If you haven’t heard about the whole affair, you must be living in a galaxy far far away. The Black community is at war on Twitter arguing about Bill Cosby’s demise. Yes. You should know about that by now… if you don’t here is a quick recap.
Since 2004, multiple accusations of sexual assaults, sexual battery and child abuse have been levelled against Bill Cosby, some of them dating back as far as 1969! He allegedly drugged and raped his victims in total impunity while enjoying a five-decade long stand-up comedy career and taking advantage of the lovable father figure served on a silver platter by his role as Dr Heathcliff Huxtable in the iconic Cosby Show.
In 2006, the Court dismissed the first ever case brought to justice. However, since then, more than 50 women have come forward to tell their respective stories. Lastly, on 30th December, he has finally been charged and will face trial. In the meantime, he has been released on bail and remains free until then.
So why this story is so important that it is burning Black Twitter bridges?
Bill Cosby is an icon
Like Michael Jackson was an icon. Like Michael Jordan is an icon. Even bigger than that, he was maybe the first Black television entertainment icon: Bill Cosby is remembered fondly by millions – and myself – as the jolly Dr Heathcliff Huxtable, a successful Black guy, married to a beautiful and successful Black woman, with wonderful and successful Black children. I know it’s a lot of ‘successful’ in one sentence, but ‘successful’ is the key word (I dare you to read that out loud).
As a matter of fact, with the democratisation of television in the 80s, The Cosby Show was a pioneer of the genre featuring a Black cast and soon became the highest ranking tv show of all time.
Indeed, the show set a good representation of Black people in real-life situations on tv, being the family role model to follow in Black households. Each and every episode ended with a life lesson to improve yourself as a person. Long story short, Cosby became a virtual father to millions of Black kids.
The overall situation is problematic on different levels:
- from a feminist perspective
- from a racial perspective
Bill Cosby and Rape Culture
At this point, it’s pretty safe to say Bill Cosby is a rapist. The number of victims just adds to the horror and gives me chills. But in a very twisted way, it is not even relevant. He is a rapist and should pay for his crimes. He admitted to drugging women and having sexual intercourse with them while they were unconscious… which equals to rape. There is no arguing with that. I don’t even see how this could be considered as ‘consensual’.
What is important is how he dismisses the accusations. He doesn’t rely on facts, but rather discredits his victims’ testimonies. It is proper character assassination and it is absolutely symptomatic of how rape culture works demonstrating how victims of rape are treated at a global scale: not only the truthfulness of their words is questioned, but the seriousness of their condition is also disregarded. On top of that, they are blamed for what happened to them.
I see you looking at me all offended, but ask yourself one question: How would YOU react?
What is Rape Culture?
Rape Culture is defined as being « an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalised and excused in the media and popular culture. »
Rape Culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorisation of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety. Behaviours commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivialising rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these.
Also, Rape Culture manifests through the acceptance of rapes as an everyday occurrence, and even a male prerogative, the reluctance by the authorities to go against patriarchal cultural norms, as well as fears of stigmatisation from rape victims and their families. Sexualised violence towards women is regarded as a continuum of a society that regards women’s bodies as sexually available by default.
So now that it’s clear, rape culture walks hand in hand with victim blaming: it is the idea that a girl or a woman got what she deserved because she literally asked for it.
What were you doing with him? At this/his place? At this hour? Alone? Dressed like that? etc. All these questions serve the only purpose of proving she was desperately begging for sexual intercourse, that she is lying and that the real victim is the man whose life will now be ruined.
The ‘he says – she says’ situation is always a lost battle for women from whom actual proofs are endlessly asked of to go beyond the ‘reasonable doubt’ and this is exactly what is happening in the Bill Cosby case. More than 50 women have come forward and still, people are asking for proofs. Do you really imagine 50 women coming up together with an evil masterplan to bring down a 70-year-old guy that does not even have a career anymore just to serve White Supremacist purposes against the Black community? COME ON!
Let’s take a step back. FIFTY women are not proof enough against ONE man.
Let that sink in for a bit.
Tying back to sexism and gender stereotypes, this is the exact translation of the cultural beliefs that men are more socially valued and more competent than women. Because of Cosby’s high profile and because he mastered the art of respectability politics (thanks Chescaleigh), people find hard to believe he could be guilty. After all, he is rich, famous, a pillar in the TV industry when his victims were aspiring models, actresses, secretaries, etc. Nothing to balance out the power relationship between the parties involved. And it is always with a certain spite that his victims’ activities are mentioned… Who the hell do they think they are?
— Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) 5 Janvier 2016
Have you ever noticed how a woman’s character is judged? If she does not fit the profile of the good mother, the innocent/pure/virgin, she is clearly looking for trouble, validating the idea that a sexually active woman can never say no. Doe it ring a bell?
Yes, you guessed right. It’s again about the Mother and the Whore complex where a woman gets depreciated as soon as she enjoys sex. Here again, we could talk about slut-shaming and patriarchal society for hours, but let’s not.
Being a woman < Being Black?
But this is only one aspect of the problem. I mentioned how Black Twitter was divided on the matter; in fear of losing one of their heroes, some of them – often in the militant circles – will go as far as pleading that Cosby’s downfall is a White Supremacist conspiracy. Welp honey, that is reaching a bit too far.
Okay, I will give it to you, Black people have to fight to be represented on television, not only as thugs, not only as twerking ratchets, not only as the token Black friend and so on. Representation does matter and against all odds, Cosby did just that with The Cosby Show. But Heathcliff Huxtable is not real and even if he was, he still would be as guilty as Bill Cosby certainly is!
However, what is really troubling is how promptly Black militant will defend someone who never spoke up in favour of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In his infamous ‘Pound Cake’ speech, Cosby justifies police brutality. Besides, taking a look back at his interviews in the past few years, you will notice he doesn’t hide his contempt for the Black community as a whole and Hip Hop culture specifically. His views on low-income families, fatherhood and violence against women are appalling and truly shameful. But do you know who were the most vocal about him on social media?
Rappers. Like The Game, 50 Cent, etc. relentlessly gave their opinion, arguing it all happened decades ago and that Cosby should be left alone as the Black community had more important matters to deal with like police-related violence. They are simply minimising the consequences of such violence on these women’s lives. Isn’t that crazy?
I think it’s crazy that Bill Cosby has a mugshot for alleged assaults 11 years ago with no physical evidence or proof besides these womens accounts of what he did to them an entire decade later…. But Darren Wilson, who killed Mike Brown on camera, is FREE. George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin, is FREE. Timothy Loehman, who killed Tamir Rice seconds after arriving on the scene.. on camera, is FREE. Officers who shot Keith Childress 19 times for holding a cellphone they thought was a gun, are FREE. Officers who arrested Sandra Bland & detained her until her mysterious death, are FREE. All of the officers who shot 50 rounds into Sean Bell’s car, on his wedding day, killing him, are FREE ! I could go on all day, but you get the point… & again, y’all put Dr. Huxtable in jail off of word of mouth. I’m not here to say these women are liars or not because RAPE is a huge deal & I don’t wish that on any woman of any color… But whether or not he actually did anything, we won’t know because of the lack of evidence or proof & the duration from the point of the alleged assault to now…. Why did it take these women over 10 years to bring this to the light ? & while we out here laughing & making memes of a 70+ year old man who practically raised us all on tv as children….in other news…. The people we pay taxes to keep employed are still taking the lives of men, women & even children, ON VIDEO, are out here enjoying the New Year FREE & I don’t see no memes of that shit…. & who am I except a man with an opinion……. So I’m not here to ask anyone to do anything other than pay attention & govern yourself accordingly – The Game #BlackLivesSplatter @black_lives_splatter
Une photo publiée par The Game (@losangelesconfidential) le 5 Janv. 2016 à 10h22 PST
Reading The Game’s caption, it is easy to realise how people are blinded by their affection for the fictional character who literally ‘raised’ them on tv…
If you needed further proofs that violence against women is a secondary problem to many… look no more. Let’s understand each other correctly though. I am not saying that police brutality is not/less important than Cosby’s case. I am saying it is AS important that the truth comes out and he isn’t left unpunished.
Turning a blind eye on the veracity of what happened to those women is playing in favour of Rape Culture as it encourages the idea that rape is not real, not important and not penalised.
Sadly enough, the circus around Cosby only confirms one thing: being Black and being a woman leaves you at the bottom of the social ladder. Mind you, I am not being dramatic. Gender and racial equality involve so much intersectionality that it is easy to lose track of what you are really fighting for. But this had to be said. I am a Woman, I am Black and I have to fight every damn day. My sister will have to fight and most probably my kids will have to fight too. Maybe you’re fighting as well… just make sure you’re fighting for the right reasons.