November 9, 2014
- Well my dear sisters and siblings, it’s hard to believe, but feminist discourse about rape and sexual assault is actually making it into the mainstream. And actually, as the Jian Ghomeshi story continues dominate all forms of media for the second week in a row, it seems that is almost all people can talk about. Today’s Toronto Star editorial calls it a sea change, noting that “no longer are conversations about rape culture, sexism, misogyny and abuse being held only in the rarified atmosphere of university feminist studies classes.” Out of the study halls into the news feeds, apparently.
- Just a few weeks ago, we would have had trouble imagining that a major newspaper like the Toronto Star would even use the term rape culture. But they did; in their analysis of OHL’s move to suspend two players for harassing women online.
- And well-known Globe and Mail columnist Leah McLaren called out her editor for sexually harassment and being a total fucking hypocrite, which would have been unheard of pre-Ghomeshigate. Even if McLaren refrains from naming the jerk and ends on an “all is forgiven” note. It’s still brave and still unprecedented.
- News coverage of sexual assault has also broadened beyond #ghomeshigate, as the Star continues to investigate the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s inaction concerning multiple cases of sexual harassment brought against male doctors.
- The old boys club on Parliament Hill also came under scrutiny this week as two Liberal MPs were ejected from caucus for harassment allegations put forth by two female NDP MPs. A former parliamentary intern also spoke out about the harassment she endured on the Hill.
- Thanks to #beenrapedneverreported, and the voices of lots of courageous women, we have started to call the practice of victim-blaming for what it is — namely, oppressive bullshit. (Side note: read how two women from a feminist non-profit are responsible for reporting all harassment cases on Twitter.)
- And we are seeing iniatives like this one started by CWILA, to give voice to victims and survivors of abuse.
So is our work done? Hells no.
- It’s true, we have actually seen the conversation evolve as commentators start to look at the broader implications of the Ghomeshi case. Rabble.ca Editor Meagan Perry urges us to seize the moment for system change, arguing that we can and must demand more than “justice for the victims.”
- Kate McInturff, director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives notes that while it is remarkable to that the survivors of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence are “being given increasingly wide venues in which to be heard,” we must also ask: What are we going to do now that we are sorry?
- The CCPA also released its study this week on the Status of Women in Canada, finding that: “while progress has been made in access to education, there are areas where inequality has persisted and worsened—particularly in terms of violence against women, political representation, economic security, access to social services, and the additional barriers to equality faced by Aboriginal women and girls, racialized women, women with disabilities and women from sexual minorities.
- As Denise Balkissoon argues, “we haven’t reached a watershed moment and in fact, we should consider why it is that these stories dominate the media, while the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women continues to be a page 6 story: “Don’t be fooled, their lost bodies aren’t lying in nice coffins in proper graves with their hands crossed peacefully over their chests. Unlike Mr. Ghomeshi’s alleged victims as described by the Toronto Star, these dozens and dozens and dozens of women generally weren’t “educated and employed.” That’s why they can’t ignite change, I guess.”
There are really important conversations and productive action taking place but let’s keep pushing.
- Oh! and for a non-Ghomeshi look at BDSM, read Elise Peterson’s reflection on the complicated intersections between the drudgery of work and the thrills of sexual empowerment in her past career as a dominatrix.