“Hell Hath No Fury ….”: Gendered Reactions to the Cosby Mistrial Across Liberal and Conservative News Media Sites

  • Francine BannerEmail author
  • Nicholas Paron


This chapter analyses online comments regarding the 2017 mistrial in Commonwealth v. William H. Cosby, Jr. to explore how gendered stereotypes and rape myths are activated and deployed across liberal and conservative news media sites. A popular explanation for the result of Election 2016 is the existence of a “media bubble”, the tendency of liberal and conservative US voters to seek out like-minded commenters rather than conversing across political boundaries. Analysing the reactions to Bill Cosby’s first trial for indecent assault, which took place just five months after the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th US President, provides an opportunity to examine how gender is discussed across this presumed political divide. Comparing and contrasting comments on the mistrial on traditionally conservative sites, such as, with comments to similar articles on liberal sites, such as the New York Times, the chapter tests the hypothesis that conservative sites are more likely to promote misogyny, while liberal sites offer more equitable points of view. The chapter concludes that, although there are important distinctions among comments, sexism, misogyny and victim-blaming remain disappointingly common across conservative and liberal online fora. Briefly exploring Cosby’s 2018 conviction, the chapter observes, further, that although such discourse has been lessened, gendered stereotypes and rape myths persist in the #MeToo era.


  1. Armstrong, E. A., Hamilton, L. T., Armstrong, E. M., & Seeley, J. L. (2014). “Good Girls”: Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus. Social Psychology Quarterly, 77, 100–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beard, M. (2017). Women & Power: A Manifesto. London: Liveright.Google Scholar
  3. Beinart, P. (2016, October). Fear of a Female President. The Atlantic. Retrieved from
  4. Belknap, J. (2010). Rape: Too Hard to Report and Too Easy to Discredit Victims. Violence Against Women, 16(12), 1335–1344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benkler, Y., Faris, R., Roberts, H., & Zuckerman, E. (2017, March 3). Study: Breitbart-Led Right-Wing Media Ecosystems Altered Broader Media Agenda. Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved from
  6. Berger, V. (1977). Man’s Trial, Woman’s Tribulation: Rape Cases in the Courtroom. Columbia Law Review, 77(1), 1–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bordo, S. (2017). The Destruction of Hillary Clinton. New York: Penguin Random House.Google Scholar
  8. Bowley, G., & Haag, M. (2018, April 30). Cosby Jury Says Accuser’s Credibility, Not #MeToo, Led to Guilty Verdict. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  9. Brenner, A. (2013). Resisting Simple Dichotomies: Critiquing Narratives of Victims, Perpetrators, and Harm in Feminist Theories of Rape. Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, 36, 503–568.Google Scholar
  10. Bublick, E. M. (2006, February). Tort Suits Filed by Rape and Sexual Assault Victims in Civil Courts: Lessons for Courts, Classrooms and Constituencies. 59 SMU L. Rev, pp. 55–122.Google Scholar
  11. Bumiller, K. (1992). The Civil Rights Society: The Social Construction of Victims. Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2017, June 6). Criminal Cases. Retrieved from
  13. Burleigh, N. (2016, November 14). The Presidential Election was a Referendum on Gender and Women Lost. Newsweek. Retrieved from
  14. Capers, I. B. (2013). Real Women, Real Rape. 60 UCLA L. REV, p. 826.Google Scholar
  15. Centers for Disease Control. (2012). Sexual Violence Facts at a Glance. Retrieved from
  16. Chamallas, M. (2010). The Measure of Injury: Race, Gender, and Tort Law. NYU Press.Google Scholar
  17. Clay-Warner, J., & Burt, C. H. (2005, February 1). Rape Reporting After Reforms: Have Times Really Changed? Violence Against Women, 11(2), 150–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cole, K. K. (2015). “It’s Like She’s Eager to be Verbally Abused”: Twitter, Trolls, and (En)Gendering Disciplinary Rhetoric. Feminist Media Studies, 15(2), 356–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Corrigan, R. (2013). Up Against A Wall: Rape Reform and the Failure of Success. NYU Press.Google Scholar
  20. Dale, M., & Sisak, M. R.. (2017, June 6). Bill Cosby Accuser Andrea Constand Says She Was Drugged and Groped: ‘I Was Frozen’. Time. Retrieved from
  21. Daniels, S., & Martin, J. (2000). ‘The Impact That It Has Had Is Between People’s Ears’: Tort Reform, Mass Culture, and Plaintiffs’ Lawyers. DePaul Law Review, 50(2), 453–496.Google Scholar
  22. Estrich, S. (1987). Real Rape: How the Legal System Victimizes Women Who Say No. Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. France, L. R. (2018, October 16). #metoo: Social Media Flooded with Personal Stories of Assault. Retrieved from
  24. Franiuk, R., Seefelt, J. L., Cepress, S. L., & Vandello, J. A. (2008). Prevalence and Effects of Rape Myths in Print Journalism. Violence Against Women, 14(3), 387–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gilligan, C. (1982). In A Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Harris, C. I. (1996). Myths of Race and Gender in the Trials of O.J. Simpson and Susan Smith—The Spectacles of Our Times. Washburn Law Review, 36, 225.Google Scholar
  27. Hill Collins, P. (2000). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Jane, E. A. (2014). ‘Back to the Kitchen, Cunt’: Speaking the Unspeakable About Online Misogyny. Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 28(4), 558–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kim, K., Littlefield, C., Olsen, M., & Etehad, M. (2017, June 17). Timeline Bill Cosby: A 50-Year Chronicle of Accusations and Accomplishments. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
  30. Lee, C. (2007). Murder and the Reasonable Man (2007). New York: NYP.Google Scholar
  31. Lininger, T. (2008). Is It Wrong to Sue for Rape? DUKE L.J., 57, p. 1557.Google Scholar
  32. Logan, B. (2017, March 20). Former Press Secretary Says the Campaign was Blinded by the ‘Breitbart Effect’. Business Insider. Retrieved from
  33. Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1994). Rape Myths: In Review. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 133–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Manchester, J. (2017, June 17). Cosby Publicist After Mistrial: ‘Mr. Cosby’s Power is Back’. The Hill. Retrieved from
  35. Mathis-Lilley, B. (2016, October 7). Trump Was Recorded in 2005 Bragging About Grabbing Women “by the Pussy”. Retrieved from
  36. Megarry, J. (2014). Online Incivility of Sexual Harassment: Conceptualizing Women’s Experiences in the Digital Age. Women’s Studies International Forum, 47(A), 46–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. National Institute of Justice Research Report. (2000, December). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Retrieved from
  38. Nations, D. (2017, May 30). What is Social Media? Explaining the Big Trend. Retrieved from
  39. Payne, D. L., Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1995). Rape Myth Acceptance: Exploration of Its Structure and Its Measurement Using the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale. Journal of Research in Personality, 33, 27–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pearson, P. (1997). When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence. Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  41. Sanday, P. R. (1996). A Woman Scorned: Acquaintance Rape on Trial. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  42. Pierson, B. (2017, June 17). It’s Far From Over for Bill Cosby. US News and World Report. Retrieved from
  43. Ridgeway, C. (2011). Framed by Gender: How Gendered Inequality Persists in the Modern World. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Sehgal, P. (2016, May 3). The Forced Heroism of the ‘Survivor’. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from
  45. Seybold, A. (2012). Lucky. Hachette Book Group.Google Scholar
  46. Sterling, P. (2017, June 17). Andrea Constand’s ‘Courage’ Buoys Spirits of Cosby Accusers. Retrieved from
  47. Weiser, D. A. (2017, February). Confronting Myths About Sexual Assault: A Feminist Analysis of the False Report Literature. Family Relations, 66(1), 46–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Michigan-DearbornDearbornUSA

Personalised recommendations