In an interview on NPR, Bill Cosby responded to the rape allegations with a stony silence. On his Facebook page, the legendary comedian posted a message from his lawyer that read:
“Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment. He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work. There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives.”
It’s understandable that Cosby doesn’t want to go into details about the allegations. After all, his image – that of a family-friendly patriarch – has been questioned and put into doubt. I don’t know if Cosby is guilty, but his silence is problematic because when he’s not addressing these allegations, he’s giving credence to the trope that rape victims often lie.
The Cosby of the post-Cosby Show era has been a social critic who hasn’t thought twice about scolding much of his fan base. He argues for social responsibility, without addressing social and institutional inequalities that often contribute the to kinds of social ills Cosby is railing against; in his new guise as a stern lecturer, he proudly addresses victims of racism, classicism, and social inequality, placing the onus on them for social betterment.
But his quest for social betterment seemed to have side-stepped gender equality. While The Cosby Show has rightly been lauded for its depiction of a marriage where both the man and wife are equal partners in their marriage, Cosby’s silence on the rape allegations has simply reaffirmed much of the misogyny and sexism that has made it so difficult for victims to report being assaulted.
Among the notes of support, as well as suggestions of conspiracy, some of the comments on aforementioned Facebook post on Cosby’s wall include:
“Everyone is human, isn’t it odd on how all these broke gold diggers are coming out to try and weasel a buck for not having to work.”
“I rarely believe rape accusations anyway.”
“I do not believe for one minute he is guilty seriously this woman is just a gold digging twit.”
“All of these women could’ve walked away and never dealt with him after the first alleged assault. Looks to me like they came back for me with a motivation. Maybe they thought if they could please Mr. Cosby’s needs, they could get further in the game.”
“She a hoe fo sho.”
” Sounds like a case of a bunch of groupies gone wrong!! Why would anyone of his celebrity NEED to rape a woman when she will just give it up!!! Also as history has shown, there is always “rape” when it comes to the black man PERIOD!!”
“First off you can’t rape the willing, raped once shame on them raped twice shame on you! She should of taken her self out of the situation! Guess she liked the treatment she was getting, hotels, dinning, traveling, shopping! Please if you think she wasn’t enjoying her self you have problems! Victim myself and not by choice!”
” I think these women just want money, maybe I should claim he raped me too, since apparently evidence isn’t necessary, so I can get a chunk of money. If he was a rapist, and seriously why would he be when he could afford to pay for all the women he could ever want, then wouldn’t each of these women be responsible for any rapes that occurred after their own? They could have accused him, and stopped him from raping others, when they had evidence, but they just let him continue to rape other women. Now, 30 years later, they want to accuse him with no evidence. It should be thrown out of court, and the women charged with slander at this point. In fact, I think Bill should sue them all for slander, there’s plenty of evidence for that.”
“I believe they are golddiggers, never in his career have I noticed mr Cosby to be disrespectfull to women like that, never! I simply cannot believe the allegetations.”
“Studies have shown that over 30% of women have sexual fantasies about being raped. Even if the women were raped by Bill Cosby it is likely that they enjoyed it..”
Some of the trends I see in the posts are that Cosby’s problems are a result of a liberal conspiracy, designed to punish him for supposedly preaching conservative values to black people. Others simply hold to the image of Cliff Huxtable, and simply cannot believe that a man like that could rape a woman (Cliff Huxtable is fiction). There are those who believe that the women were looking to extort the comedian for money, and a common sentiment sprang up that the women were scorned lovers, out for revenge.
If Cosby doesn’t want to go into the rape allegations, he should at least speak out against misogyny – especially, the kind of victim-blaming mentality that’s taken hold among his fans. He doesn’t have to comment on his particular situation, but he should make it clear that he’s against shaming women, especially rape victims who come forward. It shouldn’t matter when the rape took place, or if any settlements were agreed upon. Cosby’s feminism should be more than just the kind of lip service of having his TV wife be a successful attorney. If he really believes in gender equality, he should take this situation and use it for good, and highlight the horrors of rape and sexual abuse. He took his fans to task earlier for what he saw as damaging behavior (i.e. wearing pants slung low and using slang), he should also apply the same kind of condemnation to the misogyny that is trailing these allegations. Bill Cosby is renown for his social activism – it’d be great to see him put it to use to stamp out rape culture and victim-blaming.