The Empty Chair Is Every Woman

The Empty Chair Is Every Woman

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The tide - cultural and perhaps legal - may have finally turned against America's dad and serial rapist Bill Cosby with a devastating cover story in New York Magazine featuring the stark photos and searing stories of 35 of 46 women who to date have accused Cosby of rape, drugging and sexual assault over a span of decades. Their group photo culminates in an empty chair, representing "the women who couldn’t come forward mostly (because) we, as a culture, wouldn’t believe them.”

Photographer Amanda Demme spent six months photographing the 35 women, all in the same chair, willing to have their pictures shown and their stories told; many say they know of others who've chosen to stay silent, in addition to the 11 who have previously come forward. The women, ranging in age from 20s to 80, include supermodels, waitresses, journalists, Playboy bunnies, and many who worked in show business. Noreen Malone's story recounts decades of nationwide rape allegations by thousands of women - stories that "felt unignorable, unforgettable, Old Testament biblical" - that were nonetheless dismissed by a culture that didn't want to hear them, especially if they besmirched a beloved cultural icon who could control much of mainstream media coverage. With today's vast social media networks, many galvanized younger women say, "We can't be disappeared." To many, the image of the empty chair - which quickly became the hashtag - was particularly compelling. The chair, said one activist, "isn't big enough to fit all the people who have been raped, unheard and shamed." From another, "This. All day. Every day." And, , is every woman."

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