By David Futrelle
UPDATE: 6/17 Mistrial
As I write this, I am awaiting what I hope will be a guilty verdict in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial.
Meanwhile, on Philly.com, columnist Christine M. Flowers is wishing “we’d never come to verdict on this case.” Because, in her mind,
Bill Cosby is an easy target, able to stand in for all the men who might have mistreated us in a distant past … it’s as if the tidal wave of feminist history is set to engulf that one man as some kind of vindication for all the women who’ve been wronged.
Let’s see if you can follow her, er, logic here, as I sure can’t. Even before the verdict, Flowers writes,
The greatest damage has already been done, and that is the shattering of beloved myths and comforting relationships by the proxy of television and nostalgia. Bill Cosby is Cliff Huxtable, regardless of what the critics say. … It is ridiculous to argue that a man who was capable of creating the character that fathered a generation did not, at some deep level, possess those nurturing characteristics.
Er, what!? It’s not ridiculous. The world is full of charming abusers, able to hide their true nature from the public. And it’s full of men who treat some women well and others horrifically.
Oh sure, Flowers knows that Mr.
Huxtable Cosby is far from perfect.
And yes, he is an adulterer who admitted to giving women drugs for sex. He has confessed in a secular confessional to betraying the trust of his wife, and perhaps of the women who considered him a mentor before he moved them to another spot on the sliding scale of human interaction.
Seriously? Before he moved them to another spot on the sliding scale of human interaction!?
That’s one way of putting it, I guess.
But I am allowed to refuse to believe that it includes rape.
That you are. And the rest of us are allowed to believe that you’re full of shit.
As Flowers sees it, there are
Too many people willing to pull down a man who, because he happened to say the taboo things that shamed young black men for living down to expectations, is considered a traitor to the race. Too many women who see in this an opportunity to exorcise the ghosts of all the meanness in the world, the assault on their presumed dignity, the Trump effect.
I’m pretty sure that no women think that putting Cosby behind bars will “exorcise” all the evil in the world.
This, I think, is the real reason so many people want to see a conviction: It will confirm that the world is a dangerous place for my gender, and get a condemnation, by proxy, of the patriarchy.
No. But it will bring some small measure of justice to a woman that a lot of us strongly believe is telling the truth about what he did to her.
And that’s my problem with this prosecution. Bill Cosby is an easy target, able to stand in for all the men who might have mistreated us in a distant past, and a cautionary tale to those college frat boys who might take advantage when we lie supine and drunk on the floor in the future.
And why shouldn’t a guilty verdict against Cosby provide a cautionary tale to frat boys “who might take advantage” — that is, rape — women too incapacitated to consent? That is one of the biggest fucking reasons we put people in jail in the first place, to provide “cautionary tales” to other potential criminals. Obviously Flowers, as an adult human being, is aware of this; it;s not clear why she’s decided it’s somehow inappropriate in rape cases.
After a year of leaked commentaries and conversation, evidence and prognostication, we are left with the words of one woman and one man, and yet it’s as if the tidal wave of feminist history is set to engulf that one man as some kind of vindication for all the women who’ve been wronged.
The jury isn’t deliberating feminist history; they’re looking at evidence.
The 50 other accusers, like a finger-wagging Greek chorus in the back of the courtroom, stand in for the wronged women of the past. Gloria Allred leads them in righteous chant, and we look on.
Yes, by all means, reduce the other women who have also accused Cosby of rape to a bunch of “finger-wagging” onlookers.
I do hate these trials that pit an evolving societal ethic against a flawed human being, one person, albeit a person greatly privileged, to make a point that “we’re better, because now we get it.”
This type of proceeding, with breads and circuses and wailing choruses, shows we really haven’t, after all.
Cosby isn’t being tried for violating “an evolving societal ethic.” He’s on trial for rape. Rape was as wrong, and as illegal, in 2004 as it is today. The only “wailing chorus” here is in Flowers’ head.
H/T — @EyesOnTheRight