Thursday, 30 October 2014

Shame on "As It Happens"

I am writing this because 1) there is nowhere to comment on the As It Happens website or their Facebook page; 2) I am teaching a Canadian Women's History course & need to get this off my chest before this afternoon; 3) I am so disappointed in this news program & the CBC; 4) I don't even want to listen to The Current this morning; and 5) this whole thing is bothering me more than I would like to admit.

This is where the women's movement and the sexual revolution and social media world has taken us?

"As It Happens" is a CBC news show that is on in Canada 5 nights a week varying from 1 hour to 1 & 1/2 hours every weekday  night. I was one of those faithful listeners ever since it began in the 70s - even when we were overseas. It is a news and current affairs show. Over the last few years, I have listened to it less and less - not consciously, but because it just didn't seem worth listening to anymore (unlike The Current, which I will often stream if I miss it). We currently have a sex scandal going on across the country involving the man who hosted & has been fired from the show that he created called Q, which was (is?) an extremely popular morning radio Cultural Show. It has created a social media storm in Canada and the United States - even Salon & Jezebel have weighed in.

It is an unpleasant, murky case involving BDSM and issues of consent. Needless to say, perhaps, but social media has revolved around who is telling the truth. The women say he hit & beat them without consent, he says that he never hit a woman without consent.

So many people on my Facebook page were horribly disappointed & one was even "heartbroken" that this man could do such a thing. Others were outraged. The dangers of putting anyone on a pedestal.

Before I go on, a couple of points:

I have listened to the show on & off, depending on who was on and what I was doing. Can't say that I was a fan. And like with Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and others, all previously listened to shows will have the YUK factor - which is too bad because, ironically, there was a very interesting "Q debate" on the issue of rape culture back in March 24, 2014 (http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2014/03/24/rape-culture-debate/).

I have weighed in on Facebook (on my own status, which is public) & as a commenter on other pages, saying that we need to wait - "it will all come out in the wash". If Gomeshi is guilty of assault & battery & rape, then this needs to be in the courts, not social media, & he needs to be sent to jail. However, not one of the accusers has filed a complaint with the police. The reasons "why not" are part of the social media storm.

Shame on "As It Happens" and the CBC for letting it air: 

Listen to the interview in question at: http://www.cbc.ca/asithappens/features/2014/10/29/jian/  

This interview brings up all the murky issues around our attitudes towards women, the patriarchy, misogyny, sexuality, women's sense of self worth & most disturbingly, the issue of consent. The woman came forward on the condition of anonymity, which I understand. However, that will not make her immune to the fallout.

The quick story is that she went out with Gomeshi the first time and he yanked her head back & pulled her hair in the car at the end of the "date". Then she went out with him again - to his apartment this time - where he hit her and started to choke her. She began to cry, he stopped and said that it was late and she should leave. She was distraught and spent the rest of the night with a girlfriend crying her heart out.

What "As It Happens" and Carol Off don't seem to get, is that this interview gives Gomeshi - however distasteful the scenario - 1. the right to claim that he thought that he had consent (whether or not he did is up to the courts - see the addendum) & 2. when he realized that he had misread the situation, he stopped immediately. A case of the law of unintended consequences?????

Carol Off did ask her why she went out with him after the first time. The answer indicates that this has haunted her even though it all happened over 10 years ago. Part of her answer is that he was charming and "wow, my father would really like you", and she didn't really know how to think about it. She said that "we didn't discuss it" - "why didn't he ask me" & actually gave a scenario about how the conversation should have gone (what she would have considered consent), "it came out of nowhere".

The problem is that this is what we hear women say again and again. The warning sign was in the first violent act. She should never have gone out with him again. However, this is what women do. We excuse and excuse violent behaviour from men.

Did second wave feminism accomplish nothing????

My part of the story or why was I so upset?

This probably gets me to the point that has been bothering me ever since I heard the interview - took me a long time to get to sleep last night. No man ever hit me except my father, and I would have walked and never given any man who did (we could say "without consent") a second chance. However, it was violence that sent me on the road to leaving both my husbands. There were lots of other reasons in the mix, but these incidents were catalysts. One kicked our son for no reason; the other was so angry he almost killed his father and took a door off of its hinges in our house. In the one case, I broke up the marriage within 6 weeks; the other took longer for various reasons. Both men were extremely frustrated and unhappy at the time when they exhibited their violence.

While I have always understood that those incidents played a role in the breakup of the marriages, I don't think that I realized until this morning and as I am writing this post, just how important these were in my decision making. Both husbands scared the hell out of me - something that has, for years, been difficult to acknowledge. In both cases, I had to get the children away from these men. I have often voiced the fact that I could not change my husbands, but I could not let my sons grow up thinking that this violence and the way that they treated me was acceptable behaviour. If I stayed, I would have been implicitly, if not explicitly, condoning behaviour that I had years ago deemed completely unacceptable. My father never hit my mother, only his children.

We learn about relationships from our parents and those around us. What we learn is different in every case. My sisters and I all learned different complicated things from our childhoods, but  none of us ever allowed physical abuse to happen to our children (as far as we know, of course - but on this issue we were vigilant).

We still have a long, long way to go if we expect to end violence (whatever kind) in our society. Some days, I feel like we have gone nowhere on this issue. I can only go back to Alice Miller's For Your Own Good: The Hidden Roots of Violence in Child-Rearing Practices. If only the world would take it seriously.

An Addendum

Canadian law is very difficult in the area of the law and rough sex. See the following article, from which I have excerpted the relevant paragraph here (Ms. Leiper is a lawyer):

Nor is express consent at the outset of any sexual activity a complete answer for an alleged criminal assault. Ms. Leiper said certain provisions in the Criminal Code, such as sections 273.1 and 265, describe situations in which consent cannot be properly given. For example, consent is not obtained if the person engages in activity because the other person has taken advantage of a position of authority or trust. Consent is not obtained in law where it is given as a result of threats, fear of force, fraud or actual application of force. Also, consent in sexual cases must be ongoing. A person must be able to revoke consent, by words or conduct, even if initially he or she did consent to sexual activity at the outset. And if a complainant is incapable of expressing consent, the consent is gone.

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