Judy Gerstel | December 30th, 2015
Like many people, I feel sorry for Bill Cosby.
He was arrested today in Pennsylvania for the criminal charge of aggravated indecent assault in 2004 against Andrea Costand, now a 44-year-old Toronto massage therapist. She was an employee of Temple University in Philadelphia, Cosby’s alma mater, when the alleged assault took place and claims she was drugged into submission.
Cosby is free on $1 million bail until a hearing scheduled for Jan. 14 and did not have to enter a plea. The media circus surrounding his court appearance in this time of social media will make O.J. Simpson’s trial seem like a schoolyard fair.
I feel sorry for Cosby because he was caught on the cusp of a feminist revolution that empowered women to take control of their own sexuality, after eons of being controlled by men — as is still the case in many cultures.
Cosby, who came of age in the pre-liberation ‘50s, either wasn’t attuned to what was happening around him or willfully ignored it when his alleged sexual assaults started in 1969.
Or maybe he thought that his fame and status entitled him to the women he wanted, even if it required a little pharmaceutical facilitation.
Mostly, the fame, status and wealth of powerful men are enough to bring about the desired result — much younger, hot women yielding to the lust of prominent men who can reward them with mentorship, treasure or celebrity by association.
Cosby obviously miscalculated massively with Costand, who was in a relationship with a woman at the time.
Of course, she is right — and brave! — to pursue the charge against Cosby. It took effect just days before the statute of limitations would have rendered it void.
Despite allegations of similar assaults by about 50 women, this is the only one for which he is being prosecuted.
Already, there’s an outcry by many of his fans about how unfair it is for Cosby to be charged when so many powerful politicians and other celebrities who have allegedly committed sexual assaults (need I mention Woody Allen, Bill Clinton, etc.?) have managed to evade criminal charges. There’s also talk of racism, in this pursuit of the elderly Cosby, when so many others have gone free.
But women’s control of their bodies must be a given in a progressive society, whether it involves the right to an abortion or freedom from indecent assault.
And any criminal charge must be followed up and heard in a society where the rule of law prevails.
But it is beyond sad — more like tragic in the Shakespearean sense — for Cosby’s groundbreaking career to end this way, even if he manages to escape the five to ten year jail term that is the punishment for this type of crime.
I just hope that all of us who admired Cosby as a consummate entertainer and took pleasure from his performances, whether we want to see him go free or whether we want to see him locked up, can separate the man’s considerable achievements from his transgressions.