The belated spotlight on Cosby’s misdeeds have forced my hand. As a White woman, I can no longer remain silent as the furor surrounding this sex offender builds. Yes, I use the term ‘sex offender,’ for that is clearly what The Cos is, no matter how much the truth discomfits americans.
How did Cosby get away with this for so long? Why on earth did it take a Black man to expose him? No simple answers exist in this clusterfugue of race, class and sex identity clash. I use the word ‘fugue,’ meaning fog of identity, as a segue, for it was Cosby’s joke about slipping Spanish fly into ‘Crazy Mary’s’ drink that instigated this blog. It can have a psychiatric connotation which seems apropos.
All along Cosby assumed that any claims by his victims (and I do not consider them pure victims in the way I would those who give no consent at all to a sexual encounter) would be deemed the rantings of crazy women. Sex offenders and their enablers, aka the Psych System, have been ‘diagnosing’ female victims of sexual abuse and assault as ‘crazy’ or ‘mentally ill’ for as long as either has existed. The standby joke that Cosby made encapsulates something about the american mindset, and it’s inherent misogyny. In college I had a british exchange student/friend who told me that in the UK, the rapists were castigated as ‘crazy’ and emotionally ‘unhinged,’ in contrast to our american university setting and larger culture, in which, even in the 1990’s, women victims are made fun of and pathologized as such, while the male perp is protected and coddled. At best (meaning our best) he might be rightfully blamed and ‘adjudicated,’ but never deemed ‘psycho.’ At worst he is congratulated. Most times he is simply tolerated and defended. He was ‘just being a man,’ and any complaint by women is most likely some kind of needy, vindictive hysteric’s projections.
So how far have we come since this conversation in 1995? Not very, it seems, given that Cosby’s accusers went public (at least some) a decade ago, and his defense was exposed half a century before that.
Race is another lens through which this fugue comes into focus. For now I’m going to simply allow readers to ponder the analysis offered by Black feminist Brittney Cooper on her blog Crunk Feminist Collective: http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/2014/10/23/clair-huxtable-is-dead-on-slaying-the-cosbys-and-making-space-for-liv-analise-and-mary-jane/
Cooper distills the takeaway:
“How meta does Shonda Rhimes have to get for us to see that she’s peeling back layers, forcing us to look in the mirror, offering Black women opportunities every week to deal with our own racial and sexual traumas at the hands of white patriarchs and white patriarchy? Black men have traditionally dealt with that trauma by aspiring to the level of power white men have. Black women have experienced so much of the trauma of white patriarchy in intimate space –though not only there–and it’s time we had an opportunity to work out that trauma in (representational) intimate space. For once it’s about us and our pain, and what “the man” has done to us, specifically.”
She then bemoans ‘White Supremacy’ as the lesson behind Cosby’s serial sex assaulting of what was mostly White women.
I can’t really distill my…incredulity…shock…rage…wry laughter?…at this characterization of White female victimization by a Black male at this time, but will try to for my next post.