You’ve probably been seeing Bill Cosby’s name popping up everywhere recently. Ever since comedian Hannibal Buress brought up the rape allegations against Cosby at a recent show, causing a stir in the entertainment community, a lot has gone down.
It’s not an easy truth to face (Cosby is a beloved comic, actor, and pop culture father figure to many), but these are the facts and the recent repercussions that are now rippling through the media:
- Earlier this week, Joan Tarshis accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting her in 1969.
- Model Janice Dickinson also just came forward to Entertainment Tonight to describe Cosby sexually assaulting her in 1982.
- 13 women, including Andrea Constand, were going to testify in court to convict Cosby of drugging and raping them across a time spanning three decades. Cosby settled outside of court in 2006, so he has never actually faced charges in court for these accusations.
- The Associated Press just released previously unseen footage of an interview with Cosby and his wife in which Cosby refuses to comment on accusations of sexual assault and later asks the interviewer to edit out the question from the video completely.
- NBC has dropped its deal with Cosby to do a sitcom and TV Land is pulling reruns of The Cosby Show, and Netflix has dropped its upcoming comedy special about him.
So more importantly, what does this all add up to? Both new, and decades-old accusations are all now coming together and resurfacing at this particular moment in our society’s cultural conversation. Why now? Ta-Nehisi Coates writes at The Atlantic that even when he was covering the problematic black conservatism and respectability politics of Cosby back in 2008, he knew about the accusations but (regretfully) barely mentioned them in his essay. Now, he acknowledges the silence and the audacity in our society of continuing to give Cosby the benefit of the doubt while accusations STILL continue to come in from victims, saying:
“A defense of Cosby requires that one believe that several women have decided to publicly [falsely] accuse one of the most powerful men in recent Hollywood history of a crime they have no hope of seeing prosecuted, and for which they are seeking no damages. The alternative is to see one of the most celebrated public fathers of our time, and one of the great public scourges of black morality, revealed as a serial rapist.” [*Note my own]
Coates goes on to succinctly lay it all out:
“It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us.”
What we can learn from this public ordeal is that we now live in a society that is aware of rape culture, the prevalence of sexual assault, the amount of times sexual assault happens without any justice for the victims in court, and maybe a society that is slightly more aware that celebrities are capable of such horrible crimes.
Janice Dickinson did not come forward for attention, she came forward to tell her story, just like the other women who have spoken out. The difference is that now in 2014, with feminism as a buzzword and women fighting for equal rights now at the forefront in the cultural conversation– maybe, just maybe, victims of sexual assault will be more likely to speak up, even if the person they accuse is a rich and famous man. While Cosby is still not facing any charges in court as of today, his career and public image are taking a major hit. At age 77, Cosby may be calling it quits, and that may be the small justice paid in the name of his accusers.