When I heard the news on Sunday night that the CBC and Jian Ghomeshi’s “relationship had ended”, I was shocked. I was quadruply so when his Facebook post showed up in my stream hours later stating the fact that he was fired from CBC and his show Q over how he conducts his personal affairs in the bedroom. He was amazingly forthcoming in the nature of the what those affairs in the bedroom entailed, and then explained that he is now a victim of a vengeful ex-girlfriend’s smear campaign.
I was outraged! How could the CBC be so cowardly as to fire him when such allegations are still just allegations? They have had such a string of bad news lately (e.g. loss of NHL Hockey broadcast rights, reduced budgets and programming, staff layoffs) that it amazed me that they would invite further negative attention until the truth was sure. I pressed the “Like” button on Ghomeshi’s FB post to show my support and share my outrage.
In the cold light of Monday morning, however, I started to probe more into my reaction. Why did I so quickly trust his version of the story and, more disturbingly, accept the fact that the ex-girlfriend was vengeful and crazy-bent on trying to destroy a good man? Looking at my own reaction was disturbing and uncomfortable – was it somewhat misogynistic, in it’s own way?
I only had the story from one point of view, his. I’ve known of him since his since his Moxy Fruvous days, sure, and have followed and respected his work on Q. I admired his thoughtful, interesting interviews and concluded that he is an astute communicator of what is happening in the cultural zeitgeist. His FB eulogy of his father was heartbreaking and so humanizing.
But I still don’t know him, not in a real way. I don’t know him any more than the (currently) anonymous woman on the other side of the story. And yet I, as a modern, feminist woman, instinctively believed his side of the story without waiting to hear the facts, or her side of the story. She is in a real no-win situation, regardless of where the truth lies, especially if her real identity is revealed. Of the many advantages on his side: his public name and reputation, his getting his story out first and having access to broadcast his message, his having the resources to retain the services of a high-powered law firm and PR firm, and his own incredible skills at writing and communicating story. He has a position of power.
If she’s as vengeful and crazy as Ghomeshi makes it out to be, she has some real serious issues already to deal with. How can she possibly have the capacity to deal with the vitriol, speed and relentlessness of the social shaming that will occur? But at least the respect and trust I afford to Ghomeshi will remain intact.
More worrying is if her idea of consent and comfort of the activities that occurred in the bedroom did not match up to his idea. She is his junior by 15-20 years, what if she had a lack of experience to really understand what she was consenting to? Each person views the occurrences through their own lens, with potentially differing context, mood, emphasis in memory. What if both views are truthful, when taken from their own point of view?
My regard for Ghomeshi is fond enough that I don’t even want to consider the scenario that all the allegations are true.
What would you do if you were the woman, and the allegations are true? Would you be brave enough to go public with the charges to bring the culpable person to justice? That would sign you up for continued harassment from the public both in the form of traditional media and, more pervasively, from social media for years to come. Would you try to find other women that perhaps suffered through the same situation, so that together you would have the strength in numbers to soldier on? Would you use the media to expose the story instead of the law, because you could remain unnamed in a news story, but your name would go public if charges were laid? Or would you rather deal with the shame and anger in private, letting the culpable person get away, because it would be easier to deal with than trying to win in the court of law and public opinion?
So many uncomfortable choices, none of them great. So, I will do my part to counter my initial reaction–I will withhold any further opinion, stop speculating, and pass no judgement, until the stories and facts are both presented and made public. Preferably in a court of law.