Friday, October 31, 2014

Jian Ghomeshi: Public or Private? His Word or Hers?

(also posted on my other blog: 27 Million Revolutions for 27 Million Slaves)

If you listen to public radio, you probably know the name and voice of Jian Ghomeshi, the host of the Canadian radio show Q.  Personally, I love the show because it makes my drive home late on Wednesday evenings more interesting.  So I was absolutely shocked to hear on Monday afternoon (I think that's when I first heard it) that Ghomeshi had been fired by the CBC based on allegations of sexual violence.  Very disheartening.  If you haven't heard the news yourself, here's an article: Toronto Star.

What added to my displeasure in hearing the news is that most of the allegations concern events from years ago and that Ghomeshi claims that whatever happened was consensual.  He admits that he's not a saint and prefers certain rough and demeaning activities in the bedroom but that he always uses safe words and acts with mutual assent.  Perhaps it's because I like the man's radio show, but I felt bad for the guy as I asked the following questions: Why would these ladies wait until now to bring these allegations against him?  Is it because they felt that the social climate is more receptive to victims of domestic/sexual violence?  Or because after all this time they knew they wouldn't have to prove a false claim and they wanted fame?  Why, if some of the ladies didn't want to reveal the facts because they were afraid of Ghomeshi's image and power, why are they coming out now when Ghomeshi is even more recognized and celebrated than a few years ago?  Or is his greater fame exactly what the women wanted to gain something from the exposure?  Is it fair that Ghomeshi has to pit his word against the word of these ladies, when we know the female will always win?  How will anything ever be proved?  Is it fair for Ghomeshi to be fired with no actual proof and with no corresponding police reports?  And isn't Ghomeshi right, that what he wants to do in the bedroom is private and shouldn't have any public significance?

My wife can confirm to you that indeed I have been struggling with these questions.  I will continue to struggle with these questions.  And I'm sure that a whole lot of other people are asking the same questions, probably in defense of Ghomeshi.  Yet there are two realizations that have made my questions irrelevant, inspired by my last question: 1) These women probably weren't aspiring to be recognized as one of the ladies who brought allegations of sexual violence against Jian Ghomeshi.  If that is the height of their ambition, then they are beyond desperate.  This isn't like the Tiger Woods situation.  With Tiger, some women may have thought, "Hey, I can become a local celebrity by saying I've slept with Tiger Woods, even though it will ruin his image and marriage."  I don't see anyone's thinking, "Hey, I can become a local celebrity by claiming that I've been sexually abused and violated."  So we can't question the women as possible fame-seekers.  The only motivation they could possibly have is revenge, which after all this time seems ridiculous, or that the allegations are actually true, and after all this time they've finally built up the courage to say something.

And, 2) Most importantly, it doesn't matter whether these sexual actions were consensual or not.  To me, it really doesn't matter.  I've said again and again that the trend toward more and more aggressive and power-hungry sexual behavior blurs the line between acceptable behavior and slavery.  Seriously.  I know that some women like being controlled and dominated in the bedroom, and many men obviously do, but that doesn't mean that we should accept, and thereby encourage, the nastiness of pride and power-greed seeking to exert itself in the most intimate of forms: sex.  If we do accept, and thereby encourage, such behavior, and the men in the world who prefer such activity cannot find a self-respecting woman to demean, then where will those men turn to?  What outlet will they have?  I think we know the answer to that question and it's not a good one.

If we want to end slavery in the world today, I think we should take heed of Ghomeshi's own admission that he's not a saint.  How many of us are saints?  Not many.  That doesn't mean, however, that we should ignore the spiritual emptiness that much of the world feels.  Ghomeshi, whether he intended to or not, pointed to a spiritual emptiness and spiritual longing that has gone unmet in his own life.  Many of us, too, experience the same emptiness and longing.  I suspect, though, that the answer isn't in finding the next girl to dominate and rough up sexually--or to find the next man to abuse us sexually, if we're a woman, a path that will only lead us to the brink of and indirectly in support of slavery.  Rather, the answer to our emptiness and longing, which create the impulse to dominate and abuse or to be abused and dominated, is to care for our emptiness and longing.

We don't need to condemn Ghomeshi, because so many of us are secretly or publicly suffering in the same way, but we also don't need to defend him because his actions, public or private, consensual or not, are truly dangerous.

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