From Tracie: This Is About The Women

Thursday, January 08, 2015

This Is About The Women

"Forget those women." That was what Phylicia Rashad was reported to have said about the women who have come forward to tell the world that Bill Cosby raped them. Forget them.

She later claimed this was a misquote in an interview with ABC's World News Tonight.
"That is not what I said. What I said is, 'This is not about the women. This is about something else. This is about the obliteration of legacy.'" 
Rashad is concerned with the legacy of Bill Cosby, and she believes there is an orchestrated plot to keep him off the tv. She says she doesn't want to talk about the accusations, "I can't speak to those things and wouldn't want to." But she has already spoken. Her dismissal of the women who have spoken out about their experiences, some of whom have been trying to talk about this for many years, is a strong message.

Words carry great weight. Words have power, and whether right or wrong, when spoken by someone with a large platform, they echo even louder. "This is not about the women," is not much better than "Forget those women." Not really.

If Bill Cosby did drug and rape women, it is their lives which are important in this moment, not his legacy.

Claire and Cliff Huxtable
I understand the importance of Cosby's work in the community and on television. I enjoyed The Cosby Show. I liked the character of Cliff Huxtable, even more, I loved Rashad's character, Claire. She was a feminist icon for me. I saw in her a woman who was strong, smart, motherly, successful in business, sexy, funny, and opinionated. Someone I would not expect to make dismissive statements about survivors of sexual assault. I always thought Claire was pretty amazing. But, this isn't about legacies, and it isn't really about my personal disappointment in Phylicia Rashad.

The Huxtables were television characters. The people behind those characters are not one dimensional. They do not act the same in every circumstance or with every person. This is true of rapists as well. Rapists have jobs, families, friends, lives, and they don't rape every person they meet. I don't doubt that Phylicia Rashad loves Bill Cosby, and she is speaking from the experiences she personally had with him. But just because someone never raped you, it does not mean they haven't raped someone else. That is not a viable standard for determining someone's guilt or innocence.

Due to the statute of limitations, we will probably never have a definitive, legal, determination about this case. So we are left with just words. The words of the women. The words Cosby isn't saying. The words his defenders are saying. And these words of Phylicia Rashad that dismiss out of hand the experiences, the stories, and the lives of women who are publicly sharing their traumatic stories.

Sadly, sexual assault survivors are used to these kind of dismissals. We are used to being forgotten, set aside, and silenced. We are used to seeing the doubt and denial in people's words and actions. We have come to expect it. We are exhausted from dealing with the internalized messages and the rape culture that surrounds us.

So today I want to speak to all of those survivors who hear words like Rashad's, and feel the pain rising up again.

To the young girl who was called a liar when she spoke out about abuse and assault, even if she didn't have those words to explain it... I believe you.

To the girl who was told to keep it a secret, that it was family business, or that good girls don't talk about those things...You were so brave to tell someone what happened. You did nothing wrong.

To the teen girl who was raped by her boyfriend... You certainly didn't owe him anything.

To the college student who went to a party... You didn't deserve it.

To the woman whose rape kit has still not been processed... You do matter.

To the woman who accepted a ride home from a coworker, went on a date, met someone who seemed nice, went to a bar, trusted a friend, wore a business suit, attended a family reunion, walked somewhere by yourself during the day or night, wore a pair of jeans, met a celebrity, stayed home on a Tuesday evening, had a drink, attended a convention, told your boyfriend or husband no, wore a skirt, took your dog to the park, said something people didn't agree with, interviewed for a job, or spoke to a neighbor... You were not asking for it.

To every woman, and every man, who has been harassed, molested, touched inappropriately, abused, drugged, coerced, assaulted, raped, victimized, or violated... It was not your fault. You do not own the blame, or the shame, for what happened. I believe you, and I believe in you.


  1. This is an excellent article. Just perfect. Thank you!

  2. What can I say Tracie, but thank you and quite frankly, beautifully said.

  3. Well said, Tracie. These women deserve to be heard. We love(d) the Cosby show in our house. In fact, we had just started watching it with the kids, but I'm not really sure how I feel about it. It's hard to separate the man from the character.

  4. Brilliant! I agree, to dismiss the pain and shame of these women in defense of some made up "legacy" is heartbreaking. Cosby is a criminal serial rapist and no amount of "legacy" will make up for it.

  5. So well said... I can't believe she is taking that stand right now on this topic. Shocking. Love your words.

  6. As always, your words carry great power, Tracie.

  7. Great GREAT article Tracie! It is ALL about the women. I believe in innocent until proven guilty, but we should NEVER brush sexual assault of ANY KIND under the rug. Way to go girl!

  8. Your caring heart and your advocacy for those who need an advocate is so evident in this one. You are brilliant, and I thank you for sharing this with us!

  9. Brilliant, beautifully written and something every girl and woman needs to hear. No means no.

  10. One of my FB friends had such a poignant (and angry) rant today that I have to share: I'm so sorry about the language. I may go in and edit that!

    "I really can't believe people sometimes. I mean, WTF, it's 2015 and we're still steeped in victim blaming. I have been involved in a thread this morning posted by a friend about the Cosby rape allegations. This thread is literally chock full of women saying that all the "alleged victims" are shady women "just in it for the money" and that all these claims are just new made up stuff. When I challenge back (siting facts) that's these allegations have been around for decades now, and that people are rushing to the side of Bill Cosby because of his fame and this idea that your grew up on Cliff Huxstable so it can't be true....I was literally just shot back at (by other women!!!) that it doesn't matter if he was accused of rape decades ago, because of women don't come out right away an say something, then it makes the claims less real. WHAT....THE....HECK, PEOPLE!!! These are victims of assault we're talking about here! I can't even handle is this even a thing we're debating. How is it 2015 and a women is still seen as "after the money" before we even hear her side of the story?!? And why am I having to debate this with other women??? I quit on today."

  11. Thank you. Thank you for saying the words we all needed to hear. And the words many of us wish we were strong enough to stand up and say. Thank you for being strong enough.

  12. I was pretty shocked when I read Phylicia Rashad's comments. I understand that people want to stand up for their friends and I understand people not wanting to change their opinion of someone that they've had for so long. What I don't understand is a woman telling anyone that the women, the victims, in these instances should be forgotten. It's bad enough that these women have had to fight to have their voices heard! This post is beautifully written and so important. Thank you for sharing your voice and for sharing your support!

  13. Thank you, Tracie, for writing this article. Very frank, well stated, and important.

  14. Your words of encouragement and acceptance are so beautiful. xo