Trigger warning: A lot of links in this post, and the post itself, may be triggering to sexual abuse survivors. Please read at own risk.
I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter the last few days. It’s where I get most of my news as it comes in – I follow a number of the major Canadian news outlets. Since I wrote my first article about Jian Ghomeshi and the now criminal accusations he is embroiled in, more and more women have found the courage to tell their stories, whether it be about Ghomeshi or just simply about what it is to be a woman in this culture that disbelieves abused women.
As of this writing, nine women, two who provided their names, including Trailer Park Boys star Lucy DeCoutere, have accused Ghomeshi of sexual assault, and countless more have told stories on Twitter through the hashtags #BeenRapedNeverReported and #IBelieveHer. Most notable from the group online is a Twitter user named @BigEarsTeddy, after Ghomeshi’s teddy bear, which he has to help combat his Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This woman states that Ghomeshi abused her months ago, and her Twitter includes graphic details, so please read at your own risk.
Perhaps the most interesting part of all of this is the reaction to the women telling their stories. People who were willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Ghomeshi at the time the news broke are now believing the women’s stories (check the #IBelieveHer tag), or at least starting to look at the case with suspicion. It makes me sad that it’s taken nine women so far to get people to understand how hard reporting sexual assault is, but I am glad that their stories are being heard and this conversation is happening.
However, I feel like whenever these types of conversations come up, be it about street harassment, rape culture, or feminism in general, people come out of the woodwork to insist that this stuff doesn’t actually happen – it’s the work of the feminist agenda, as seen by an example in this link. Christie Blatchford also bemoans the “anonymous bully accusers” in her editorial, here. In the Jian Ghomeshi case alone, there have been countless people, both women and men, who have insisted that Ghomeshi is innocent and that the nine women accusing him are part of a great feminist cabal, hellbent on taking him down for money or fame. And while it’s easy to ignore one or two voices, to hear a majority of people saying this, many of them young people, just plays into the fact that for our society, women’s voices should be overruled and invalidated in order to keep the status quo.
Ghomeshi himself started it, with his remarks about a “jilted ex” and a “group of women” who wanted to discredit him. And I have to ask, especially to women who insist they don’t need feminism – what about this sort of treatment is okay? How is it okay for men to discredit and invalidate women that are coming forward with graphic descriptions of being sexually abused? Whether you believe Ghomeshi or the women in this specific case is really not the point. The point is that this happens constantly. Women are considered crazy and hysterical, money-grubbing and vindictive. And while some women may actually be like that, it’s a small percentage. If I am telling you that I’m a sexual abuse survivor, I’m telling you the truth. And I have no reason not to assume that any of the nine women accusing Ghomeshi are not also telling the truth – because I know from experience how hard it is to even admit to myself that what happened to me was not okay.
There is no feminist cabal wanting to discredit a successful man. Not in this case. In this case, there are countless stories of this man allegedly abusing women, mostly young university students. What’s more, feminism just isn’t like this. We don’t hate men (again, some feminists may, but they are not the majority). I said to a friend on Facebook that I know many loving, caring, respectful, and gentle men that are horrified by this case. The unfortunate part of why I blog about what I do is that I also know our society – and our society comes down hard on the side of men.
When a woman can cry out about abuse and be automatically disbelieved. When a woman can walk down the streets of Manhattan and be street harassed over 100 times – 100 times – in the space of 10 hours. When a woman can be chased at night down a well-lit main street by a screaming man because she refused to interact with him – and not one person stops to see if she is all right, or if she is in danger. These things are not okay. And these things happen daily, despite the fact that there are many, many men who find them horrifying. Who would be horrified if the women in their lives had to undergo this stuff. I’ve got news for you, gentlemen: we do. Every day.
And you, as a woman, can not care or mind that a man catcalls at you during a walk. You can think that the women in Ghomeshi’s case are lying, or trying to get something from him. You can believe that feminists are just bitter, jilted women who hate men. But ladies who believe this, you have the choice to believe it because of feminism. You have the choice to speak out because of feminism. And the fact is that feminism continues to work for you, to make the world safer for everyone. Feminism isn’t about raising women to be above men. It’s about believing that the world can be an equal, respectful place, for everyone.
Jian Ghomeshi could be innocent of all charges in this case. But he is wrong about a feminist group wanting to discredit him. The nine women so far that have come forward are looking to get back their dignity and safety. They are looking to regain what they have said they lost during their alleged sexual assault.
And I? I support them 100%. Not because I’m a feminist. But because I believe in the right of everyone to be safe and whole, no matter what.