I had been on radio silence and out of the country when the Jian Ghomeshi story broke. My first re-entry into social media was to rip through his public relations statement which I had mistakenly assumed was in response to the allegations already put forth by a woman. My lenses situated incorrectly, my initial reaction was an agitated one of ‘I don’t want to know what you do in the bedroom’. But still, I went digging. Digging for the statement made by the woman, which is when I realised that he was not responding to anything yet, but rather was carefully planting a pre-emptive strike to frame the discourse of what will become his legacy.
A brilliant framing, I might add. Cheap, and anchored in the lowest common denominators available to a man in this society, but brilliant nonetheless. Why? Because he and his PR Firm – Navigator Ltd. – knew that his framing as anchor would land on this society’s fucked up seabed so heavily and so resoundingly, that he would be solid. And he was, briefly, as the odious #TeamJian continues to illustrate.
Yesterday, The Star blew Jian Ghomeshi’s story straight to hell, where it belongs (right before it is hand-cuffed and taken to prison). The details are more horrifying than any of us could have imagined – suffocation, punching, slapping, hair ripping, forced felatio, and a teddy bear who was treated with more care and gentleness than any of the women. But for the “Big Ears Teddy”, none of this was consensual.
The allegations indicate that: None of this. Was. Consensual.
Read that again.
The allegations indicate that: None of this. Was. Consensual.
Still, and without a doubt, there will continue to be a #TeamJian Twitter frenzy filled with further violent assaults on the women in question and on any individual who dares to believe the voice of 8 women over the voice of this particular radio celebrity and his leanings toward “unconventional” sex.
But for the rest of us, where do we go from here? Because, as so many of us are already aware – this is not an extraordinary situation. The reaction to these women is one we see daily, daily, daily. The seabed of intimidation and violence after the allegations of assault and against almost all women who dare challenge a man on these grounds are so very real. For less than 0.02% of the tip of the iceberg, take a look at Lindsay Armstrong, Rehtaeh Parsons, Steubenville High School, and Daisy Coleman. This is not an isolated incident. This is rape culture. This is the culture that we live in. This is a culture where for the past decade at least, there have been hushed stories and whispered conversations about Jian. A culture where, when the story broke – so many voices claimed they “knew” about this for years. This is a culture that allowed that to go on.
Where do we go from here? We work hard, every single day – to ensure that next time – and we know already that there will be a next time – it doesn’t take this much effort and this much power to convince people to believe women. To ensure that in the future, one man’s Facebook post doesn’t immediately silence the stories of 4 women. To ensure that next time, we don’t have to wait for four days, and a celebrity voice to openly come forward as another victim. We weaken the anchors by blasting and rearranging the seabed. We ensure that in future, the anchors attempting to frame the discourse have no seabed on which to land.
“Compared to other women in Canada, young women (15 to 24 yrs.) are at the greatest risk of experiencing violence both within and outside of intimate relationships.”
Violence Against Women Learning Network
In fact, the dismantling itself is best reflected in the phases travelled by a woman who has been sexually assaulted: disorganization, reorganization, and reintegration.
Disorganization and disruption of the anchors. It is the acute phase, wherein we must continue to challenge the seabed defining women as liars, bitter, malicious, vengeful creatures wilfully crying wolf when something doesn’t go our way in the “romance” department; the phase in which we should disrupt the wilful vilification and demonization of the female voice when she dares speak up and state: “Assault.”
Understand how terrifying it is to come forward, the challenges against which a woman alleging assault will come to stand. This is not a fucking ice-cream run, my friends; this shit is real and it will follow a woman for the rest of her life. How anyone can assume that such allegations are (more often than not) chucked around casually is beyond comprehension. As so many have said – when women in your life are courageous/comfortable enough to tell you their story – believe them.
Reach out in our communities and support groups working to fight violence against women, support rape crises centers, have an open dialogue with others on the nature of this beastly seabed.
It is also here that we silence those who would violently harass and threaten this same woman’s voice. Ignorant hateful violent bullies, the lot of you.
(I need to right here for the record state: I can’t fucking believe we are still having to have this fucking conversation. Fuck.)
The Facts About Violence Against Women – Canadian Women’s Foundation
Reorganization of the anchors, in tandem with the disorganization of the seabed. We create safe spaces for these voices to be heard without shame, without fear, without intimidation. We insulate these voices against further violence and pain, by acknowledging the reactions which these voices receive and respond with: No. I do not accept you; I will not accept you. I will bear witness by believing her.
We shift the discourse to one which is more open and engaging and not rooted in the knee-jerk reaction of ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’.
Finally, reintegration. Reintegration of a healthier, more open and gentle, compassionate and caring eye to such matters and to the voices within. This means lasting change – not something that quickly comes and goes with the regular news cycle and a “scandal” (though please don’t call it that) of a Canadian celebrity. We let the seabed settle.
Long road ahead. But as first step, I want to extend eight incredibly large hugs for the seven anonymous voices raised, another for actor Lucy DeCoutere and a thank you for allowing us to bear witness to your pain, and also for allowing us to use this pain as a means to a healthier and more secure seabed for the rest of us. You are admired; you are loved; you are believed.
A not so minor note to Navigator – you are complicit. You are complicit in the pain and bruising of these women. Every single punch and hair rip and choking and blurring of vision experienced by these women, at Ghomeshi’s hands, are made deeper and harder with your force behind his hands. You are forever complicit, and this too shall be your legacy.
Which leads to the last and possibly most important “What’s next” moment, which is to not be complicit. It fucking sucks to now read about how everyone and their mother knew about Jian because the only question I have is: Had you spoken up, how many women would today nor be dealing with the reprecussions of your silence? And this message is not just for those who were in the know about Ghomeshi – it is for all of us, in all of the industries and communities we are a part of. This issue is so much bigger, this is no longer about Jian – this is about seriously changing attitudes and beliefs in our culture. Do you know someone like Jian? Do you know someone who takes advantage of women, or who people continually warn women to ‘stay away from’? Speak up. Report them. Don’t let more women be harmed because our society chooses to stay silent. Not anymore.