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You’ve likely heard the news by now that Bill Cosby got sprung from prison, his sex convictions overturned, apparently on a technicality.
Reading with horror and sadness some of the accounts from the survivors of his rape and abuse talking about their disbelief, I initially mourned how, in the end, powerfully painful stories from dozens of women couldn’t hold a candle to a criminal justice system that favors wealth and power over truth and dignity.
But then, I weighed that trauma against the considerable trauma that Cosby likely endured when admitting that he absolutely intended to use Quaaludes to drug and rape women—something he would not have had to do if these women had just kept their opinions to themselves.
Later, as I watched as Cosby flashed a V sign when he left prison—“V,” of course for victory”—I wondered, at first, what kind of victory values money and power over the rights of others to not have their bodies groped, drugged, or raped?
But then, I remembered all the victories we women have had in recent years—such as the Women’s Marches, or Marjorie Taylor Greene, notably a woman, winning a seat in Congress despite posing with assault rifles and supporting the conspiracy theory that school shootings are false flag operations. Such an empowering moment for women everywhere.
Not only that, we women get all the best empowerment hashtags, from #girlpower to #womensupportingwomen to #bossbabe. Truth be told, I’ve never seen #bossman trend like #girlpower does.
I was initially worried about what Cosby’s release says about the power, or lack thereof, of women’s voices and stories. I wondered what kind of message this sends to other powerful men currently engaging in, or considering engaging in, similar criminal behavior against women. Or what message this sends to women who are considering coming forward with accusations against these powerful men.
Until I remembered: ladies, we’ve got the slogans, the chants, and the pink pussy hats working for us! We have “Time’s up” and #MeToo.” And, don’t forget we have the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg bobblehead dolls.
Not to mention, we had the whole of 2018—one whole year!—to tell our stories on social media. For months on end, news outlets were more than happy to cover the global #MeToo movement and appear to take our stories seriously, while men were asked to sit down and listen. Maybe it wasn’t quite the wave of story-telling opportunities and interviews afforded to wealthy, elite men, but hey, a ripple is a ripple.
What more could we have really hoped for, ladies? A continuation of such a movement until it ushered in real, lasting change for future generations? One year was probably plenty to subject our tender men’s ears to such stories, wasn’t it? Even the “good men” have grown tired of walking on eggshells, and are tired of wondering if some woman from his past might be out there, lurking, stalking, hunting.
“It’s exhausting to talk about sexism all the time,” said one such “good man” who happens to be married to me.
“Is it, though?” I responded, wondering if there’s ever a day when women don’t have to think about, talk about, or navigate sex discrimination in workplaces, accept lower pay, or endure catcalls.
Watching Cosby walk free does rightly point to some amount of—shall we call it “imbalance”—in our justice system that the testimony of dozens of women doesn’t have the power to keep a man like this in jail.
But, aren’t we creating even more imbalance to ceaselessly talk about it? Must we shed light Every. Single. Damn. Time? If we women simply stopped pointing it out, maybe the imbalances would correct themselves.
Ladies, let’s not forget: men may benefit economically and systemically in our current societal structure, but we’ve got International Day of the Girl, which amplifies the voices of girls and women. How good it feels to be reminded of our power and value on that very special day!
And girlfriends, have we got the songs: Beyoncé reminds us that girls run the world. Rachel Platten reminds us that with just one match, we can make an explosion. Alicia Keys points out that heck, we’re on fire already! And Katy Perry reminds us that when all else fails, we can just…roar!
Remember, it’s women, not men, who get the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure. It’s we who get the pink bows. What do men get, other than the lion’s share of economic power and privilege?
The day I learned about Cosby’s release, I saw a little girl wearing a t-shirt that boasted of her inherent girl power and strength.
And I thought, “Yes! Powerful men may have the law on their side (given they are by and large the lawmakers). But ladies—we’ve got the best graphic tees!”
Perhaps, when we talk to younger generations, we can tell them that rather than hoping equality one day manifests itself, real change can only happen when we take over the levers of power in the criminal justice system, when we place accountability and guilt for sexual assault squarely where it belongs, and when we dismantle the top-heavy power of patriarchy wherever it lives.
But then again, maybe the answer really does come in a The Future is Female onesie.
More on this: Hey, Hey, Hey: Cosby was Freed on a Technicality.