With each new day bringing yet another accusation about comedian, actor, producer, educator, and culture critic Bill Cosby I want to ask a different question…”But, what about Camille?” I don’t ask this question from a standpoint of “feeling sorry” for this “poor, long-suffering” woman but rather about the place of women’s dignity as they stand for and by the men in their lives.
Camille Olivia Hanks met and married Bill Cosby while a student at the University of Maryland and dropped out to be a wife and soon after mother to 5 children. So, what does it mean to be married to a larger than life personality who has used his life with you as the center of his routine? And, what does it mean when a seemingly ideal life goes off the rails in the most public of ways? What does it mean to stay absolutely silent in the face of the most horrible set of accusations that are both violent and intimate? I would not dare begin to judge Camille Cosby despite the fact that she appears to be “fair game” among the “twitterati.”
People are presuming they know what Camille Cosby knows or that she is complicit in Cosby’s behavior. That is not a presumption I am willing to make. Given the number of people who live with people only to learn they have a secret life is fairly large, why are we assuming Camille Cosby knew? Given that people in the limelight are quite likely to face charges of infidelity, out of wedlock paternity, etc. which of these things would we expect Camille Cosby to believe?
When I ask the question, “but what about Camille” I ask it from the perspective of a woman with children. What can she say to her children? How can they be comforted in the midst of this media frenzy? Where can she go for support and respite? What about Camille?
It may be very true that Camille Cosby is in denial and refusing to face the growing body of evidence that says her husband is a predatory monster who has violated scores of women in a deliberate and premeditated way. If that is true, Camille is in need of some serious therapeutic help because when the reality hits it will probably destroy her.
But, if I had to speculate I would say that a woman who is a part of a 50 year long marriage has learned to make some HUGE compromises. Truth is ALL of us who have been partnered for a very long time have made some HUGE compromises. We have put up with some stuff that as young adults we claimed we would never tolerate. Now, of course I am not talking about criminal behavior but the truth of life together with someone means almost everything in your life is enmeshed with the other person–your money, your property, your friends, your children and family. Your mind is linked with that person. You have no idea how to do life without them and it is very scary. In the case of high profile people the investment is probably even deeper because the resources are greater.
When Bill Clinton’s scandal was revealed and he was busy “getting off” with a 20 something intern downstairs from his family quarters most of us said self-righteously that we would “never put up with that!” Well, that’s because most of us have no plans of becoming a U.S. Senator and perhaps the first woman president. Many of these marriages are “business deals” (actually most marriages throughout the world are economic arrangements). People do weigh the pros and cons of staying/leaving and make the “best” decision they can make with the information they have.
I think if I were a friend of Camille Cosby I would act just like the biblical characters who were friends of Job in their first responses. They first went to Job’s house, saw the condition their friend was in and sat down with him, wept, tore their garments, and said absolutely nothing for seven days! I don’t think she needs to hear another voice telling what she “should” do. Not being in her situation I don’t know if I have ANYTHING to TELL her. But, I know how to be a friend. I know how to sit with you (I’ve been to the homes of scores of grieving family and friends) and I know how to just be quiet.
I know we are not going to leave Camille alone…we (as a society) don’t know how to leave people alone. We are voyeuristic and cruel. We love train wrecks. We love being “holier than thou.” But, every time I hear another salacious story about Bill Cosby I always think, “but what about Camille?”
Stay Black & Smart!