I Wrote Something About Jian Ghomeshi on Twitter & All I Got Were These Stupid Trolls
- •Context: a few years ago, as part of the press tour for a movie, I was interviewed by Jian Ghomeshi on his radio show Q.I was told it was an important interview. His status in Canada was impressed on me. "We're lucky to get him," was the general tone.
- •Before we went on air, we chatted for a few minutes. Then Ghomeshi smiled and said, "Man, you are just my type. Funny, sexy, just the right amount of damage." And then we went on air.If you can't understand why this shook me, I'm not sure you deserve for me to explain it to you. But here's something: I've struggled my whole life with depression. My blacks are blue black. This is not the first time a guy has "typed" me as "damaged" in a sexual way. I've come to expect it in a bar. I never expected it in a professional situation, pre-interview, with producers in the room. I had to hold my hands under the table to keep them from shaking.
- •"I must have done something to make this man behave this way towards me. I must be giving off something. It must be my fault."This is what beat through my head the whole interview. I have no idea what I said. I know I used the word slutty at one point, to describe my early twenties, because I got taken to task for it on Twitter later. Pretty sure I know why I used that word, because in that moment, I felt like hurting myself.
- •That weekend, he showed up at the party for our movie, pushed his way to my table, and sat next to me for the rest of the night.He wouldn't leave me alone, even with my boyfriend there. My manager said, a little puzzled, but like it was a good thing, "Wow, he's obsessed with you." I tried to be as cold as possible to him, so he would go away.
- •That's it. He reached out to me on Twitter a couple times. I was polite back. But I had that old bad feeling in my stomach, that I had somehow led him on, that I must go around the world sending off signals to men that I'm not aware of. That I gave him the right to treat me like a piece of ass in a professional setting.
- •When the story broke, of women in Toronto accusing him of sexual assault & strangulation, and then when many many more women came forward with stories of his predatory creepiness, when he got fired from his radio show, when people started writing things online like "I was told not to be alone with him..." I understood.What I felt from him, from his inappropriate behavior, was part of a larger picture.
- •Then, this week, when a judge acquitted him because he found the women's testimonies to be "unreliable," I could not contain my rage. So I went on Twitter. And I wrote how he made me feel all those years ago....and now some people are telling me I'm brave & other people are telling me stuff so vile I won't repeat it here. And my tweets are getting reprinted on vulture and huffpo and god knows where else.
- •Here's the thing: in this context, I'm not really brave. This is not something I survived. This is grade-A, prototypical sexual harassment, and unfortunately that is something I became accustomed to in girlhood.You know who is brave? The women who came forward to accuse Ghomeshi. The women who put their own reputations and sexual histories and emails and traumas into the public eye, in the effort to put the man who assaulted them behind bars. And then had their testimonies branded as "unreliable," which I cannot help but read as a gendered & victim-shaming verdict.
- •Just to be clear: I'm well fucking aware that what happened to me in studio Q & after was not tantamount to assault.
- •But this verdict hits me straight in the guts. It speaks to the way this kind of behavior is condoned and normalized in our society. Men do things to us that feel wrong or bad, and instead of speaking up, so often women are taught to swallow our feelings, transforming anger & hurt into shame & guilt.Sometimes we are taught directly, like when an older woman in my life told 14-year-old me, after a friend's father hit on me at a party, that "that's what you get when you wear red lipstick." And sometimes we are taught indirectly. Like when we see a judge deem the testimony of some very brave, traumatized women to be "unreliable." (And if you want examples of the hatred that gets spewed at women who speak out, even in the smallest way, I'll direct you to my mentions.)
- •I know that sexuality is complicated, and the line of consent can be tricky to negotiate. There are some men, in some contexts, who I would love to have put a hand on my lower back and guide me through a crowd. There are other men, and other contexts, where this would feel—and BE—a violation.Side bar: you know what's not a grey area? The work place. And yet I've had a producer ask me if I spit or swallow, I've watched a film's investor put a hand on a female costar's ass (& talked her through her rage after), I've had a male co-star tell me—in rehearsal, in front of our male director—that I would be hot if I gained a few pounds. It's insidious. And most of the time I haven't spoken up, because I HAVE TO WORK WITH THESE PEOPLE & somehow something in my brain tells me it's my fault.
- •I am sick & tired of women taking this issue on the chin. The default assumption should not be consent. Just because I agreed to be on your show doesn't give you the right to treat me like I'm sexually available to you. Just because I smiled at you doesn't mean I want you to touch me. Just because you're interested doesn't mean I'm interested.
- •I could go on forever. Maybe I will in some longer form. But do me a favor: if you don't know what I'm talking about, take this opportunity to educate yourself. There is so much excellent writing on consent, rape culture, sexual harassment in the workplace, available at your fingertips.At the very least, go watch the documentary on Anita Hill.
- •Thank you.