The Rehabilitation of Mike Tyson

[Trigger warning.]

I know it's the Post, but still... From an article on Mike Tyson's upcoming reality show on Animal Planet:
Tyson served three years for rape in the mid-'90s and effectively ended his fight career two years later by biting Evander Holyfield during a bout. But he is now well on his way to remaking himself into a sensitive guy.

Of course, he's well on his way to remaking himself into something because of all the help he's gotten. Like a family-friendly network giving him his own show, after a sympathetic and well-received documentary was made with his cooperation, and the media sought his expertise on domestic violence, and he was offered a notable and well-marketed cameo in a huge film, and was asked to participate in a high-larious skit at the Teen Choice Awards.

Would that every rapist was so fortunate in his friends, eh?

* * *

To be clear, I'm all for giving people another chance. And being let out of prison is a second chance, which is why we don't impose a life sentence on everyone convicted of any crime. Tyson faced as many as 60 years in prison, actually got sentenced to 10, and only served 3. That's second chance enough, in my opinion.

I don't believe that people who have "paid their debts" are necessarily owed the same opportunities they had before. Giving Tyson a second chance doesn't axiomatically mean he deserves to be made rich and famous again—although that's certainly what our culture appears to believe.

If you're rich and famous, it appears you can be wicked enough to be sent to prison, but not so wicked as to be sent to the working class. I have a problem with that.

* * *

I also have a problem with the fact that the rehabilitation of Tyson's reputation is justified on the assumption that he was unfairly convicted.

Famous men who have been accused of and tried for rape is typically "He wasn't convicted!" (because they're usually not), and the acquittal is used to "prove" the accused is innocent of the charges. Such protests are rooted in the implicit promise that men who are convicted will be presumed guilty.

But, as we can see with Tyson, that's not true. Despite Tyson's being convicted and serving prison time, he's still not regarded as a rapist. "He was railroaded!" And so he deserves a big comeback. Yay!

I would say it's unbelievable, except for the fact that it's totally, frustratingly, rage-makingly believable.

* * *

Tyson was tried in Indiana and served his time in a state prison that's about 20 minutes from my house. I remember the trial. I remember how his accuser, Desiree Washington, was slut-shamed and called a liar and a gold digger and a whore. The description of the case in Wikipedia still tries to cast doubt on her story. She "claimed," rather than "testified." She "was forced to admit that on several occasions she had the opportunity to leave Tyson's hotel room, but chose not to do so." She had a "history of sexually leading men on."


There isn't enough time in the world to pass to make me forget that.

Sensitive guy, my ass.

* * *

I'm angry at Tyson, but I am just as angry, if not even more so, at the people who have forgotten Washington, or who continue to cast aspersions on her reputation, in order that Tyson's may be rehabilitated. They are people who ignore he is not merely a convicted rapist, but a man who abused at least one spouse, and who seriously assaulted a man in a professional setting, when he bit off part of Holyfield's ear during a boxing match.

They are people who look at Tyson and have pity for him, rather than empathy for the multiple people he has hurt. Or who look at him and see someone exploitable: "Wouldn't it be funny to put that nutball Mike Tyson in our movie?!" No regard for the message that sends about the gravity of assault and rape.

And, ultimately, I'm angry at this whole fucking situation because I think if there is a chance for Tyson to be truly rehabilitated, into a person who will not hurt another person again—a reborn human, not just a reborn career—giving him back wealth and power and entitlement and privilege isn't part of that equation.

In fact, I deeply suspect those are the very things that fuel his monster.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus