Barbara Bowman says that Bill Cosby raped her in the 1980s, when she was seventeen years old. When she told people about the assaults at the time, she was told that she was crazy, or a liar:
Back then, the incident was so horrifying that I had trouble admitting it to myself, let alone to others. But I first told my agent, who did nothing. (Cosby sometimes came to her office to interview people for “The Cosby Show” and other acting jobs.) A girlfriend took me to a lawyer, but he accused me of making the story up. Their dismissive responses crushed any hope I had of getting help; I was convinced no one would listen to me. That feeling of futility is what ultimately kept me from going to the police. . . .
I didn’t stay entirely quiet, though: I’ve been telling my story publicly for nearly 10 years. When Constand brought her lawsuit, I found renewed confidence. I was determined to not be silent any more. In 2006, I was interviewed by Robert Huber for Philadelphia Magazine, and Alycia Lane for KYW-TV news in Philadelphia. A reporter wrote about my experience in the December 2006 issue of People Magazine. And last February, Katie Baker interviewed me for Newsweek. Bloggers and columnists wrote about that story for several months after it was published. Still, my complaint didn’t seem to take hold.
Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest. The original video of Buress’s performance went viral. This week, Twitter turned against him, too, with a meme that emblazoned rape scenarios across pictures of his face.
While I am grateful for the new attention to Cosby’s crimes, I must ask my own questions: Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward? The women victimized by Bill Cosby have been talking about his crimes for more than a decade. Why didn’t our stories go viral?
Unfortunately, our experience isn’t unique. The entertainment world is rife with famous men who use their power to victimize and then silence young women who look up to them. Even when their victims speak out, the industry and the public turn blind eyes; these men’s celebrity, careers, and public adulation continue to thrive.
So little changes in the history of sexual assault that it’s almost like it’s impervious to change over time, and it’s not just in the entertainment industry of course. Powerful men exploit their access to young, powerless women, girls, and boys. On the rare occasion that a young, powerless person speaks up, she’s told that she’s crazy, she misunderstood, she’s to blame, and omigod do you know what this might do to his career? Continue reading
Baby, it’s cold outside!
It’s hard work being on sabbatical, believe it or not. Having the privilege of a Huntington Library long-term fellowship comes with strings attached–it’s not all strolling in the gardens, gazing at marvelous paintings, and thinking deep thoughts all day long. I’ve spent a lot of this week imagining the winter of 1759-60 in Québec and trying to write about it. (Those poor Highlanders, in their kilts–or “philibegs” as once source calls them! Just imagine.) Those of you who are suffering from the Polar Vortex in most of North America this week can probably do a lot better than I can at this point. (Although it’s been cool and overcast here too–highs only in the 60s!)
Back to the hard work of sabbatical: the number of seminars, lectures, conferences, and happy hours (both formal and informal) could be nearly a full-time job if I let them. In the past week alone, I’ve learned what a “philibeg” is, and about medieval zombies and other life-after-death beliefs, heard a lecture on the Sand Creek Massacre (whose 150th anniversary is on November 29 this year), read a paper on seeing early nineteenth-century mathemeticians as cyborgs, and just today learned that “mercantilism” is pronounced merCANtilism, not MERcantilism, as I had always thought. (Who knew? I avoid talking about merCANtilism as much as I possibly can.) Continue reading
Bomb-throwing from my sabbatical!
My department plans to conduct first-round interviews at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in January for the open position in my department.
I would like to apologize for this waste of everyone’s money and time, but most of all, I must apologize to the most junior, poorest, and most vulnerable members of our profession, who will feel compelled to spend money they may not have in order to book a flight to New York City, a hotel room, and pay for their own meals in the hopes that they can advance their candidacy to an Assistant Professorship. Because of course the people who most need jobs don’t have travel budgets or expense accounts! (Not that ours is that generous, to be perfectly honest.)
I have made these points repeatedly in department meetings, and have only succeeded in killing the convention of AHA convention interviews when I’m on the search committee. For some reason, some of my colleagues believe without evidence or reason in the superiority of the annual trek into the basement of various hotels in icy, snowy northern North American cities in January, when there is a perfectly acceptable alternative. I’m on sabbatical and out of state this year so I can’t jump up and down and scream about this at Baa Ram U., but you can bet that I will after I climb out of this palm tree, starting next fall and every year after that anyone tries to fly a search committee to Chicago, New York, or Boston again.
I never liked the call to muster for an interview back in the day when I was unemployed, but it was a different world in the late 1990s, when gas was $0.89 a gallon and tickets to Chicago-Midway could be had for $99. Round trip! And to be perfectly honest, I’ve never liked conducting job interviews in “the pit” as a member of a search committee. We are at the point now both in terms of the technology for videoconferences or Skype calls, and in terms of the precarity of the academic humanities, that senior scholars like myself must take a stand against this abusive system. Continue reading
Shelley from Rain: A Dust Bowl Story reminds us to vote today, “no matter how hopeless it may seem.” I don’t share her pessimism, but that’s probably because nothing in the world can harsh my buzz this year. I’m on sabbatical! At the Huntington Library! Getting work done! And the election won’t change that one way or the other.
Remember somewhere [like, say California, or Colorado] the sun is shining, and so the right thing to do is let it shine for you! Continue reading
What would we do without GayProf?
Kate Cohen writes that the most terrifying costume on Halloween is a little boy who dresses up as a Disney Princess or Wonder Woman, at least in the minds of his parents or other adults in his community:
Would you let your son be Frozen’s Elsa for Halloween? Care.com reports that 65 percent of people it surveyed (note: this could mean 20 people) said “no” to letting a boy wear a girl costume. Or, as a CaféMom commenter put it, “NO WAY AND HE WOULDN’T WANT TO ANYWAY.”
I wish I could dismiss the horror-struck momosphere with sympathetic condescension—man, it must be hard to live in a red state—but I can’t. My dining room table is a progressive enclave within a liberal bastion within the state of New York, and yet, it was there that my 5-year-old son’s declaration that he wanted to be Wonder Woman for Halloween was met with the shocked gasps and nervous laughter of our dinner guests. No one spoke. And then a friend—trembling but determined, like the one kid in the horror movie brave enough to move toward the scary sound behind the door—ventured, “Wouldn’t you rather be Spiderman?”
Sadly, I’m sure she’s right. I have a nephew who was bullied by neighborhood pre-K toughs because at age three he liked to play dressup and sometimes wore a dress. Age three!
Liberal Americans congratulate themselves too much for being gay- or trans-friendly if the notion of five-year old boys dressed as Wonder Woman causes anyone to say anything other than “She is AWESOME! Who wouldn’t want to be Wonder Woman Which accessory do you like better: the bulletproof bracelets, or the rockin’ boots?” (I’ll take the bracelets for daywear, but who can resist those boots?) The only costumes these days that scare me are those asinine male superhero costumes that are padded to make preadolescent children look absurdly muscular. Would most of us permit our preteen girls to wear giant false boobs in their costumes? The fake muscles are the masculine equivalent, I say. Continue reading
Friends, it’s a never-ending round of seminars, walks through the garden, curator-led tours of both the Huntington and the Getty Museums, and lunch and dinner invitations that I have barely a moment to myself on this “sabbatical!” My apologies for the light posting these days, but sometimes a scholar just has to sit down once in a while and write something for peer-reviewed publications.
Here are a few interesting things I’ve found while haunting the interwebs over the past week:
- Should we bring back formal mourning clothes? This review of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibit, “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire” by Hillary Kelly is nostalgic for the value of public mourning. Maybe this is on my mind, because I’m of the age now that my peers are coping with the deaths of their parents. I had a colleague whose father died a few years ago, and when I invited him out for dinner following a seminar several months later, I was a little surprised that he said, “no thanks, I’m just not up to socializing yet.” Of course it made perfect sense–but it struck me at the time that we make grief so invisible and so unknowable to others in modern U.S. culture. Recent widows and widowers complain that after a month or two, even close friends sometimes express exasperation with their grief! We expect people to “get over it” so we aren’t threatened by the memory of our own losses, or by fears of our impending losses.
- There’s a new book coming out with Yale University Press next year which I’m dying to read: Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. (Isn’t that a great title? Who wouldn’t want to read that book?) She was the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Curatorial Fellow in French Art at the Huntington from 2003 to 2007, and is an independent scholar.
- Speaking of mourning, what about graves, and specifically, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act? There’s an open position in the Anthropology Department at the University of Massachusetts for a Repatriation Coordinator. Public historians or anyone else with NAGPRA knowledge and experience should apply. This position does not require a Ph.D., but rather just an M.A. in Anthropology, Native/Indigenous Studies/Museum Studies or related fields. This is a three-year lectureship.
- The bane of my existence is now the elaborate software systems through which we must all submit journal articles and letters of recommendation. Do I really need a unique I.D. and secure password for every. Freakin’. system? (If someone wants to write an article, revise it, and get it published under my name, I’d be happy to take credit for it!) Also: it seems unfair to ask an author to revise and resubmit an article, but still hold her to the first-round 10,000 word limit. Just sayin’. Now I’m off to eliminate 388 words from my polished, jewel-like, prose.
- Well, not yet. I forgot to say that tomorrow night is Halloween. Tips for candy thieves: only eat the candy out of your kids’ buckets until they can reliably count, or you’ll get busted.
From Michael Specter’s “Against the Grain: Should You Go Gluten-Free?“:
For many people, avoiding gluten has become a cultural as well as a dietary choice, and the exposition offered an entry ramp to a new kind of life. There was a travel agent who specialized in gluten-free vacations, and a woman who helps plan gluten-free wedding receptions. One vender passed out placards: “I am nut free,” “I am shellfish free,” “I am egg free,” “I am wheat free.” I also saw an advertisement for gluten-free communion wafers.
. . . . .
There have been a few studies suggesting that people without celiac disease have a reason to eliminate gluten from their diet. But most of the data are unclear or preliminary. Doctors rarely diagnose non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and many don’t believe that it exists. Few people seem to have been deterred by the lack of evidence. “Everyone is trying to figure out what is going on, but nobody in medicine, at least not in my field, thinks this adds up to anything like the number of people who say they feel better when they take gluten out of their diet,” Murray said. “It’s hard to put a number on these things, but I would have to say that at least seventy per cent of it is hype and desire. There is just nothing obviously related to gluten that is wrong with most of these people.’’
(Somehow I think the market for “gluten-free communion wafers” is vanishingly small, but maybe there is a congregation of daily mass-goers in Boulder, Malibu, Berkeley, Brooklyn, or Asheville of which I am unaware. Gluten-free communion wafers are like sugar-free tonic water: if you’re drinking such a volume of gin-and-tonic that you really need to get the sugar-free, maybe you should just consider drinking less gin? In other words, it’s the alcohol, not the sugar, that’s the problem.) Continue reading