SARcasm











{January 14, 2015}   Charlie Hebdo

“I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire.

“Je ne suis pas Charlie” (I am not Charlie) … but I sympathize with him.

Those were my words last week, and really, my thoughts on the terror attack on the French satirical newspaper can be summed up as such. Through the worst (murdered cartoonists, journalists and hostages) and the best (a brave Muslim police officer’s defending a magazine’s right to mock and demean his faith, a near-universal discussion and defence of free speech), all of the many facets and nuances of this case have been discussed in other forums and by wiser, better-spoken people than me, from all sides, all along the spectrum of identifying very personally with the magazine (#jesuischarlie) to hyper-criticism that by being so provocative, they knew they were antagonizing extremists. For me, what I know is this –

I cannot ever and will never sympathize with violence as an answer to our grievances. Period. The bottom line when it comes to free speech, is that perhaps the incendiary stuff Charlie Hebdo published was unkind, unwise, racist and all sorts of awful things – in fact, it almost certainly was. But it was also allowed. And if it wasn’t, if it started hitting up against the edges of ‘hate speech’, well, that’s something else to deal with too. But at the end of the day, that does not make the taking of life acceptable. Period. Write letters to the editor. Protest. File a complaint with whatever authorities look at hate speech,  standards and practices in the media, what have you. Start up a counter-publication. All extremely good options in a free society to express one’s great displeasure with one’s editorial stance. Expressing your displeasure at the end of a gun is unacceptable. And frankly, by rallying everyone’s sympathies around the very opinionistas you hate, you are doing your cause no justice.

I will admit I am not comfortable associating so personally with the #iamcharlie hashtag, because personally, viscerally, I disagree with a large portion of what they put out into the world. But like much greater minds (Voltaire – see above) before me, I will defend with my every breath their right to do so. And I will defend the right of anyone who wishes to criticize them. I might question the wisdom and motives (Charlie Hebdo), or the timing (critics at a time when perhaps compassion is called for), but this world is big enough that there is room for all, and there always should be.

I sympathize and pray (or send good thoughts, if they’d prefer) for those who lost their lives, and for the loved ones they left behind who are grieving. I hold in my thoughts as well Muslims who an all-too-bigoted world will yet again hold responsible for the actions of a few lunatics. And I pray that again, as France, and the world, face an incident of terrorism, that we see it bring out more humanity than hate, more compassion than fear. Because at the end of the day, it is our humanity we have in common … and that counts for much more than I think some realize.

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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.



{March 25, 2013}   On Rape

So – I’ve been sitting on this blog entry for about a week now – I just haven’t had the time to do it justice (I can’t even describe how ill I’ve been, really for 3-4 weeks but the last week in particular). I’m still sure I won’t. But I have to say SOMETHING on the Steubenville rape case. I’ll leave it to you to check out the details of the case elsewhere, but the short version of the story is a 16-year-old girl, upon getting drunk to the point of passing out at a party, was raped by two members of her school’s football team while people watched, joked about it, took pictures and video, and it ended up posted online. Upon this case opening up, arrests being made, going to court etc., the sympathies towards the ‘good student’ footballers, the judgemental approach to the rape victim who drunkenly ‘must have asked for it’, etc. stirred up a firestorm of controversy. My thoughts:

  1. I’m not going to say underage drinking is smart. Nor is it smart for anyone to drink to the point of passing out with people they don’t know well or don’t trust. But stupid doesn’t equal criminal, and stupid doesn’t equal asking for it. I have known, and know, plenty of boys and men whose first response to this would be to make sure she got home safely, had some water and aspirin at her disposal for the undoubtedly painful wakeup the next morning, etc.
  2. I do think it’s important for everyone – men and women, girls and boys – to know how to make good choices and do what they reasonably can to be street smart and avoid crime as possible; however, at the end of the day, it is up to potential criminals to, you know, not commit crimes. If I’m walking alone down a deserted street with a wallet full of cash, is that a smart choice? No. But does that mean it’s OK for someone to rob me because, well, my judgement was too poor to deserve otherwise? Absolutely not. It’s time we focus less on teaching girls how to avoid rape, and more on teaching boys not to rape.
  3. Sympathy here ultimately needs to rest with the victim of this awful crime, and the display from CNN in particular and other news outlets in general of sympathies with these boys whose ‘bright futures’ have now been destroyed, is ill placed. Look – I believe we can make mistakes. Huge mistakes. And I believe we can all learn and grow. I agree 16, 17 years old is awfully young to have a lifelong label to carry around with you. HOWEVER, they chose these actions. They were old enough to know it was wrong, they did it anyway, no one else did it to them or for them. If their futures were ruined that is sad, but nowhere near as sad as the long road to recovery their victim is facing. There’s still a lot of time and room for growth and learning and I hope these boys avail themselves of that. There is still potential for ‘I was incredibly, monstrously, criminally stupid at 17, but this is what I learned and how I got my life back’ – but they need to earn that. It’s not incumbent on us to just hand them that.
  4. We need to teach the skills required to avoid these situations in school – this is why abstinence-only education doesn’t work. First and foremost, boys need to learn what consent does and does not look like, they need to learn to respect it, and they need to learn to respect their partners. Women do need to learn what kind of behaviours to accept and not accept from friends, partners, strangers, how to react to it and deal with it, what resources are available to them etc. Bystanders need to learn how, well, not to be bystanders – perhaps the most disgusting part in this case is the number of people who stood by and did nothing – nay, perhaps even enjoyed the show. And parents need to learn how to be comfortable discussing these things with their children – teaching people can be loved without sex and it’s OK to say no, that it’s absolutely imperative to accept no as an answer, and to ultimately enter any interhuman relationship with clear communication that goes both ways – clear messages and clear listening.
  5. RESPECT. This should not be that hard.

And I want to leave you guys with a very short but sweet video on the above that says everything I’m trying to say in one neat and tidy package, far more eloquently than I have here. Please watch, and share widely. Look after each other, and yourselves. Be well. XO



et cetera