SARcasm











{March 24, 2016}   Ghomeshi
So the Jian Ghomeshi verdict comes down today. And judging from the amount of disgusting misogyny (and I am mincing my words hugely here) I am already seeing on Twitter, particularly aimed at my friend Anne – an amazing feminist blogger with the courage to speak out publicly on issues like this in the face of threats and harassment  – it is going to be awful. Hell – it already is.
 
Let me be perfectly clear here: as a high school law teacher of several years’ standing, I understand from a legal standpoint why the verdict has to be what we all know it’s going to be. I can parse the details of “innocent until proven guilty” with the best of them, and I understand that. However, from the real-world point of view of that simple question – “Did he do it?” I think most right-thinking people know he did. As NDP MP Charlie Angus stated during the trial, “Nobody close to Jian even pretends he is innocent, and somehow this isn’t an issue — the women are.”
There is a reason his lawyer is making her case by destroying the reputation and credibility of his victims rather than even for one hot second questioning whether or not these assaults occurred. It’s the down and dirty way out. Since the burden of proof doesn’t lie on the defence, all they need to do is create doubt. What easier path is there to  creating doubt than to besmirch the victims and how they handled themselves prior to, during, and especially after their abusive interactions with Ghomeshi? Indeed, given the treasure trove of correspondence Ghomeshi saved up over decades of misdeeds, this was always the plan. Which bears pointing out – THERE WAS A PLAN to protect himself … not the actions of a man who truly felt he was doing nothing wrong.
So on that score, our system is working how it’s supposed to work. But that doesn’t mean it is working in the most humane or just way possible. There are ways of investigating rape cases that are both sensitive to the victims while preserving the accused’s right to a fair trial, and we need to start implementing those things. We need to recognize that inebriation – far from negating the possibility of rape because “she was asking for it” – by definition MEANS RAPE HAPPENED IF SEX HAPPENED, because consent couldn’t have been given. We need to recognize that people are human and aren’t always going to acquit themselves perfectly, especially in and after moments of high trauma, and not throw the baby out with the bath water for a lack of “perfect witnesses”.
And we need to look at the big picture. We need to understand after the treatment of these women on the witness stand during Jian Ghomeshi’s trial, this is going to make it ten times harder for victims to come forward, being terrified of similar treatment if they don’t have photographic memory of just what the last email they sent to their assailant was, or what kind of car he drove, or if they’re going to have it held against them that they didn’t know how to react perfectly to the most volatile and violating of situations. And this is only going to perpetuate the cycle – frightened women will either not report at all, or else not until much later, at which point they will be questioned, “What took them so long?” Well … I ask you. What do YOU think took them so long? Would you be eager to open yourself up to this?
At this point, we can’t control the verdict in this case. The arguments have been made and the judge will rule, I would assume, with the best judgement they can in the case from the standpoint of our legal system as it is today. But we CAN lobby for change – in ensuring rape kits are tested in a timely manner, in increasing sensitivity to the questioning of rape victims, in limiting just how much of their personal behaviour and history is fair game for trial …
And we CAN treat each other with respect in light of the verdict. We can realize this is going to be a very traumatizing and triggering time for many, and we can treat that trauma and disappointment with respect. We can perhaps not try to dis-prove misogyny and rape culture by in fact engaging in and perpetuating it, either on social media or in the real world. We can realize that, whatever else, this trial (AND THE REACTION TO IT) has created an even more uncomfortable and potentially unsafe environment for sexual assault victims to come out in – something that was never easy to begin with – and we can be sensitive to that and work to make it safer.
I know none of this is going to happen – at least not enough of it, judging by how this case has been viewed and reacted to from the beginning – but I know I for one am going to do my part to at least improve that situation, and I hope those of you who know, in your heart of hearts, that women have been victimized here and that justice will not have been served, or at the very least believe that women deserve – at a BARE MINIMUM – a reasonable assurance of their physical safety and security when speaking up on these difficult issues, will do the same.


So I want to say up front that I have never been a particular Jian Ghomeshi fan. I enjoyed Moxy Fruvous, and would listen to “Q” (his well-known show on CBC Radio 1) if he had a particularly interesting guest or topic, but I was no loyalist. So when about a year ago I read this piece on XOJane by Carla Ciccone, detailing (and I understate things) an arrogant and far-too-persistent ‘bad date’ with boundary and personal space issues, and understood through comments thereafter that this was a thinly veiled story about Ghomeshi, it didn’t particularly fizz on me one way or the other. Creeper, I thought, glad I don’t know him, but doesn’t quite sound criminal, and he’s OK at what he does, and hey, aren’t we all fans of some problematic people or other? It didn’t really change my opinion of him one way or the other. Entitled minor celebrity, I thought, and pursued my previous stance of ‘I wasn’t a big fan of his anyway, but this isn’t worthy of a boycott, I’ll listen depending on the topic or guest at hand.’

That said, I never forgot that read, or that I got the sense through scuttlebutt that this wasn’t exactly out of line with Ghomeshi’s off-air reputation. So when I heard this past Sunday that he’d been fired by the CBC, I wondered dimly if it was related to an issue, or issues, like this. Ghomeshi’s Facebook statement followed within hours, suggesting (and I summarize very briefly, it was a long note) he was fired for enjoying rough sex but that it was always consensual, and to suggest otherwise was a smear campaign against him by a jilted ex-girlfriend and a few co-consipirators, and of course, the internet began taking sides. I very carefully made a point of not doing so. On the one hand it is a personal policy of mine, as a feminist, not to doubt claims of assault or sexual abuse. After all, the media, public, and – worst of all – courts and law enforcement do a good enough job of that, making it difficult for victims everywhere to come forward (indeed, according to the Toronto Star, who ultimately came forward with the story in light of the firing, the reason the women didn’t press charges, and wished to remain anonymous, was fear or reprisal or revenge). On the other, while the tone of Ghomeshi’s open letter bothered me on a number of levels, I was impressed with him getting out ahead of the story when it might seem simpler to just bite one’s tongue, and I have a natural instinct (applied to both sides, in my defense) to give the benefit of the doubt and want to information-gather before any witch hunt.

Especially in this case, where there is so much at stake in being wrong. What feminist in their right mind wants to unwittingly defend a rapist, or accuse an assault victim of lying? On the other hand, if there was even a bit of truth in Ghomeshi’s claims, who wants to see a man’s career ruined because he’s a bit of a creep around girls and has some ‘deviant’ tastes in the bedroom? What if it was a misunderstanding where neither side was lying, the women genuinely thought they were consenting to one thing while Ghomeshi took it as license for another? I want to be clear – I never for an instant believed the women involved were lying. There was too much smoke for there to be fire. But “how bad was it”? Was Ghomeshi a monster, pure and simple, or clueless, entitled, in need of education on how to deal with his fetishes in a safe and responsible manner? Or heck with it – at that point, is there even a difference?

Bottom line, in the immediate aftermath and firestorm, when it was a LOT of he-said she-said, while I had my guesses in my heart of hearts in terms of what was up, I had no interest in getting involved. I figured, it will all come out in the wash and all will have their day in court … and media … and whatever other arena these issues get batted around. Because trust me, there are some big issues to discuss here, from rape culture and the difficulty to come forward in cases of assault – especially when the perpetrator is famous, powerful, and probably a serious gatekeeper in an industry you have an interest in if you run in the same circles as him – to BDSM and the importance of being safe and clear if engaging in it, to how ‘innocent until proven guilty’ comes into play in hiring and firing situations and beyond.But all that said – four days have passed now. More women have come forward anonymously, and one – Canadian actress Lucy Decoutere – has done so publicly. Ghomeshi has done precious little to convince me – or anyone – that these stories are false. And apparently, that ‘anyone’ now includes his PR firm, who dropped him today.

So – for this writer anyway, in my small bubble – the time for ‘having an opinion but keeping it to myself’ is over. In trying to be fair-minded, I in fact took too long in putting out there what my gut was telling me from the first this story broke. And while I understand Ghomeshi is still ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in a legal sense, he has lost whatever benefit of the doubt I was prepared to give him. Not only is he an abuser of women, he apparently has been one for a very long time. And while I still have no desire to lead any witch-hunts, or deny him his day in court, I think it’s time we all recognize that ‘innocent until proven guilty’, as my friend Anne over at The Belle Jar has pointed out several times through this story, doesn’t just extend to suspects of crimes, but their victims too. And all too often, that benefit of the doubt is denied to rape victims, perpetuating a vicious circle where they are uncomfortable coming forward “the right way” (un-anonymously, to the police), and thereby doubted even further because, well, if it was true, why wouldn’t you report it?

And while I am a little late to this party (whether via a noble attempt to be fair to all sides, or perhaps on some selfish level wanting to be sure I was ‘right’ before speaking out), I would like to encourage everyone now to take this story beyond Jian Ghomeshi, beyond the CBC, and to the crux of this issue everywhere – the fact that a man was allowed to abuse women uninhibited and consequence-free for decades, despite everyone “Knowing About Jian”. Even his closest friends have expressed a hindsight awareness of his behaviour, yet he continued to hold a cushy job, millions of fans, and lots of women willing to go on dates with him having no idea what the consequences would be. This is rape culture at its worst, and we as a society need to explore carefully how this happens. Because until and unless we look at this topic head-on, there will always be another Jian Ghomeshi, and there will always be decades worth of anonymous victims afraid to come forward except in the most hush-hush, whispered innuendo of terms.



{May 29, 2013}   RIP Dr. Henry Morgentaler

Dr. Henry Morgentaler passed away today at 90 years old. The man has an amazing life story, having come to Canada as a Holocaust survivor and being a true pioneer in modernizing our abortion laws. A case in regards to his practice struck down all laws outlawing abortion in Canada in  1988 under the wonderful document we refer to as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, defending women’s rights to “Life, liberty, and security of the person.”

This man risked violence, death threats and public opinion to defend women’s rights, and was rewarded with the Order of Canada in 2008. This is something I’m hugely proud of; in Canada, we don’t murder or bomb our abortion practitioners … we give them the highest civilian honour available, recognizing the brave and controversial nature of their work, and in Morgentaler’s case his pioneering ways. After a past more difficult than any of us could imagine, he went on to become a doctor fighting for the rights of his patients. This is wildly admirable, in my view.

While Dr. Morgentaler’s health forced him to give up personally performing abortions in 2006, he still oversaw a series of clinics in his name until very near his death today. One may or may not agree with his stance and what he fought for (I personally do – while full disclosure forces my pro-choice self to admit that some cases of abortion give me pause, it is far too important in the bigger picture of women’s rights and bodily autonomy to allow societal judgements and pearl clutching to factor into those decisions) – but what cannot be disputed was the courage of his convictions, and his willingness to stand up for them. And I believe that much (and, personally, his accomplishments) deserves to be lauded and remembered at this time. Godspeed, Dr. Morgentaler.



et cetera