that it’s not our place to jump into someone else’s life and lend comfort to a stranger? How many times have you not left a comment on someone’s post thinking, “their long-time readers or good friends will be there for them. It would just be weird if I wrote a comment now if she doesn’t even know me.” If we want women to succeed, to feel as if there is a benefit to being in a community of women, we need to do more to hold each other up. And the reality is that sometimes that will mean getting messy: jumping into someone else’s emotional world and offering our support and keeping perspective if our efforts are rejected (since we’re all individuals and have unique wants about comfort) and still trying again with the next woman.
Apologies to Mayim Bialik for using your car accident as an example. But I think you raise some really interesting questions about the role women could play in the lives of other women.
Do you jump in and offer comfort when you see a woman you believe to be in need of comfort, why or why not? Would it have occurred to you to go forward and comfort someone who hasn’t asked yet, or do you wait until a need is stated or at least clearly implied?
I put this in the comment section below but thought to move this question up into the body of the post.
Mudhut Mama’s comment triggered this thought: do you think we don’t offer help sometimes because we think it makes a statement about the other woman being weak? That we’re in the position of power: we have the means to help, to comfort, to fulfill needs. And what we’re saying when we offer that help to the other person is “you need help.” Not everyone feels comfortable pointing out that fact, even though it may be clear as day to everyone in the situation that help is needed.
I think that would tie in with how women often mask their talents, their capabilities. A “math is hard”-type thing where, for some, math really is hard, and for others, we say math is hard because we don’t want to be seen as boasting or too smart or state that we’re capable and be called to task or make anyone else around us feel badly because we have this ability and they do not.
Just a thought I’m unpacking.