Well. It’s been a hell of a week in Canada.
I read the xoJane article about Jian when it was published, in June 2013. Since then, I’ve heard numerous similar stories about general creepy behaviour. I stopped listening to Q, because even though I wasn’t a big fan of his before, I could no longer listen to Jian Ghomeshi’s voice without hearing him as a huge skeezebag. But I never thought it was anything more than that – just icky, skeezy behaviour that women are already all too used to. I didn’t see a story there, so I didn’t write anything about it. What would the title be? “Famous Guy Has Big Ego and Thinks Women Are Objects” … yeah. Super original content, there.
Yesterday all of that changed. As soon as the CBC announced that they fired Jian because of new information that had come to light, a lot of people began discussing the possibility that it was a result of sexual assault allegations.
…Is that normal? When other public figures are fired, do people start assuming it was due to assault issues? Or was this something that everyone already knew, or had heard rumours about, and yet no action had been taken? If everyone already knew that his behaviour was more than just skeezy and gross, and was actual assault – why did everyone seem to let it go on?
Twitter was exploding with accusations and defenders alike. A #TeamJian hashtag was started before any information on why he was let go was released. Many Canadians loved Q, and couldn’t see Jian Ghomeshi as anything other than the sweet, somewhat self-deprecating radio show host that they had listened to for the past 8 years.
And then Jian and his newly hired crisis and reputation management PR company released an extremely long, bizarrely detailed version of what he called “the truth.” It was impressive in how quickly that PR company put that statement together – they knew they had to be the ones to frame the story. But I’m asking you to please, please not let them do that.
Don’t let them frame this story as a “crazy ex-girlfriend” problem. Don’t let them make this seem like it’s about a girl who was jealous and upset and started making false accusations, against poor innocent Jian. We know why they would create that narrative – it’s because it works. It’s because it’s so easy to discredit a woman as just ‘hysterical’ or ‘jealous’ and then see all of her actions through that light. It’s easy – because it is indicative of how our society sees women. Don’t let them do that.
Don’t let them frame this story as “the CBC fired me for being interested in kink!” When in fact the CBC fired him because four separate women have come forward with accusations of violent physical and sexual assaults. Don’t let them make this an issue of BDSM and a prudish national broadcaster, when it is an issue of violence against women. This is not about kink – this is about abuse. Yesterday on Twitter, many (many many many many. So many.) people were quoting Pierre Trudeau’s infamous line: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” But this is not that. That was about abortion, about divorce law, and about homosexuality. This is about physical violence and sexual assault. The state very much does belong here. Protecting victimized and silenced women is exactly where the state belongs.
Don’t let them make Jian’s side of the story the only side of the story. Don’t read his carefully and expertly crafted PR statement and immediately discredit the four women you haven’t heard from. As of right now, Ghomeshi’s Facebook statement has 102,492 “Likes.” There are countless comments from people cheering him on, offering support against his ‘wrongful dismissal.’ So many people who are willing to accuse the four women of lying, without hearing a single thing about the other side of the story. Jian Ghomeshi said everything was mutual and consensual, that someone was out to ‘smear’ him, that an ex of his was ‘painting herself as a victim’, and that his statement was the ‘truth.’ Do not think that you have to believe him, just because he, and his powerful team, have said that that is what you should believe.
Don’t – and this one is important – don’t assume these women are lying because they didn’t file charges with the police, and wouldn’t agree to go on the record. Victims of abuse all have their reasons for whether or not they choose to come forward. No victim of sexual assault has any kind of ‘duty’ to report their case to the police. While going through the process of filing a report with the police, and dealing with the court system is a useful way for some women to heal – for others, that isn’t something they want to relive. In high-profile cases like this one, coming forward would mean immense public scrutiny over you and your actions. MRA “activists” on the internet are known to threaten women who come forward publicly with claims of assault. The woman who wrote the aforementioned xoJane piece was viciously attacked for her claims – and those claims were much less severe than the ones that have now been released. It would mean risking threats from those who refuse to believe you – those who have already believed Ghomeshi’s (and his PR team’s) account that all of these allegations are false. Coming forward with an assault or abuse claim is an uphill battle for women – and especially for those who would be fighting against someone as powerful as Jian Ghomeshi. The system is designed to make them lose.
There is so much to be said about this. Victim-blaming, rape culture, issues surrounding and within the BDSM communities, misogyny in the media, in our court systems, and so much more. My biggest hope is that this situation leads to serious, detailed and important conversations about these issues happening throughout Canada. That we can learn to react properly, and to see more than just one side of the story.
If you’d like to share your thoughts or opinions about this issue – please comment below, or submit your own article to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, we’d love to hear from you – and we don’t want the conversations around this issue to just slide away from the public eye.
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