Dame Angela Lansbury sparked a social-media backlash and a rebuke from a rape-crisis charity Tuesday after stating that women are partly to blame for sexual harassment.
The five-time Tony Award-winning actress, whose career stretches to the 1940s, told the British magazine Radio Times, “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.”
Speaking on the spate of sexual-abuse accusations following claims against producer Harvey Weinstein, Lansbury said, “There are two sides to this coin,” adding, “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.”
Lansbury, 92, was not excusing men’s behavior, she 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.”
In response, the charitable organization Rape Crisis England & Wales released a statement to the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph saying, in part: “It is a deeply unhelpful myth that rape and other forms of sexual violence are caused or ‘provoked’ by women’s sexuality or ‘attractiveness.’ Rape is an act of sexual violence, power and control that has little to nothing to do with sexual desire. It is as insulting to men as it is to anyone to suggest they’re unable to take responsibility for their own behaviours and that the way a woman presents herself can cause them to lose control or force them to sexually harass or assault her.”
On Twitter, users also responded in disagreement with Lansbury.
“It doesn’t matter how young or old, how beautiful or homely. Rapists rape. End of story,” tweeted Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette.
Another Twitter user posted: “Up until this morning, Angela Lansbury was the source of ALL of my social/political views. I am absolutely devastated that she is not the 24 year old feminist I thought shwe was. I thought Anglea Lansbury was me.”
Meanwhile, one poster tweeted a counterpoint to comments implying Lansbury’s views were understandable, given her age: “My Gran is 88 years old and would never suggest that rape victims ‘must sometimes take the blame.’ Angela Lansbury’s age doesn’t give her a free pass.”
Lansbury, who has no authorized social-media accounts, has not responded publicly to the backlash.