This post is sparked by the two sides of a very sordid story. That story is of Bill Cosby. The women who voiced sexual abuse and rape vs the man we all imagined to actually be Dr. Cliff Huxtable denying said allegations. Most of society sided with Bill Cosby initially, instead of the women “claiming” they’d been sexually abused by him. Now, however, it comes to light that Cosby previously admitted to drugging women for sex, and there is now opposing backlash that people are siding against Cosby only now, instead of initially believing the women.
There’s a flaw with this type of thinking. It is a flaw that society itself has created. It created Rape Culture, but it is not Rape Culture. It is that, in society, there needs to be proof and/or influence to decide what is true and what is not true.
It is true that there is Rape Culture. That women are not believed when they are raped, that rape kits are not offered or processed because the women are not believed, that most of society sees women as either having to be pure or baby making machines. Where no seems to not mean no, and where no “yes” means “go for it”. I am not denying that this happens.
But this story is not really, at its heart, the prevalence of Rape Culture, and more to do with societies views on many things as a whole.
I will make an allegory, which is not intended to negate victims or to make their situation less real, but an attempt to show people who don’t see it, what they can see more easily.
Let’s look at Science and Art. Science was initially a means to study, to explore, to find reason, to find truth. That is not science today. It has morphed into a ruling group of scientists; if they think it warrants further investigation or is something that might be possible, then it gets investigated or becomes plausible. However, if they already believe it to be untrue (which is not how science is supposed to work), it doesn’t exist.
You, as a scientist can bring all the evidence or proof to them that you want, but it will not be enough for them, or does not count because they have not witnessed it with their own eyes or testings. A thing which won’t happen, because they are uninterested in it to begin with. On a very small-scale, they might be persuaded to investigate it, but more often they will not, and your scientific credentials are now in serious question.
However, if you also have influence, you can get your foot in the door. If influence is against you, you might as well just pack up and leave. Influence is either THE influential group of scientist calling the shots, or a member of society who is seen as influential; a president, a celebrity, etc. If a non science person of influence sides with you, the group may listen to you. If a non science person of influence does not side with you, you have absolutely no hope.
The same can be said in the art world. Art was intended to be a way to create; a way to bring attention, visually, to things that needed changing, to spark ideas and thoughts. Now, similar to science, there is a group who decide what is and what is not art. It is their decision. Too bad if you bring proof, in the form of a gallery opening or sales or 50,000 people agreeing that your work is in fact art. If they’ve already decided your work is not art, then it is not art, and very little “proof” will change that. It will take a lot of this type of “proof” to make them see another possibility. However, if you are lucky, someone within that influential art group will see your proof and your foot might be in the door.
However, most of the time it is based on non art persons of influence to sway this imposing art groups views. It is very high school. The people of influence are the “cool” kids. There could be a celebrity or political figure, but if most of society does not like them, they are not influential. President Obama is seen as one of the “cool” kids. Former President Bush (lil’ Bush) is not seen as one of the “cool” kids. Former President Bush liking your scientific theory or your art will not win you any favours at all and will decrease your chances of being heard. However, because President Obama is seen as one of the “cool” kids, if he sides with your scientific theory or likes your art, people will notice. The particular groups in question will see you in a different light. You will be heard.
Anything in our society seems to run this way. Influence trumps truth for the most part. You need proof in every aspect of society to be heard. And not just any type of proof, but the correct proof, the right type of proof as dictated by particular groups dictating such things. If things stack against you, it does not matter how much proof or the types of proof, you are guilty before you’ve had your trial, so to speak.
It is not, in the least, surprising to me that no one believed all of the women that came out against Bill Cosby. He is rather influential. People dig him, they always have. He carries himself in a way to make you fond of him, as most people were fond of his character of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show. The women had no proof, or too little proof to come up against a social giant, so to speak.
Take rape/sexual assault out of the equation and you would get the same results. Say that the women were claiming that Bill Cosby had robbed them each of $2,000. There is no proof, he is influential. No one would have believed these women whether it was $2,000 he stole, or if it was their dignity.
I’m not saying that Rape Culture doesn’t play a part in this, but there is a much bigger picture here and one that we all, as people working within a society, helped to create. The root of this story in particular, and of Rape Culture, of minorities being “lesser” than, is all based in influence. It is not to say things are not changing, because they are. Ten, twenty years ago, Donald Trump could have said the exact same thing about Latino’s and no one would have cared. He was influential. But, because Latin Americans have been a cause of debate recently there have been discussions, albeit most of them are snarky and rude from both sides concerning most of the people doing the speaking. But there has been talking of sorts. With out those conversations and realizations, Trumps’ recent words would have had no ill effect on society. But there has been a lot of work in the past years, by Latin Americans, to be seen as people and not stereotypes. The internet is a vast place. It can be a hurtful tool, but it can also be a beneficial one. The Latin American group gained non-Latin allies within society. The numbers grew. This, and only this is the reason Donald Trumps’ words caused a backlash. By Latin Americans speaking out, rallying, demanding their voices be heard within society.
This does not mean that their battles are over, but because of Trumps’ recent words, you can see how much they have accomplished already. They have started to turn influence into truth.
You can see the change of influence with the tragedies befalling the African-Americans and the police. Twenty years ago, most of society could have cared less. The police were influential. A cops word out-trumped yours by a hundred; they were seen as protectors of all in society (though that certainly has never been true in any place), but it was perceived and believed. It is not a civil battle, it is quite terrible, but with it you are seeing that all of the work that African-Americans have put into being heard, and garnering non black allies has changed the influence of the police. They are no longer as influential as they once were. Most of society are not seeing a cop and believing him blindly. They are finally hearing what the black people have to say on the matter. One can see that the tides have turned. It is not over, and is by no means an ideal situation to be in, but people are listening. Things are changing. Without their work, this change could have not taken place.
There is still much work to undo what we, as a society, have done in terms of women. Society’s thoughts have made it to where women are to remain virginal and pure. To marry and serve their husbands and give them lots of babies. That women are property, that their bodies are not their own. Gaining the vote made it law on paper that we were people and not a possession, but that doesn’t mean that society immediately accepts that in their minds.
Women are still seen as property by most of society, though their time as property lawfully ended in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Only people who could own land had the right to vote. If you were a possession you could not own land, and therefor could not vote. But there is still a societal mentality that women somehow belong to men, in every sense of the word. It has always been seen as natural that men take a partner or multiple partners before they are married. It has, equally been seen as unnatural for a woman to do so.
Only recently, since the 1970s, have a number of women vocally announced that they are free to take premarital lovers, if they so choose. Yes, the pill was introduced in 1960, but most women were obtaining it in secret. It has been over forty years and women are still seen as whores if they have premartial sex, whether it is one partner or multiple partners. The mentality appears to be if she’s a whore, then it doesn’t matter if you sleep with her against her will or not. Her having premarital sex = whore = no rights. This is pervasive amongst women who are sexually assaulted or who are raped. If the girl is a virgin, society is more likely to listen to her, whereas if she has already had sex, then she was just asking for it, because she’s a tramp.
I will not get into all the arguments of the opposing side as to why the woman was “asking for it” or “enjoying it” or simply “lying.” There is Rape Culture, as in rape is “acceptable” because it is not seen as anything other than consensual sex between partners, or because the women somehow caused this to happen. The reasons to argue against nay-sayers or Rape Culture is for another article altogether.
You can take all of the sexuality out of this and it is still human nature. Someone is accused of cheating on a test. Some will fight that verdict to have their voices heard, while others will just hope it goes away or simply not know the course of action to take. It is not a question of rape did or did not happen, it is a question of the combinations of individual spirit, varying human natures, and societal conditioning. Here’s something to read if you think women want rape because they do not respond the way that you think they should.
This recent thing with Bill Cosby only shows me that, sadly, we as women have not made as great of strides as we had hoped in over-turning influence. Barring Cosby’s own admission of guilt, society would have still needed someone of influence to corroborate the women’s accounts of sexual abuse and rape. I am less focused on admonishing society for not believing this until Cosby corroborated, and more focused on shedding light on the fact that we have built a society in which influential corroboration is even needed. Where only the correct type of proof and equations can be believable.
These people have been conditioned in this way. They may not even realize that is exactly what they were doing; harbouring a verdict because of the correct type of proof and following influence. I, myself, am guilty of this concerning this story.
When the news started trickling in that Bill Cosby had sexually assaulted and raped this woman and then that one and another, eventually totalling 42 women, it is not that I did not believe them, nor is that I automatically sided with Bill Cosby. There are various reasons as to my particular human nature as well as societal conditioning. I am conditioned to have proof. While I find that our society demands entirely too much proof or the “perfect” proof, and I find that to be damaging, I do need proof of sorts.
Taking out Cosby’s influential status, and lets say it was a man with no influence and is not known. One woman and I would have been undecided. Why? Not because she’s a “lying whore out to destroy some man”, but because it is he said/she said. I was not there, I do not know these people personally, or of their characters or what they are capable of doing.
This is why, in our justice system, no one is believed (not they are not supposed to be) right off the bat. They are talked to, witnesses and close family and friends are interviewed to get an idea of the every day character of the two people whether it is murder, rape, or child custody, etc. One also does not automatically believe when more people come forward on an issue because, as sad as it is, there are copy-cats. People who jump on board of any issue as it will garner attention. It is not the norm, but it does happen, and as such can’t be definitive to prove either way.
However, by the time enough people come forward on something, it’s time to take notice, not because as humans you instinctively have to believe the large numbers, but because now it’s time to do some sort of investigating. I can not tell you if this is all human nature, or whether it is human nature in basis that has been distorted by societal conditioning.
But for me, I personally did not know at first, though probably these women were telling the truth. I, however, did not follow the story and instead chose to ignore it until now because of Bill Cosby’s influence in a way. His influence did not make me feel that he was an infallible hero and how dare these women, the way a lot of people were, but that I did not want to face that he was a monster.
This was a man I had grown up with. He seemed awesome. He was in my living room when I was a young child and I was watching re-runs of Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids, The Electric Company, or re-runs and current stints on Sesame Street, his Jello commercials and of course The Cosby Show. I did not want to think about it, and hoped it would go away, because I did not want to deal with the fact that this man, who had been such a HUGE part of my childhood was really so super creepy.
The news that Cosby outed himself did not make me finally believe these women, it only made me say, “Well, shit. Now I HAVE to face it and admit that my “cool uncle” was super creeps-ville & dredge up a whole slew of childhood emotions to deal with this.” This, however, is still part of the system our society has created of proof and influence. It does not matter which aspect of Bill Cosby I saw that was influential, I still saw it, and still wanted the entire affair to go away. My selfish reasoning does not negate the influence or the proof. It is merely a different reason of the conditioning.
I do not condone the conditioning, but it is our society and it is a problem that does need to be addressed. This also doesn’t mean that I support Bill Cosby, because I certainly do not. I’m merely focusing on the origins and the bigger picture here and effects of the conditioning.
This event has also shown me that women, as a group, have not made enough strides, yet, in gaining influence change. I believe that we are close to the line of where that change starts, but unlike Latin Americans, African-Americans, or the LGBT community, we have not yet crossed that threshold and gained a foot-hold. As a group (the people, plus allies) they have listeners. We are still only gaining allies. The line of change has not been breached yet. The majority of society is not yet listening.
It is sad that we have not reached that mark yet and that the conditioning is so strong that no one can believe these women, they only believe the story of influence. I am glad that there are articles calling attention to this, though I do think they are missing the point by neglecting to target the real problem of influence and proof in this society, but instead are falling short by trying to shame people out of the conditioning. Hint… that’s not really a tactic that has ever garnered advantageous results.