Jian Ghomehsi: Radio host extraordinaire. The golden child of CBC. A great journalist, thinker, and advocate for public broadcasting.
Exempt from any blame? Excused from public critique? So it seems.
For those of you unaware, CBC’s Q Show radio host Jian Ghomeshi was recently fired from the corporation due to his ‘personal sex life’. On Sunday, countless Canadians rushed to support and defend their favourite radio personality, after he posted a lengthy Facebook status defending his honour and denigrating CBC’s decision to let him go.
The status in a nutshell: Ghomeshi discredits the woman who says she has been subjected to violence by dubbing her the oh-so-classic “jilted ex-girlfriend”. He discusses how he must be in the right because even his female friends agree it is defamation, vilifies the aforementioned ex-girlfriend, and reminds us that his personal sex life is none of our business.
Such a juicy piece of writing invites debate on the details. “Oh my gosh, do you think he really sexually assaulted those women?” “How can CBC fire him for his personal life?!” “Don’t you feel sorry for a man who is being defamed by bitter women?”
Shockingly, the general public has gotten swept up in the ‘scandal’ of systemic societal issues once again.
So for the betterment of all Canadians, I encourage us to engage with the bigger picture. There are two major issues simultaneously surfacing as this story unfolds and they are not getting their due coverage.
- Using BDSM as an excuse.
At the heart of Ghomeshi’s argument, he pleads that his ‘personal sex life’ is private and it is none of our business. Period. Even if his sex life involves violence against women.
Why? Privacy and consent. Ghomeshi argues that all events occurring in a bedroom are private, personal and not our concern. He argues that because everything he does is ‘consensual’ all his actions are completely justifiable and innocent of any wrongdoing.
This is concerning, very concerning.
BDSM, which involves consenting individuals verbally abusing, choking, or hitting one another, is not considered hateful or abusive. When it is discussed and executed properly. The difference between BDSM with consent and without consent is the same as always: consensual sex and sexual assault. (More on BSDM details from a self-proclaimed ‘perv’.)
But, if the allegations are true, Ghomeshi is using BDSM as an excuse. If such is the case, he is abusing the power relations of BDSM in order to engage in non-consensual and violent actions.
‘But isn’t that the whole point of BDSM hurting people?’ No, not at all. BDSM entails sexual partners recreating acts of violence into power dynamics of equality.
Don’t believe me? Believe our legal system. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a person cannot consent to an assault that causes bodily harm. When examining intense versions of BDSM, the law does not care about consent. Because it is violence.
Into kink? Cool. Into BDSM? Awesome. No judgment here.
Into physically abusing women and claiming it was all a part of the bedroom appeal? Not OK. BDSM does not exist to give predatory carte blanche.
- VICTIM SHAMING.
Bolded. Underlined. Italicized. Because apparently North American citizens just can’t seem to wrap their heads around this concept.
The Toronto Star published an article Monday, reporting that four women have anonymously come forward with allegations against Ghomeshi. According to the article, three of the women assert Ghomeshi, “struck them with a closed fist or open hand; bit them; choked them until they almost passed out; covered their nose and mouth so that they had difficulty breathing; and that they were verbally abused during and after sex.” All of this was allegedly done without consent. This is also known as physical abuse. Not BDSM.
Ghomeshi is claiming that three women are “colluding with [his] ex” and are making up lies to ruin his reputation and career. While this seems highly unlikely, I recognize the importance of patience while all the facts still come to light.
What I don’t need to wait to do is criticize the general response that too many Canadian citizens have had.
Once again, we are silencing, shaming, and blaming victims.
Christie Blatchford from the National Post, wrote an article sympathizing with the “profoundly sad story of CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi”. Because yes – let’s invest our energy into pitying the famous broadcaster who may have been slandered over the women who may have been physically assaulted. Because who cares about rape victims when you have a charismatic radio personality?! Because siding with the guy running out of the room saying, “They will tell you I hit them, but I swear I didn’t!” makes complete sense.
Blatchford goes on to dismiss the Toronto Star article, stating that the story is “egregious” because the alleged victims should report their assault to the police, rather than to the newspaper anonymously. She ends the article with this nugget of wisdom: “What we have here is another sordid modern tale of bullying, another low-water mark in journalism, and another man vilified by anonymous accusers”.
I’m sorry, what?!
We should not be demeaning the allegations put forth against Ghomeshi because the women remain anonymous or have not gone to the police. We should, rather, recognize the systemic factors that have lead them to these decisions. We should not be choosing sides with a man who may lose his reputation over women who may have been assaulted. We should not shame the victims. We should not dub victims as vilifying when they share their experiences. This. Is. Wrong.
Whether an alleged predatory person is punished or exonerated by the court this should not silence the voices of the victims. The North American mantra of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ does not infer that we should automatically assume victims of abuse are lying or embellishing about being assaulted. This notion does not make victims liars.
It seems as though we live in a society that celebrates men in the spotlight, regardless of their potentially harmful actions. It seems as though we live in a society that values the word of one man over many women. It seem as though our culture has deemed it acceptable to silence the voices of the victims.
It seems as though everyone here is missing the bigger picture.