Monday, July 20, 2015

Cosby and patriarchy

I have a hard time explaining my feelings regarding Bill Cosby being a rapist.

I actually didn't watch "The Cosby Show" regularly, and while I did watch "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids", I don't have really strong memories of it. Where the memories come from are his comedy records: Why Is There Air, Bill Cosby Himself, and To My Brother Russell, Whom I Slept With.

We listened to his records all the time growing up. We are a quoting family too, and we would quote sections of his routines. There are still phrases that bring them back to mind, and in the past I would have said it aloud, and now I can't. It's completely ruined. I mainly feel disgust, and it feels like there is something else there. Mourning the loss would make sense, but it doesn't really seem to be that.

It might be because I had some preparation. I had heard the rumors a few years ago, when there weren't as many women coming forward. I was pretty sure it was true, but it just didn't come up that often. I know a lot of people had a "shock" stage, and I didn't. Maybe I was ready for it even before that, because my disillusionment had already started with the cranky old man.

You probably remember that Cosby, the one who was always telling black people to pull their pants up and speak proper English, regardless of how many there were who were already well dressed and educated and still not catching a break. That happened ages before I was even familiar with the phrase "respectability politics" but then when I did learn about it, it all made sense.

I have been thinking about this for two reasons. One is a Facebook exchange with a friend, where again I find that I can't fully explain my feelings, so there is this concern that I am missing something, but not a lot of desire to dwell on him.

In addition, looking over the deposition where the drug procurement is acknowledged, someone commented that it reads exactly like someone who never considered that women are human. So much of patriarchy boils down to who gets to be completely human.

I don't love that term, because "patriarch" has some positive connotations for me. I generally use "hierarchy" when I can, but the one we have is patriarchal in nature, and you can't have a serious discussion without acknowledging that.

The reason "hierarchy" resonates more for me is because it connotes more of the multi-level structure. In a patriarchy it could just be that men led, and it could be familial, but the structure that we have has multiple tiers where sexuality, race, wealth, health, and age, matter in addition to gender. That puts a lot more people not on top, but then they can still believe they are not on the absolute bottom, and some people really get off on that.

I don't know that it has to be inherently abusive, but that's how it comes out. It is interesting today that there is a big story about a site that is used for cheating being hacked, as well as two Gawker editors resigning because a story outing an adulterer was pulled.

I hate adultery, but the people involved in this are not heroes, if for no other reason than because it is so common to use sex as a means of social control. That is how you get slut-shaming and rape threats and catcallers who tell you it's a compliment but ignore the times incidents result in physical assaults.

It is interesting to me how quickly rape fantasies come to conservatives. The first time I noticed it was with Bill Napoli, back in 2006, but then Phil Robertson had one just a few months ago regarding an atheist family. Of course, the emphasis there was on the father's anguish, just like Stephen A Smith couldn't de-center himself from the thought of a relative of his being sexually harassed. When women are accessories to men, then women can be used as a means of punishment, as well as functioning as a status symbol. Remember, Dylan Roof said "You rape our women", even though he did not have a woman, and the woman who supposedly sent him on his dark path did so by choosing a black man of her own volition.

I know that seems all mixed together, but it becomes part of the same thing. If it comes out at some point that Josh Duggar was molested, I will not be surprised. I could even feel sympathy for him, though not as much as for his victims.

But I wouldn't be surprised, because the system that is in place, and which some people fight so hard to keep in place, is one that encourages people to deny the humanity of anyone "below" them. That fosters abuse.

If people in the middle tiers can decide that stepping on others is not only vile but also not worth getting stepped on, maybe we can get somewhere.

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