Yesterday I wrote about how Bill Cosby made lewd comments to me when I was a student at Temple University. It was the mid-1990s and I was just 18 years old.
It was just comments and just once; but still it is unforgettable. The story sits with me--especially in light of the 60 women who have come forward to accuse him of drugging, groping, raping and otherwise sexually terrorizing them. It is like a brush with evil--a moment when a cold, dark breeze settled over me. I am glad the breeze was brief--but it is hard to believe how much his evil, predatory acts settled over so many others and in ways that left more permanent scars for the women he physically assaulted.
He's out of prison, on a legal technicality. His lawyers thinks the anger should be directed at the prosector who made a promise 18 years ago. But, really the anger will always be at Cosby. It is not just that he did terrible things and found a way to wiggle out from his punishment; it is that he seems to have no remorse and no humility. The things he did and the people he did those things to are not even important enough to him to acknowledge.
He is, and perhaps always has been, a wolf disguised as a comedian. He is just like all the other predators--the men who undress and victimize women with their words and their violence and the others who watch or witness and think nothing of it.
I keep thinking about what happened at that football game in 1995--and in turn, all the other times I was targeted, harassed and made to feel undressed and ashamed by the lewd, vile words of a man.
It has happened more times than I can count and I know I am not unique or alone in this arena. It is a story that is repeated over and over again. It is a story I feel certain my daughters will live--in one way or another. I am not sure how to prepare them for this--a reality that I cannot fully change and a certainty that someday, a wolf will breeze by them, too.
I remember on my 13th birthday, my Dad asked me not to wear my crop top to the Phillies game--not because he ever censored my attire choices, but because he said: "Some of the men at the game will say things to you and I won't be able to put up with it."
I got so angry, I almost did not go. My Dad was trying his best to give me some wisdom about how the world works. The truth is: the world is not fair. Men say things. And they don't care who witnesses it.
It is not just a cat call or a whistle or even a creepy "hey, beautiful," or even the controlling, "Smile more." There are men that say horrible, lewd, predatory things to 13 year old girls in front of their fathers or to 18 year old students in front of a stadium. They don't do these things in secret, they do these things openly while people watch, silently, because it is just words, right? What's the harm, right?
Once when I was in high school, I was in New York City with my family. A man on the opposing street corner was repeatedly talking about my body. I was in jeans and a flannel. My father was there. He was deaf in one ear and he could not hear him. But I heard every word. I was horrified and ashamed and embarrassed--like somehow my body had caused this to happen. I spent the rest of the day with my arms folded against my chest and my head down. It felt like my body---the beautiful body that would go on to birth three children and run a half marathon and hold my brother as he lay dying--betrayed me.
But, it was never my body or her body or your body. It was him and his deep, dysfunctional and sick behavior.
Still, though, he was talking about me--it is personal and it made me want to shrivel up and hide, as he continued to dissect the most personal pieces of me. And even as I know it is just words, I also know I always feared and suspected that those words could be contagious--and invite a lewd, leering crowd. Or that those words could turn into action and bring violence right to my body.
It is those words and that disrespect that have undressed me. And I don't know how to change the reality of this happening--I just know that all I can do is raise my son to never behave this way and to never tolerate this and raise my daughters to know that this could happen; but also that they should never tolerate these words and for them to know that the world is unfair--but they have a voice that can give light to inequities and injustices.
This world will always need those words--the good ones--to cancel out the bad ones.