Trigger warning for rape/sexual assault in this post.
This week, my adoring gaze has fallen on Bill Cosby. Not so much the man himself, but the decision of those people who represent him on social media to ask people to meme him, using a meme generator on his website @ http://billcosby.com/cosbymeme (now defunct), fully underestimating the virulence of feminist twitter. They went wild. Por ejemplo:
First, let me back up a bit, because you might not have context on all this. William Henry Cosby, Jr., the beloved comedian, has been famous to us for years for a number of ventures. These include The Cosby Show, Fat Albert, Kids Say the Darnedest Things, and others. He is well-known and well-adored for humorous and positive, if occasionally unrealistic, portrayals of Black family life, not to mention for giving us the best possible way to say “Jello Pudding.”
He’s also been accused of multiple rapes and sexual assaults.
As has been mentioned a few times in the past year, several women have come forward with accusations that the wonderful, funny, Bill Cosby is a sexual predator. Now, that may be hard to swallow, but you should do so anyway. Let me give you some examples.
- Tamara Green, a lawyer from California talked about her assault in an interview on The Today Show. You can watch it here.
- Barbara Bowman, of Denver, who recounts an incident where Cosby used her hand to pleasure himself and an attempted rape, as well as two incidents where she was drugged and came to not know what had happened.
- Beth Ferrier, also of Colorado, who says:
“All I had to drink was coffee and the room was spinning. Then I wake up with my clothes a mess and my bra unhooked. I wondered, I still wonder, ‘What did he do with me? Why was my bra unhooked? What happened?'” When she later asked Cosby about the incident, “He said, ‘We’ll never speak of this again.’”
There are several other women who have come forward about assaults by Cosby, or have been party to lawsuits against him. This is not a single isolated incident, or a couple of misunderstandings. This appears, to any rational observer, to be a pattern of sexually assaulting and taking advantage of women. Such a pattern should be indicative of sick mind. Many sources have asked, why, if these allegations were made public, did no one speak of them before now? From Gawker:
To reiterate: This was in People magazine, published nationwide in December 2006. Four women said publicly, in major media outlets, that Bill Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted them. This coverage was more recent and possibly more prominent that the coverage of the abuse allegations against Woody Allen.
And? Basically nobody wanted to live in a world where Bill Cosby was a sexual predator. It was too much to handle.
As a society, we have real trouble facing it when our heroes turn out to have done monstrous things. I phrase it that way as opposed to “turn out to be monsters” because it’s not productive to distance ourselves from people who do horrific things instead of examining what in our own world supports that behavior. We have to ask ourselves what that says about us.
#cosbymeme isn’t alone in the history of Twitter fails—there are so many backfires and failed hashtag hijacks. But this one is a good example of how, if you have committed some untoward deeds that you expected the world to forget about, the internet can and will chin-check you. Essentially, what Bill Cosby’s media team is asking you to do is this:
This week, the internet said “no”.
But this isn’t my web crush this week because I’m a big fan of shade on the internet (I am), or even because I am endlessly amused by social media fails (that, too). It’s because it’s proof that the internet can take a stand on something, make it known, and force people and mainstream media outlets to talk about something they were trying to avoid. That’s not “clicktivism” or “slacktivism” or whatever horribly outdated word some old person came up with to diss millenials. It’s people speaking out in the world’s largest public forum. I’m a fan of that.
For some other brilliant examples of horrifying social media backfires, wherein the internet takes on Robin Thicke, R. Kelly, and the NYPD respectively, check out #askthicke, #askrkelly, or my personal favorite, #mynypd.