Why Cosby stories are finally taking hold
Jenny Kutner at Salon.com recently wrote about the change in how Cosby is being assessed, asking herself why it finally now occurred:
Now, we’ve reached a point where it would be irresponsible not to publicize the allegations against Cosby. It would be just as irresponsible not to share news of his efforts to avoid talking about the accusations, which is exactly what the Associated Press did with its recent interview footage for weeks before finally making the tape public.
Why did the responsibility change? Is it simply that we are at a moment in time, right now, when accusers’ stories suddenly seem more believable? (The outcomes of other alleged sexual assault cases would indicate otherwise.) Or, is it because with this particular case, we’ve reached a critical mass of accusers whose stories we can no longer ignore? Is 13 the magic number? 14? 15? What about the multiple women who accused Jian Ghomeshi of brutalizing their bodies as well? Are these stories finally taking hold because in both cases, we’ve reached the point where it’s almost completely rationally impossible not to believe, let alone listen to, these women?
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Why did the responsibility change?
Historically, the most powerful and important perpetrators in our own lives were our parents. Since as children we absolutely had to imagine them as people who could love us, be our protectors, our brains went quickly to work making them right to have abused us, and ourselves wrong for doing whatever we did. Since we actually didn't do anything and were just attacked by our parents when they switched into the brain states of their own perpetrator parents and saw us as full of their own projections, we are left to conclude that it was just our vulnerability, our absolute neediness, that was bad. To keep our parents, the ur-perpetrator, "right," perpetrators become automatically good and the vulnerable deserving of abuse.
This is why the last people you should expect automatic empathy for victims from is actually people who've been abused as children. That interview we all saw where that CNN interviewer drew his interviewee back into her moment of sexual abuse and then tried to show her how the facts show that even there she was being bad -- "why didn't you bite his d--k off? -- is about what one should expect. By humiliating her, by drawing her back into shame and latching onto her there some hard-to-shake-off scold of self-blame, he was at work, not protecting/shielding Cosby but the primary childhood abusers in his own life -- his own parents -- and thereby experienced a pat of approval so meaningful your reproof of him would have little chance.
When perpetrators like Cosby (himself, guaranteed, a victim of sustained child-abuse) are losing their protections it's because some substantial part of our population has begun to have childhoods where their parents stopped or lessened their inclination to see their children as bad sh-ts that needed discipline, terrors, abuse to be corralled into being good. Some substantial part of our adult population has known more loving childhoods, and don't as much see their own childhood vulnerable selves as somehow having deserved whatever abuse suffered. They then witness the perpetrator and don't so much cow away but demand dethroning, while mostly in fact thinking of the victims and empathizing into the shamed states the brutalized had been pitched into experiencing.
Brittney Cooper discussed recently how she was separating herself from the long tradition she’d grown up amongst that accepted "spanking" -- read, physical assault on the child -- as the preferred way to raise children. We’re, our society’s, experiencing something like that, but writ large. When there's enough of us, those in the media who'd like to have written something twenty years ago but who really would have been eviscerated if they'd tried then, now have the way in — we’re the audience who’s ready. Even if we still can't shake that in going after outside perpetrators we’re still involved in a discourse that's ultimately going to implicate our own parents — again, the ur, the original, the archetype perpetrator, for all of us — more of us have had sufficiently less abandoning and terrifying childhoods that we can withstand a rattling of what previously only beckoned oblivion.
Andrew O'Hehir just wrote an article where he sees perpetual stasis in an awful, hellish, late-capitalist society, as our ongoing reality. Next presidential election, more of the status quo, whomever gets elected. But we should understand the downing of Cosby as evidence that people are changing, not just in attitudes but in their well-being, their make-up, their constitution. And systems change when human nature changes, when better-loved people grow beyond systems that were emotionally satisfying to their less emotionally evolved, more pointless-punishment accepting/unconsciously desiring, predecessors. Capitalism moves from late to socialism when people stop needing for there to be shelved amongst us — losers; when we stop feeling satisfaction in such numbing, dream-deflating, tempering categories like products, producers and consumers. The sign that we may be moving towards something profoundly good is more to be found in this new response to abusers than I think in the apocalyptic anger we'll likely also see a lot of in upcoming years.
This anger, I fear, will be fuelled by revenge against childhood perpetrators as well — its ur-source — but its constituents will not be like those repelled by Cosby ... it will not be fuelled by those who knew less abuse, who knew more love, but rather those who received so much they still will feel the need to protect perpetrators and destroy victims. Their ur and all-infiltrating source of “perpetrator,” their parental terrorizers, will be split into two, so only part of this parent is actually attacked while the other part actually clung to ever-more loyally — its destructive aspects, wholly denied; one’s own fierce anger at them, just as much so. They'll be the equivalent of soldiers who destroy encroaching predatory countries, lead by an evil mastermind with a — to borrow from Sam Harris — “mother-load” of feminine qualities, but who cling to their approving nation like a knight-protector. And all the "troops" destroyed ... will be full of projections of their own childhood selves, their "sh-t selves," still horribly bad, and worthy of any other name you’d be inclined to call them. We'll see, in short, the 1930s, a move towards mass action, mass participation, which could see threatened elites and worried big businesses (hurray!), but also collective agreement on the righteousness of bigotry — much of the world is simply cretinous and bad, and in need of urgent purging.
This new unwillingness to excuse the perpetrator for a great reason is being matched by a very bad one. Because we're seeing it of course in the slowly mushrooming anti-Muslim movement ... amongst even progressives — there, the New Atheism; people are feeling an increasing desire to project onto others and destroy, and so are grabbing on. If it was built out of the same energy you wouldn't have a progressive, you wouldn’t have Camilla Gibb, in the same article where she writes of how she left anthropology because she couldn’t handle how aggressively harassing Middle Eastern cultures were, conclude only how she was going to stand up in future against future Ghomeshis; but rather of course with her standing up against something that would look to have her more associating with the New Athiests — those ostensibly standing up against the larger broad swath of abusers, whole cultures, in whole continental regions: those, in their own minds, more consistent, those being even more brave. That is, it would of had her finish where her article obviously looked to be directing her before she tightened it down only onto those she’d find within her vicinity at a gala. She chastised her own letting loose because it drew to mind phantoms of those legions also standing up right now, but whom she knows just aren’t up to what she is up to. Not at all. More the opposite. More along the lines of Germans in the 30s.
We have “accumulating” two different psychoclasses, two broad swaths of very different people -- one more lovingly raised, one less. If the “less" wins, mostly determines the emotional temper of our next number of years, everything progressives have done to expand our awareness of how many abusers there are out there can be used to justify a pre-existing desire to cleanse the world of "bad" people. If Katie McDonough's argument that almost every woman has their own rape story becomes “understood” ... that there are that many men out there who are rapists; if we come to understand that so many of us were victims of sexual and physical assault as children ... if we as people who no longer need to safeguard the abuser can look at our society and recognize just how much our society is coloured by sadism, the terrible defining destruction wrecked on our fellow human beings, and we ultimately lose, we've laid ground which the other side will takeover. Saying, “you're right, but let me show you where this evil you’ve agreed exists in plenty and must in this moment of clarity be urgently vanquished, is actually most concentrated…”
And you'll have America involved in righteous bigotry. You'll have Americans going from feeling compromised to instantly pure again, forgetting all the self-improvement they needed as all their “issues” become transplanted onto the outside. Chastising progressives will lose their effect, and blamed, for not thinking their issues through — at the cost of lives. And the women “we’ll” be standing up for, those accosted in cultures everywhere that progressives have ostensibly drawn back from incriminating but to keep their own cosmopolitan egos intact, will be in their own minds childhood perpetrators they'll feel enormous joy in protecting.
They can't be guilted, is what I’m getting at. That self they'd begun to recognize that should feel shame and guilt in denigrating vulnerable people, that increasingly uncomfortable, caught-out self that recognized how much it wanted women to know pain, would be gone as they know themselves to in fact be willing to sacrifice their very lives to keep their mothers from being pained at their children’s ability and presumptuous willingness to see them plain — to destroy them, Meghan Daum, truly progressive, matricidal-style.
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Interesting response to the article by pjwhite:
It is thrilling to see this happening in my lifetime (I am 52). Never did I imagine the day would come when a woman's word actually carried some power. Finally. For thousands of years, society has given rapists and child molesters free reign by valuing men's reputations over women and children's humanity. Sex offenders are terrified (and enraged) by this - and they should be. In the past 30 years, I have seen rape survivors go from hiding their names in shame to loudly proclaiming and naming their experiences. I have seen rape survivors go from being perceived as pitiful and damaged to being seen as the courageous heroes they are for speaking out. Rapists may not be put in jail (yet) but they WILL lose their social status, their careers, their ability to travel freely, and even the Presidency of France (Dominique Strauss-Kahn). Society is FINALLY shifting from empowering and protecting rapists to empowering and protecting their victims. I thought it would take hundreds of years for that to happen, but it is happening now. (the next step is for more MALE sex abuse victims to be empowered to come forward - and for THEIR heroism in speaking out to be recognized as well. Rape damages and diminishes the rapist - NEVER the survivor). Praise the Goddess!!!
My reply to pjwhite:
I'm glad they had the self-esteem to speak out, but I'm not especially happy about calling them courageous. All the others that historically DID NOT speak out, weren't (guiltily?) lacking what the others managed -- that is, a show of courage against bullies. They were just products of backgrounds that weren't going to fuel them the self-worth to power on through; the abuse they suffered, corroborated the sense of their worthlessness that their parents installed in them.
Speaking out would not just make the abusers but their own parents wrong, and you've got to have received a considerable amount of love to readily manage that.