I’m sad about Bill Cosby.

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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38 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    “I hate being reminded that something has been taken from me that I’ll never get back. A sense of security that I had as a child is gone. I can no longer rest easy in the assumption that any given man that I encounter isn’t inherently a threat to my children or myself. ”

    It’s called the real world for a reason. You’ve had the cover ripped off and seen how the sausage is really made. It’s also called growing up.

    “To put it plainly – I have to at least consider that every man I encounter may be a predator.” Well, it ain’t like women are the primary predators, so that’s completely logical to be wary of men. Hell, I am. Do we not scan our environment when out in public? Do we not think better of taking that short cut down the dark alley? Hell yes. I don’t know how many times I had to remind my now ex to keep her mind on where she was and what she was doing rather than daydreaming or looking at her phone walking to her car in Baltimore.

    May your kids gradually be exposed to this vs a sudden shock. I think that’s the only hope you can have.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Damon says:

      An important part of attaining full adulthood is reaching a set of understandings about your own parents (or whatever other adults raised you):

      1. They are imperfect people with faults, who have made some bad decisions; and
      2. Some of those bad decisions were sub-optimal parenting choices that concerned you; and
      3. That’s okay, because you realize they mostly did the best they could even if that wasn’t always perfect, and so you accept them for who they are and you love them anyway.

      The thing about celebrities, especially ones that you followed and enjoyed as a child, is that they too are sort of parental figures: they’re adults you admire in some way. Realizing that they too are imperfect, and have made bad decisions, is a part of attaining maturity about that person.

      Unfortunately, we don’t seem to realize that point #3 does not apply to your “relationship” with a celebrity. You don’t have a relationship with a celebrity. You admire this person, or more precisely, you admire who you perceive that person to be. But they don’t owe you doing their best for you and in part because they don’t know you at all. And you don’t have to keep on admiring them if you learn something about them that you really can’t live with.

      At least, it’s much easier for me to compartmentalize liking attribute X and disliking attribute Y about a celebrity, someone I don’t actually know. Because I don’t have to deal with that person one-on-one; I can only deal with attribute X. For instance, no way am I going to condone or support the criminally bad deeds of an athlete like Michael Vick or Ben Roethlisberger. But I find it easy to segregate that off-field conduct from assessing and appreciating their on-field performance. When I watch a football game, I’m not watching those guys interact with dogs or women (or the justice system). I’m watching them play football. It’s not hard for me to say, “Roethlisberger probably ought to be behind bars right now for rape, but he isn’t and while that’s unjust, he just made a fantastic pass.”Report

      • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Can’t relate Burt. I’ve never looked up to a celebrity for anything other than the thing he was a celebrity for, and not much then.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @burt-likko Easier for some, not for others.

        And there’s such a gap between “made some sub-optimal decisions sometimes” and “was criminally cruel and/or abusive to people weaker than them” that your analogy falls down for me before I even get to not being able to watch Roethlisberger without hoping he breaks something.

        Note that I have one parent who falls into the latter category, and is deeply flawed, but also pretty great, whom I love with all my heart, talk to regularly, and visit; and another parent who falls into the 2nd category, whom I would be happy to never see again. The idea that I *ought* to put parent number 2 into the first category was definitely out there in the culture …. but for as long as my family accepted it, it mostly contributed to a) making us even more miserable for even longer, and b) giving him cover for future criminal acts.Report

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    And if you’re a bit older, you remember Cosby from his comedy records about growing up in Philadelphia, playing buck-buck and touch football in the street, or being terrified by late-night horror shows (the material that eventually became the Fat Albert cartoons). It was hilarious and warm and heartfelt, all at the same time. Now it’s just rancid.Report

    • Damon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Thanks for making me feel even older.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Mike Schilling says:


      exactly that.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Wonderfulness was an LP I listened to until the record wore out.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Roman Polanski and Woody Allen do not make heart felt family entertainment. It makes separating the art from the artist easier in that case because their crimes create less dissonance. You don’t watch a Roman Polanski movie and say how can such a man create something so heart warming. You do that with Cosby though and that makes it hard.Report

      • Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @leeesq This is true but it’s also true that given both of those men bring up related themes in some of their art, I find it strange that people can enjoy and consume those things. I mean, Allen’s next movie has a young teenager in love with an old man…. no idea how people can watch that without being more aware of his alleged awfulness toward his small daughter than of the movie itself, but plenty will.Report

        • Kristin Devine in reply to Maribou says:

          I do too, even Allen’s masterpieces like Manhattan are just really offputting let alone his modern stuff.

          Before this all came out I used to wonder “Does he not understand he could be making a much more interesting movie if he were the grandfather and not the love interest” (even when he has a stand in to play himself we all know it’s meant to be him). But I now see that making an interesting movie is not really what it’s about for him.Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    As a side note, that picture makes me mostly nostalgic for Ben’s Chili Bowl, probably the best restaurant in DC. I think they did finally change the mural, but it was painful. Cosby used to take his wife there when they were dating and it was long a point of pride for them.Report

  4. CJColucci says:

    We must always remember that We Don’t Know These People. We may admire their artistic or athletic or other talents, which sometimes showcase desirable human qualities other than their raw talents, but did what did we really know about Bill Cosby or Kobe Bryant, or [fill in the blank]? Some of them, maybe many, will turn out to be awful human beings in a variety of ways, including sexual predation.
    Sticking with Cosby for a moment, it would have been jaw-droppingly dumb if any of the 30-odd women he drugged and abused didn’t think going in that Cos might want to have sex with them — not because they had reason to suspect what Cosby was, but simply because he is a man. I’d be willing to bet that some of them, had Cos let nature take its course, would have had sex willingly. Most men aren’t predators, and most will take no — all right, maybe you have to say it twice — for an answer. Women should be able to rely on that.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to CJColucci says:

      I get the feeling that he either got off on drugging and raping them or thought he could get away with cheating on his wife that way.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to CJColucci says:

      I assume it’s a lot more than 30. Decades after the fact, how many would be willing to come forward and put their life in a blender? Explain to their husbands, employers, children, etc that they’re going to be in the news in such a way and everything else will have to take a backseat for weeks/months/years? 10%? 5%?

      Once a month for 10 years would be 120. I very much doubt Bill was only active once a month and for only every 10 years.

      Sometimes math is ugly.Report

  5. Chip Daniels says:

    What do we do when evil is right in our midst, right in our families, right inside of us ourselves?

    When I was a teenager, I knew a priest who was remarkably kind and thoughtful and had such a brilliant incisive mind, I can still remember his sermons to this day, and even flirted with the idea of becoming a priest myself because of him.

    Years later I picked up the paper and saw that he had been accused of forcing himself sexually on a young man, and was convicted.

    I remember reading the charges and indignant testimony although I couldn’t deny them, I found myself wanting to shout, But there is more to this man than the sum of his sins! He is not unredeemable evil, there is another side to him that deserves to be seen and testified to.

    I suppose this is why I keep returning to the notion of confession, forgiveness, and redemption.

    Its easy to think of simply sending a Cosby away somewhere out of sight and out of mind.
    But right now all across America there are husbands and fathers, teachers and coaches, bosses and managers who are either committing sexual harassment and assault, or flirting with the boundary.

    They aren’t monsters, they aren’t going to simply disappear and be replaced by angels. We need to find a way to come to terms with human frailty and darkness, and work towards healing where we can.Report

    • CJColucci in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      My parents subtly discouraged my interest in becoming an altar boy. It was only many years later that the reasons became apparent.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      There are certain people who relentlessly pursue power, who use their power and position to abuse others in so many ways. Those people, I never trust, no matter how good their intentions seem. Their pursuit of power always tarnishes, to some degree, whatever good may come.

      But the people who seem to have greatness thrust upon them, who we later find to be damaged… I have to wonder if it’s them, or just the nature of fame & renown finding a way to corrupt anyone who is not actively working against it.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I’m less concerned with healing and more with prevention.

      Burning down Cosby’s life and his life’s work is painful but sends the right message.

      Holding up unacceptable behavior and proclaiming it unacceptable deals with the problem, letting it hide in the darkness does not.Report

  6. Mark van H says:

    The worst part is that if you really want to protect your children from sexual predators, you need to watch are close family friends, their uncles, (step)father and your son’s themselves with caution and distrust.
    While every man might be a predator, the predators for most abuse victims is usually close to the family or from the family itself. People you trust implicitly, people you just know are the good guys.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Mark van H says:

      I’m not sure you can live your life like that, though. Constantly distrusting those closest to you? That seems like a recipe for misery. Is it possible, evidently it’s always possible, but I to some extent trust my instincts towards those who I live with day in and day out more than a coach or a youth pastor, TBH.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Mark van H says:

      This, and @chip-daniels ‘ point, are probably closer to what’s realistic for most of us to have to encounter, as opposed to the “going on a date with a beloved celebrity” situation. (On which I have a thought, but I’ll express that thought in a different comment in a few moments.)

      One point of the perniciousness of that kind of sexual abuse is that it frequently happens at a formative point in a young person’s development — either right around the time independent consciousness and long-term memory coalesce, or right around the time puberty manifests. This can and often does cause tremendous harm which can last an entire lifetime, rendering everyone in proximity to the victim vulnerable to its effects.

      The other is that it is perpetrated by someone who is, by definition in a position of trust. If that person is not in a position of trust, there is no trust to betray. And people in that position are the ones that it’s hardest to see problems with.

      You can’t not trust people, but you also can’t trust people. I don’t know what to do about that. I do, unfortuantely, have some relatively recent experience with being on the receiving end of how that kind of pain can hurt people years later that the perpetrator didn’t even know when the crime was committed. Worse, I realize that I’m FAR from unique in this.Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    There’s a lot of these things ghosts haunting my various entertainments.

    I’ve said for a long while that I’m not going to watch any Polanski movies until he is dead (and I faltered and watched “The Ghostwriter” when I was on an overseas flight). I used to very much enjoy Woody Allen movies but I can’t watch them anymore. (And the trailer for Blue Jasmine made me want to see it very much.)

    I used to love Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and wanted to buy the box set of it… but I pretty much don’t think I’d be able to watch the cartoon now. My family used to check his albums out from the library and we’d laugh until our sides hurt. I can’t recommend them anymore.

    Can’t watch Joss Whedon stuff anymore. Can’t enjoy Ben Affleck as Batman. Pixar is screwed up now too.

    And the worst part is that even though a lot of stuff is being cancelled and people are being digitally removed from movies, I know that there’s been no shortage of “this was an open secret!” being said by people who, somehow, wanted me to know that they knew about this but didn’t do anything.

    And that makes me think that these things are being cancelled not because the people responsible for distributing found out about it, but because the people responsible for distributing found out that schulbs like me found out about it.

    Omelas was a lot nicer before they put pictures of the kid on every billboard.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

      Can’t watch Joss Whedon stuff anymore.

      Eh? Are people other than his ex-wife claiming something?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter says:

        Nope. Just his ex-wife.

        And even if what she says is 100% true, the only thing he’s particularly guilty of is being willing to be swayed in how a story should go by a particularly enthusiastic actress who has a strong idea of the character.

        And yet.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

          Nope. Just his ex-wife.

          So she’s…
          1) Mentally ill (from the previous link you posted)
          2) Pissed at him.
          3) Co-founded Bellwether Pictures with him and presumably would benefit by forcing him out.
          4) Has a 12 and 14 year old kid with him and these charges might be the difference between “joint custody” and “sole custody”.

          Any one of these issues should be a real problem as far as credibility.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter says:

            Oh, please understand. I’m not arguing that her accusations are sufficient for me to argue that he ought to be shot behind the chemical sheds.

            I’m just saying that they’re sufficient for me to not enjoy his work.Report

  8. Bob the Human says:

    This is a difficult truth to accept, but humans are animals. I don’t necessarily mean this in a derogatory sense, but rather as a statement of fact. We are all human animals.

    As much as we like to distance ourselves from this basic fact, citing aspects of our existence like our habits of walking upright and wearing fashionable clothing, our animal instincts are incredibly strong. One could argue that there was a time when they absolutely needed to be, in order to survive as a species. Our sexual urges ensure that we reproduce. Our craving for food and our bodies’ built-in ability to store fat ensures that we have the sustenance to survive. Our fight-or-flight response ensures we either run from danger, or muster up the strength and courage to defeat it.

    We live in a world now where these things may not be necessary. There is less of a biological purpose in storing fat when there’s a McDonald’s on every city block. Our fight-or-flight response is no longer triggered by dangerous wild animals, but silly things like being cut off in traffic or a particularly spiteful YouTube comment. Sex is equal measures procreational and recreational.

    My point is that the animal urges still exist within all of us but they manifest themselves in odd ways, because they don’t really have a fit in today’s society as a whole. We feel compelled to eat when we’re not hungry because our bodies are designed to store fat. We hate this about ourselves, but it’s incredibly difficult for most people to go on a diet and lose weight. Losing weight is the exact opposite of what our bodies are designed to do. We got to anger management classes to try to curb the fight-or-flight response, as if reacting to a perceived threat is some horrible reaction that should never have come about.

    What this all means is that it’s also incredibly difficult to resist sexual impulses when they present themselves. I don’t know why some adult humans find children more sexually irresistible than other adults. That’s outside the scope of my thoughts for today. I will say, though, that whatever your particular sexual flavor, it’s immensely difficult to curtail the animal part of your brain and deny these hard-wired, primitive impulses that are in place to make us breed. It’s never a rational or logical decision.

    I’m not saying that nobody can ever overcome their primitive urges, or that we should all just be given free rein to act like animals. I’m just saying that the urges drive us in ways we cannot ever fully control. We are animals who use tools and a sophisticated language and write remarkably insightful essays, but at the end of the day, we’re still just animals.

    Gonna go make a sandwich now. Yes, I already had dinner. Shut up.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Bob the Human says:

      “incredibly difficult to resist sexual impulses when they present themselves.”

      Respectfully, Bob, no, it’s not THAT incredibly difficult. Like maybe a 4 to a 6 on a scale of 10, as far as the difficult things humans do go. It’s not climbing Mount Everest, it’s not even not eating that second sandwich. There are plenty of truly celibate people, and plenty of people who do, sexually, pretty much what they think they ought to do, and no more. It can be far more difficult when something as huge as your entire sexual orientation is at stake, which is why people suffer so when they try to “convert” themselves to being straight, but just day to day garden variety “this is not moral so I better squash it” reactions? 6/10 is a generous difficulty estimate.

      Great apes (including humans most especially, unless bonobos are especially-er than us and I just don’t recognize it because their mores are different) are *generally* wired to have highly adaptive, highly socially flexible, highly communicative sexuality. As with most human animal failings, some kind of trauma or learned reaction is usually at the bottom of harmful urges.Report

      • kenB in reply to Maribou says:

        “incredibly difficult to resist sexual impulses when they present themselves.”
        Respectfully, Bob, no, it’s not THAT incredibly difficult.

        This is something that varies significantly from person to person. As tempting as it is to use the “just keep it in your pants” line, I think it’s as unhelpful in this context as the equivalent approach is in other contexts relating to human behavior.Report

        • Maribou in reply to kenB says:

          @kenb “Keep it in your pants” is not what I was saying. And Bob is presenting his claim, that we’re animals and we can’t help our sexual impulses most of the time, in the context of someone who drugged and raped 30 women. It’s really *not* that difficult for the vast majority of people (or other great apes) to not do things like that, and I am vastly skeptical that the only reason Cosby did what he did is because of his “animal” side. That does a disservice to animals, frankly. The point of my comment was to distinguish between normal animal urges and outsize, problem behaviors, which are known to almost always be a result of trauma or learned reactions (think Skinnerian here) or other brokenness in an individual.Report

  9. DavidTC says:

    And how about possibly, going out on a crazy, crazy limb here, advising women and men too for that matter in every industry that taking meetings in hotel rooms is probably a bad idea. That’s what offices are for, people. Preferably glass-walled ones surrounded by nosy personal assistants.

    That’s the second time I’ve seen that in as many days, and it seems non-workable, as advice, at least towards women. (Men, OTOH, should realize what that request might _look like_, and ask to met elsewhere.)

    You can’t just tell people ‘Do not do what your boss says, despite the fact he’s broken no rules or laws’. Perhaps it is worthwhile to try to get a re-location, and perhaps reasonable bosses will agree…but failing that, employees can’t just refuse.

    You want to assert that industries or workplaces _should_ have rules against meeting in hotel rooms, that makes sense, although I will note that meeting off-site is not only expected in some industries, but basically required. For example, if a company sends two sales people of different genders to another city where they do not have an office, they basically have nowhere to meet to work on strategy besides one of their hotel rooms.

    But ‘there should be rules about that’ is not the same as ‘refuse to do entirely legal and within-the-rules requests of your boss’. If a woman’s boss asks her to meet him in a hotel room, and there’s no specific reason she can point to not to do that that the company itself will agree to, she basically has to or risk her job.

    …and this is the point where I offhandly mention that everyone, even women, are carrying recording devices around in their pocket, and even if you’re in a state that requires two-party consent for recording conversations, usually that only applies if the conversation is happening in private, and not, say, something you thought was a ‘business meeting’.Report