Bill Cosby and the disturbing trend of predators being welcomed back on stage
If there's one thing that's not fucking funny it was Bill Cosby being released from prison on June 30 without warning. If there's anything that's even more un-fucking funny, it's the fact that within a week he has audaciously announced via his press rep that he plans to venture on a comedy tour and film a docuseries on himself and his legacy as the once-beloved comic turned convicted sexual predator (even if a court overturned that conviction because Bill Cosby has the money to buy his freedom).
As a female standup comic myself, I've long lamented the boys club of comedy, and written about harassment as an occupational hazard before. It is fucking hard out here for a woman standup. There is such a delicate tango you must dance of being nice, but not being a pushover. Going to other people's shows and mics, but not going to everything or they'll call you desperate and uppity. And the most bemoaned: be hot, but don't be so hot you get sexually assaulted in a green room and told you were asking for it.
I've been luckier than some women, considering the lesser extent to which I've been sexually harassed by male comics and fans. The worst was when an up and coming comic who wanted to shadow me started stalking me, sending me lewd text messages (all the while having a long-term girlfriend), and ultimately showed up to the restaurant I worked at at the time and tried to force himself on me while I was out for a smoke break.
At the time I was doing much better than him in the scene, but afterwards I started cancelling shows because I knew he would be there (he made it a point to be absolutely everywhere — and he was not called desperate for it). The thought of being accidentally trapped in a green room with him made me physically ill. He eventually usurped my position in the local comedy hierarchy after I'd skipped out on so much work simply to avoid him. When I told a booker about what he'd done, they told me they would ban him from their club. Months later, he had a monthly show there. Not too long before that he'd also hosted an all-women review, because he just loved women so much.
I'm not telling this story for sympathy — I'm telling it because there are so. many. women. with the exact same story, or much worse. It happens so often, sometimes we don't even notice it, or just accept it as part of the job. And this cycle, exemplified by the Cosby scenario, of someone getting called out for sexual misconduct, and in this case convicted of abuse, only to be able to re-emerge and earn money for their "art" again is typical. It is why women stay silent. Even if justice is served, it can be so quickly back peddled, and even forgotten.
The same thing happened with Louis C.K., who was cornering women and masturbating in front of them, along with a laundry list of other harassment. And you know who his main target was? Female comics — the women who were looking to a comedy peer to help them up in a man's world, a power he wielded dangerously. To top it off, much like Cosby, once being convicted in the court of public opinion —he paused for what I guess has become the acceptable "wait out my sexual assault accusations" period and got back on stage. And then he told a rape joke, to really make sure we knew who the fuck he was.
Women often get blamed not just for being assaulted in the first place, but for not coming forward sooner or at all. This happened with Jen Kirkman, a stellar comic and writer who was rumored for years to have been one of C.K.'s masturbation incident victims after things she said on her podcast went viral. It turned out that she wasn't, but she was harassed enough by him in other ways to refuse to tour with him. When Kirkman finally discussed the matter directly on Twitter in 2018, people came after her for not speaking out sooner, because she could have saved other women from the abuse. She said of the incident in a series of now deleted tweets, "Don’t you dare put me on trial for my clumsy handling of my own harassment and having no idea what to do about it."
Ultimately Cosby going back out on stage sends an insidious message to all abusers of women: you can get away with it *insert gross Bill Cosby wink*. No woman deserves to have to be in the audience or backstage with a known predator. Call me a cancel culturist, fine. Or just call me another woman who doesn't want women to get raped, or come forward about being raped only to be told that the man is too important to face the consequences.