How we should remember Bill Cosby

Internet meme from Twitter of Bill Cosby in light of rape allegations and the victim blaming response. Cosby tweeted “Meme me!” to his fans, along with a link to a meme generator that resulted in the above picture. The resulting creations were, as should have been expected, less than flattering. (Photo Credit: Twitter User @FilmCow)

By Stephany Harrington, Staff Writer

As of late, rape allegations against Bill Cosby are constantly emerging in the news. I just recently read a CNN article called “How will we remember Bill Cosby?” that discussed the matter and I took serious issues with the way that the author of the article, Todd Leopold, addressed the issue. While reading his discussion, it seemed to me that he was willing to ignore the allegations against Bill Cosby rather than condemn them.

He focused on the fact that Cosby was never tried or convicted of these crimes and that public opinion was deciding his fate. Leopold focused more on the destruction of his career and how he might not be able to recover his popular reputation as an actor and a comedian.

I am not sure that was the intention of this writer’s article, but I have seen this message a number of times in other situations. Frequently, when male college students are accused of rape, a lot of people are likely to sympathize more with the alleged rapists than the accusers. People say things like, “this has ruined these boys’ lives” or “now they might not get scholarships.”

These kinds of statements and opinions excuse the actions of boys and men, rather than punishing them for their misbehavior. People easily place the blame on women for their sexual assault, saying that they must have acted irresponsibly, either by staying out late, drinking, and even wearing skimpy clothing. It seems that some people use any reason to excuse men for rape and assault, claiming that their behavior was out of their control.

This type of victim blaming happens all the time, especially in college settings. People hate the idea of a rapist football star, but a slutty girl at a party is much more believable to the public. Although it would seem to be directly out of sixteenth-century Puritan New England, the stereotype of the female temptress remains in our modern culture. This kind of notion enables the public, especially men, to be victim blamers.

When I read that news article about Bill Cosby, I could not help thinking that the writer’s tone resembled one of a victim blamer. It was subtle, but I immediately picked up on it. Even the title makes it clear that Cosby’s actions were not the most important issue at hand. Instead, the author focused on the how the public will remember Bill Cosby and the complete unraveling of his once iconic reputation. Leopold made it seem that it was more of a problem that Cosby might not be able to recover from such defaming allegations. A number of institutions have already distanced themselves from him, including Temple University and the United States Navy.

The author implies that Cosby is being unfairly judged and convicted by public trial rather than public opinion. He wrote that people do not want to believe he could do such terrible things to women, and he focused on Cosby’s important television roles in the prime of his life and career. He states that these allegations will destroy both his career and reputation, but does not discuss how he devastated the young women that he was accused of assaulting.

This writer was just another person trying to excuse the actions of a man and alleged sexual assailant. People like that just do not want to admit that the allegations could be true, so they continue to sympathize with the accused men and not the victims of accusers. Just because Cosby formerly had reputation of being an important cultural icon does not condone any acts that he may have committed.

People need to stop being so concerned with defending the reputations of men who commit rape or sexual assault. Stop blaming victims and accusers of ruining a man’s life. It only perpetuates stereotypes of women and excuses men for their actions. Fame cannot save Bill Cosby from these allegations, and I hope we do not remember him well.

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Author: Isabel Gibson Penrose

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