I grew up on endless reruns of "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World," so I was crushed when I first heard about the surfacing allegations of Bill Cosby raping over 30 women. Moreover, I was far more devastated when he admitted drugging one victim. Unlike others, I was not mourning the loss of an image possessed by a predator, but hurting with all the victims of his crimes. My heart goes out these women who trusted him and were abused both physically and mentally. Adding to my frustration is this mockery and comedic depiction of their pain through memes on social media.
The truth is, those memes are not funny. The memes represent the trauma imposed on those women. It is a constant reminder to them and to the world that their testimonies meant nothing. Furthermore, the thousands of retweets are communicating that rape is a joke. These memes are not only participating in forcing the victims to experience the trauma again, but in many ways enforcing a degrading and regressive energy in rape culture. The infamous quote from TIME Magazine that states one in five women will experience sexual assaults on a college campus sent chills into many people. The statistic is extremely high, but more alarming is that only 40 percent of occurred assaults are reported, according to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network. RAINN has gone on to say that only about 2 percent of those predators actually spend time in jail. Having seen all these very alarming statistics, there is an understood silence attached to rape. I can only imagine the turmoil and pain victims of sexual assault experience without the high profile aspect and public slander. It takes true courage to come forward and share such a story with the world.
These memes strip the women of their courage. They make light of the situation by turning it into hashtags and retweets. It makes what should be a serious and gruesome act seem like a laughing matter. This is not one of those #AskRachel moments or #GrowingUpBlack Twitter reunions. We should take rape, an issue largely associated with women, as seriously as we take issues dealing with race. If users were to make harsh and rash memes picking at the hardships white privilege had created, the world would be in a frenzy. I do not mean to compare the slain bodies of the black lives we have lost to those of women affected by sexual assault, but there is a similarity. It is the closeness of misuse, disregard, and hurt.
I’m all for spreading love and laughter, but not at the expense of another. Occasionally, a post is not just a post; it is really a reflection of the feelings of our generation. The message being communicated, not only to victims of Bill Cosby but also to other survivors of sexual assault, is one that screams that the physical and sexual abuse of a woman’s body is not only unimportant but also comical. Call me a stickler, but where’s the humor in that?