It’s nothing less than a seismic cultural shift, perhaps the greatest our generation will ever witness.
Twelve men and women comprising the jury in a Norristown, Pennsylvania courtroom did the unthinkable on Thursday, convicting Bill Cosby, now 80 years old, of drugging and sexually molesting Andrea Constand in 2004. The verdict was met with cries of relief and joyful celebration. It changes everything, and not just for women, but for everyone. Its significance cannot be overstated, because this is about more than any one man, any one case, or any one movement.
#MeToo will garner much of the credit for changes in attitude that brought the man down. The movement was certainly a catalyst, and deserving of credit, but what’s bigger this time is that it’s about all of us. Understanding it requires putting the man, his groundbreaking life, the broken and shattered lives of millions of women throughout history, along with the movement, into context.
Bill Cosby was nothing less than an American icon; wildly popular stand-up comic that broke ground in the 50’s and 60’s and never stopped. The first African-American to star on a national network’s television series, I Spy in 1965. He won Emmy’s, three consecutively.
“The Cosby Show,” a staple on NBC from 1984-1992, featured America’s first affluent and educated black family. Here he became America’s Dad. With “I Spy” some had called Cosby the Jackie Robinson of TV, and there was truth to that. In “The Cosby Show” he became the black Marcus Welby and during its run there was no bigger star on TV.
Cosby’s wealth and influence grew along with his fame. He was revered, respected, trusted and handsomely paid. His voice could be heard on Saturday morning children’s television, and for years, he was the famous spokesperson for no less an American institution than Jello Pudding.
Now, his name and face are infamous, and he has become a national pariah synonymous with something evil and wrong that has gone on for the past 5,000 years + of patriarchy. Molesting Andrea Constand was no isolated event. Dozens of accusers had made similar charges over decades against the comedian, television star, and professor, that had embodied what we considered good and admirable in our society for over half a century.
Constand’s case, however, was the only one where the statute of limitations hadn’t yet run. She deserves our thanks and admiration for her courage and commitment to finding justice.
And so, last Thursday, in a retrial after a hung-jury couldn’t reach a verdict in a trial last year, America’s most famous dad became America’s most infamous felon.
The thunder of hooves you hear is the stampede of corporations, universities, the rich, the famous, and the rest of us, cutting financial and emotional ties with a man that had been part of American life for most of our lives. The silence is the absence of his sitcom reruns no longer airing.
Women around the world are celebrating and this is proper given the conviction of a man of such stature that did unconscionable evil.
What Harvey Weinstein ignited fueled movements and a meteoric cultural recalibration. Cosby’s conviction is the best worst-case example of how society’s bullet-proof protections for sexual predators have disappeared; perhaps, at last, forever. What was once okay is no longer okay and will no longer be ignored and swept under the rug. At last, a woman’s voice can be heard.
The movement, like the Cosby conviction, should be considered not only a game-changing, needle-moving event, but also a moment and opportunity for national healing.
After experiencing sexual abuse as a child, I’ve worked through it all my life as a writer, speaker, and spiritual teacher. I wrote my first book, Truth Heals, because healing should be our highest priority. Even now. Especially now.
The verdict isn’t just a victory for #MeToo, and it’s much more than a victory for women. It’s a victory for all of us, women, and men, too.
Equality of rights, opportunities and treatment under the law – for everyone.
Perhaps it’s time for #MeToo to consider a companion movement.
We could call it #AllofUs.