Taking sides is a dangerous thing. The moment you have publicly declared your position on something, it’s difficult to gracefully change it afterwards. Depending on the forum in which you have announced your decision, the backlash from altering it can be anything from a friend rolling their eyes to a few Facebook comments to the entire internet declaring war against you. Up against a variety of social media feeds that almost demand you pick a team, it’s hard to keep quiet until the proper time to do so and unfortunately that time usually coincides with the releasing of far too many private details about the lives of others.
If you aren’t aware yet, Jian Ghomeshi was fired from the CBC yesterday. If you live in Canada and you weren’t aware of this I am both shocked and in complete awe and I commend you. Let me give you a quick recap: he was fired and CBC made no comment other than being in possession of information that led to this decision. Ghomeshi responded with a $50-million lawsuit and an open letter. Basically, Ghomeshi is saying that he was terminated due to the consensual, albeit rough and salacious, sexual acts he enjoys – BDSM, roleplay, and generally rough sex.
Now, if Ghomeshi’s letter is 100% true then he has every right to be aggrieved – we have no business in his bedroom and his sexual preferences should be no matter to us. Agree with his preferences or not, as long as it is consensual and legal there should not be a problem. It should not be a matter of termination and we should never have forced anyone to give us that much information about his private life.
The Toronto Star published an article today chronicling the research they have been doing into claims three different women made against Ghomeshi. They claimed the acts were not consensual, that they had been bitten, hit, and verbally abused by Ghomeshi. No safe words were involved and prior negotiation did not happen. They cite fear of public humiliation and backlash, and also that Ghomeshi would be in possession of texts that previously stated some level of consent to rough sexual acts, for not approaching the police with the situation earlier.
Now, if their story is 100% true than they have every right to do with their stories as they wish. This includes going to a large newspaper, launching claims with his employer due to the fact that he sexually assaults women, or going to the police if they feel that they can. The CBC was also 100% right in terminating Ghomeshi.
The problem with this story is that we actually don’t know anything, though. It’s a lot of “ifs” and a lot of “maybes”. Your feelings on the actions thus far of parties involved depends entirely on the story you believe which quite simply results in an increase of emotions and a loss of objectivity. It results in victim blaming, whether intentional or not, and possibly smearing the reputation of someone who, prior to yesterday, was widely loved across Canada. The way you feel reading the articles, stories, and blogs relies entirely on who you think told the largest amount of truth.
And this is not the way we should be reporting the news.
Given Gomeshi’s status in Canada, the CBC could not have terminated him without some explanation. The truth is, however, that they didn’t explain much. Ghomeshi did. And then the Toronto Star did. And both of those sources have their own (emotional and completely biased) reasons for doing so. And now we’re all watching as everyone debates who is really the victim in this situation and whether or not BDSM is enough of a reason to fire someone.
That’s not the point. At least not yet. The point is that we simply do not know enough to take sides. I was a fan of Ghomeshi’s and of Q, his radio show on CBC. Now I’m not so sure. What I do know is that my personal feelings about Ghomeshi have been put aside as I wait for this to play out. I know I need more information to understand what’s going on and the rest of us do, too. I can say that I am most definitely leaning towards the side of the women but I also know that is my natural inclination. That is my personal bias and part of my politics and that, to me, it’s not so much a text message consenting to acts but consent during the act that I care about. But I am rational enough to understand that sometimes things aren’t as they seem at first.
We all need to stop speculating. It’s enough that we have far too much information about someone’s sexual preferences, and it’s enough that we have already begun the debate about whether the women were really and truly assaulted in these situations. Let’s all stop taking sides, sit back and (for once) let the story unfold on its own, as we all know it will, before we really start the circus.