Don’t read the comments. This is an important rule of modern media life. The comments following online articles, reviews, and even YouTube videos can be so hateful, so downright moronic as to obliterate not only your faith in humanity but your very will to live. So it is with the Cosby comments.
Some people—mostly men, but not exclusively—suggest that nineteen women (and counting) are lying in order to impugn the good reputation of Bill Cosby. They suggest a liberal conspiracy to bring down the guy who criticized poor black families. Ad nauseam, they chant “innocent until proven guilty,” a laudable legal principle which doesn’t necessarily apply when evidence and common sense suggest a guilty verdict outside the courtroom. Some assert that the women are uniformly man-hating feminazis.
Most of all, though, these commenters impugn the character of the accusing women. Janice Dickinson, for example, has apparently been on reality TV and is known as a publicity seeker. Others were ambitious aspiring stars. They’re not even good looking, for God’s sake. (Whereas, as I’ve commented on some sites, Bill Cosby is so very attractive.) They’re loose women, prostitutes, and gold-diggers. In bizarrely circular reasoning, commenters insist that drugged women can’t provide reliable testimony.
Responding to these people is a waste of time and usually degenerates into name-calling. But, if I were to respond, here’s what I would say. Predators don’t usually prey on strong, independent healthy victims. They sniff out damaged people. Most of Cosby’s victims were grieving a loss, or were exceedingly young, desperate, and needy in some way. They were compromised to begin with.
Amanda Hess wrote about this, way back in February, on a website called XX Factor: “When the victims of rape are adult women, we focus on their behavior and mistrust their testimonies, softening our incrimination of their attackers. When I asked Newsweek’s [Katie J.M.] Baker why she felt that the victims she spoke with [about Bill Cosby] had been ignored, she told me: ‘I think it’s because they were imperfect victims, as victims so often are,’ Baker told me. The two women Baker interviewed were young at the time of the assaults, but over the age of 18. More importantly, ‘they were ambitious aspiring actresses and models who were hanging out with an older man who said he’d make them famous.’ Maybe we take their age and ambition–their self-determination, really–as an excuse to withhold our support.” They were not ideal witnesses, even before Cosby got to them. That’s part of the deal.
Years ago, a Catholic-school principal in our neighborhood got into trouble for sexually abusing a male student at his school. An acquaintance of mine attended the church and had her kids enrolled at the school. She liked and admired the principal and for a long time didn’t believe the accusations. I distinctly recall her saying, “You should see this kid! You should see his mom!” They were, I gleaned, unkempt and unattractive. She’d go on, “That kid was always getting into trouble, and his mom never did anything about it. Nobody should believe anything they say!” The principal eventually confessed and resigned his job.
I generalized from that experience that predators don’t usually choose top student athletes with healthy self-images and involved families. They pick the outliers. They pick people who can’t fight back.
Bill Cosby’s mistake (one of them) was to target Andrea Constand, director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team in 2004.He invited her to his home, drugged her, and molested her. She was shocked and confused enough to wait for a year before accusing him, but only a year. Her suit brought forth thirteen other women with similar stories. Ten years later, this brave woman’s actions have finally received the attention they deserve.
The doubters and misogynists will never be convinced, I know. In the meantime, I’ve got to stop reading their comments, lest I lose the will to live.