Monday, 3 November 2014

rape culture in canada looks very much like rape culture here

[trigger warning for many of the links which describe some pretty violent behaviour]

i had a bit of spare time yesterday, and instead of catching up on my to-do list, i started catching up on my blog reading.  and i came across the rape allegations against a canadian radio broadcaster by name of jian ghomeshi.  if you haven't heard about the case, there's a detailed backgrounder here

short version: mr gomeshi runs a very successful radio show on canadian broadcasting corporation (CBC).  friday week he gets suspended.  last sunday he got fired.  he does a pre-emptive facebook post, trying to explain away a newspaper article he knows is going to be published about his violent sexual & physical assaults (the freelance reporter has been in contact with him over several months).

in the initial articles, four women tell their stories of harrowing encounters, anonymously.  they choose to remain anonymous because they fear the public backlash, they know that mr gomeshi is in a position of power & has considerable wealth, and they also have BDSM discussions via text that they know will be used by people to dismiss the stories.  it's as if they are perfectly aware of the way society treats women who come into the public eye retelling their experience of sexual assualt.

oh wait, there is a woman who did in fact tell such a story about mr ghomeshi, without revealing his name but giving enough details for people to identify him. and here is what happened to her:

“In the days that followed, Ciccone received hundreds of abusive messages and threats. An online video calling her a ‘scumbag of the Internet’ has been viewed over 397,000 times.”

i'd recommend clicking through to read the full article for examples of what has been happening to other women, particularly in relation to #gamergate.

the initial responses were pretty concerning.  last monday (when the canadian star article appeared) and tuesday, there was pretty wide support for mr ghomeshi & some of the fears of the anonymous women were played out.  why didn't they go to the police?  this was all a result of an ex-girlfriend seeking revenge on mr ghomeshi (his own framing in the facebook page).  he is such a nice guy.

but by thursday, 4 more women shared their stories via the star.  another woman chose to anonymously share her story in a CBC interview. 2 women give their names when relating their experiences, one an actress, another a lawyer.  a twitter account is found that alleged sexual violence back in april.

finally, after so many other women speak out, there are multiple investigations.  the CBC has launched an independent investigation, since 2 women staff members are amongst those who have come out in public to share stories of sexual harassment.  the police finally announced they were launching an investigation, although to date they haven't spoken to mr ghomeshi nor have they laid charges.  carlton university has launched an investigation as they are concerned about the safety of women students who had field placements at CBC.

mr ghomeshi's PR firm has dumped him as has his agent, and those early prominent supporters are now backtracking and apologising.

so.  the initial reaction is still a concern.  then there is the shaming and harassment of women who make complaints.  as others have stated, questions need to be asked of the CBC who received a sexual harassment complaint several years ago.  how much did they know about his activities, and how much was covered up.  it appears that there were a lot of rumours swirling around about mr ghomeshi, and yet no concrete action was taken.

there is a real concern that these women didn't feel safe enough to come forward with a complaint.  it says a lot about the canadian justice system, it also says a lot about the culture and online harassment (which can quickly turn into real life harassments when the attackers target workplaces & publish home addresses etc).

i can't help but draw parallels with nz and the roastbusters case, along with so many others. the same basic issues are at play here.  in canada, there is some real anger which may result in positive change at a structural level.  we are still waiting for any significant changes to happen here, although i am hopeful that there will some decent educational programmes running in high schools soon.

but we need so much more.


there are few other links that are well worth a read: this is also a good summary of the case; this piece looks at the possibility of narcissism; actually a good piece around the BDSM issues; and john scalzi makes some good points.

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