I really like Jian Ghomeshi. As the thoughtful, eloquent, well-informed, highly charismatic and soft-spoken long-time host of CBC’s Q, he has quite a loyal following across the country and even south of the border. So it’s more than understandable that when news broke that he was fired by his employer, the country went into a collective tizzy.
What bothers me about the Ghomeshi discussion
When Jian Ghomeshi took to his own Facebook page to issue a carefully worded statement and argue that his kinky sex life was the reason behind his firing, I saw the public narrative change immediately. Words of support, scoffs over that old fuddy- duddy of a public broadcaster, attempts to discredit the accusers, people tripping over themselves to reassure Ghomeshi that his sex life was his business—it all unfolded within hours. Websites in support were popping up and a petition to reinstate Ghomeshi was making the rounds. If he
had hoped that going on the offensive and issuing a pre-emptive strike would reap online displays of unwavering support, he was more than vindicated.
No one knows the entire truth, and we probably won’t know it until this goes to court, now that Ghomeshi has launched a $55 million lawsuit. But without pointing fingers and taking sides, I take issue with a few things.
Just because someone is a well-loved public figure does not mean they are immune to wrongdoing and exempt from justice. The cult of personality and hero worship are dangerous. They can erode our critical thinking and lead us to automatically assume innocence where guilt may reside. I’m not saying Ghomeshi is guilty, only that he’s not automatically innocent simply because we like the way he smoothly poses questions on air or because we liked Moxy Früvous. (Who the hell liked Moxy Früvous?)
Despite what many outraged Canadians might want to believe, from the beginning there were clear signs that this was always about more than kinky sex. Sure, our Crown Corporation (and many of its viewers) may not be “hip with the times” and into BDSM, but I have a hard time believing that the CBC would fire their golden goose over his unsavoury (to some) taste for bondage and spanking.
Even the perception and association with BDSM shouldn’t have affected his reputation (and the CBC’s, by association) to the point it warranted the broadcaster to get rid of its prodigal son and run the very real risk of legal pursuit by a wronged party.
Without necessarily concluding guilt, there must have surely been enough evidence seen and heard by the CBC to satisfy its legal team that his dismissal was legally sound. There is simply nothing to be gained for the struggling public broadcaster by wrongfully dismissing one of its most popular employees to save face.
The subsequent Toronto Star article that broke Oct. 26 seems to corroborate that point of view. Jian wrote in his lengthy statement that this is happening “as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex- girlfriend and a freelance writer.”
First off, the “jilted ex-girlfriend” card raises major flags for me. I have written extensively on rape culture and society’s easy dismissal of sexual assault accusations as the malicious machinations of vengeful, hell-bent, angry women. In lay terms, “b*tches be crazy,” and you just have to take what they say with a huge grain of salt.
But, contrary to popular opinion, rape and sexual assault continue to be the most underreported violent crimes in North America. Study after credible study has proven that women are simply, and too often, scared into silence, particularly when the perpetrator is a well-known figure with fame, money and public support on his side.
And here’s where this story unravels for me: while Ghomeshi alludes to one jilted lover, the Toronto Star article speaks of four women who have come forward with accusations of non-consensual sexual violence.
Four women takes this incident from a “he said, she said” scenario to a full-blown pattern of “she said, she said, she said, she said. . . ” sexual aggression. What could the motivation be for four women to lie about something like this? For the chance
to be vilified by every Ghomeshi fan who’s upset he’ll no longer be on the airwaves? For revenge? For easy laughs? Hardly. There is nothing easy about coming forward with allegations of sexual violence, and women are vilified twice as much as the accused in the court of public opinion.
The Toronto Star felt compelled to tell us that the women who came forward were “educated and employed.” Why, you ask? Because a woman accusing a man of sexual violence needs all the propping-up her credibility can get. And heaven help you if you only have a high school diploma and are currently looking for work, ladies. Don’t even bother filing a sexual assault complaint until you get a job and a GED.
The fact that these women have not gone to the police yet (as far as we know) does not mean that they’re lying. It may simply mean that they’re not ready to put their sex lives under a microscope and be ripped to shreds by legions of Ghomeshi fans. The benefit of the doubt always seems to favour the people we know over those we don’t, and Ghomeshi is nothing if not well known in this country.
This story is still in its infancy. And because of whom it involves, and the salacious and shocking content of BDSM- infused accusations, it’s here to stay for a while.
I, for one, will be closely watching how the media (and its inevitable bias) reports on this story, because how a story is reported is often just as important as the story itself.
Toula Drimonis is a freelance writer and editor based in Montreal. A former News Director and long-time columnist for TC Media, her freelance work has appeared in The Tyee, Huffington Post, Policy Mic, J-Source, and Le Journal de Montréal, among others. Find her on Twitter: @ ToulasTake. A version of this article originally appeared on Ricochet, a new crowd-funded, bilingual independent publication dedicated to public interest journalism. Check out their English and French editions at http://Ricochet.Media.