Jian Ghomeshi: We're not done with you yet
Over the weekend, my friends and I celebrated Halloween together. Before we got to the event, my friend’s boyfriend said to me:
“I’m going to harass you tonight. I hope your boyfriend isn’t coming.”
It was easy for me to laugh this off and pay it no mind. He was probably only joking. I knew my boyfriend was arriving at the party shortly after me, so it wouldn’t be a problem. Besides, he didn’t mean it right?
But what if he did?
And what if my boyfriend didn’t show up?
Why did he think he could harass me only if my boyfriend didn’t show up?
Do I tell my friend he said this?
Will she think I’m doing something to attract him?
If I confront him, will he think I’m being too sensitive?
A bunch of questions arose, but for some reason, I didn’t say anything. Not to him. Not to her. And not to my boyfriend.
If I couldn’t speak out about a small and simple issue like this, imagine how Jian Ghomeshi’s victims feel.
As I continued to read articles regarding the scandal, I couldn’t help but feel like there is a huge dismissal of sexual harassment, large and small scale.
The dictionary defines harassment as “(typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.” But frankly, this happens more often than we are even trained to recognize. And as this scandal erupted, I hope people realized how untrained we are to fight these instances and provide support for the victims.
It’s always hard for me to negotiate my feelings when situations like this arise because I never know how to feel. Not as a journalist, not as a minority, and not as a woman.
But when I picked up the Toronto Star on Monday and read an article that embodied everything I had been feeling inside, I knew I wasn’t alone.
Jia Junaid writes in an article called “Coming face to face with my unexpected biases” about how she realized her own biases when the story first broke. The lawyer and human rights activist, despite considering herself a supporter of women’s rights and even a survivor of a violent sexual experience, took Ghomeshi’s side at first.
She really did believe it was a “jilted ex-girlfriend”, and doubted her credibility. As she did when more anonymous women came forward, refusing to attach their name to their claim.
It wasn’t until a lawyer and author, Reva Seth, and an actress, Lucy DeCoutere, came forward, that she started to doubt his innocence.
I too felt this way. I refused to believe a personal role model of mine; someone who's radio show I waited around for, lusting after his interviewing techniques, had been this person described by the women.
But I was able to trace exactly where my lack of belief in the claims came from. Besides the invisible lines tracing back to the construction of our society and all the flaws that shape our views, I was biased because I read his post first. He manipulated me in a much milder way than he had these women, but still, used his personality to put in our minds that he was the victim.
In his post, he begins by mentioning the loss of his father. He describes the grief and difficulty of this time in his life. As if the women, too afraid, embarrassed, and terrified that they have to step forward anonymously aren’t having a difficult time either.
Junaid goes on to talk about how problematic it can be when people, like her and I, are more likely to believe a lawyer and an actress because they have good careers and likely have money, than we are to believe women who cannot attach their names to their experiences with Ghomeshi.
She says, “I was part of the problem.”
I think over the course of the next few months a lot of people will be making this revelation. We will realize that whether we are men, women, teens or elderly, we have, at some point, been part of the problem and the reason more women don’t come forward.
The best thing that has come out of this situation is the discussion that it has started internationally. And this is a conversation that has to continue on, which is why I write this post weeks after the issue arose, and days after the very article that inspired it was published.
Because it’s up to everyone to keep talking about it. To make sure that the victims aren’t just forgotten and done away with like the missing plane or the missing girls.
We forget things at a heartbreakingly fast pace. But the way that these women must remember their experiences on a daily basis is the way we have to remember the reality and severity of the problem.
More importantly though, we cannot be a part of it. And it is a very hard thing to do when our society is structured in a way that makes it so easy to not even see how our behaviors, responses, or feelings about things might be a problem.
But in the same way that after spending so much time in the dark you can train your eyes to see things, let’s start to see the behaviors and the responses and the feelings that are problematic. Let’s talk about them and correct them.
And let’s find our way to the light.