We finally have proof, in Jian Ghomeshi’s own words, that he committed wrongdoing against at least one female member of his staff at the CBC. He was the boss, she was a subordinate, and the act was sexualized in nature. No longer can he claim that he was falsely accused. No longer can he assert that his accusers are all lying. He had to admit he did wrong, and he only said as much as was required to avoid jail. Because he’s rich, he’ll never know what it’s like to be truly powerless. He’ll never totally understand what he did to the employees he abused.
And yes, employees, plural. According to Ghomeshi’s own statement, he misled a lot of people in falsely protesting his complete innocence. Remember that he previously insisted that every encounter of a sexual nature he’d had with a woman was consensual. We now know that, at least regarding Kathryn Borel, this was not the case.
I still don’t believe Jian Ghomeshi understands the damage he caused by abusing his substantial media power to make at least one woman his plaything. He still doesn’t totally get the inherent dominance displayed in the act he was accused of – humping a woman’s butt. Most species of mammal inherently understand that this is a non-verbal communication of “you’re my bitch”. Mr Ghomeshi is the sort of entitled idiot that is inspiring the rise of demeaning “consent classes” for innocent, considerate men by perpetuating the lie that he didn’t know that inherently wrong behaviour was wrong.
We’re expected to listen and believe his words, because he’s positioning himself as just another victim –a victim of ignorance. I don’t buy it. I believe he knew his behaviour was wrong for lesser men because he lectured people about it on the radio all the time via words written by other people. He just didn’t think the exact same conduct was wrong for an important man like him. He justified it by believing that his happiness and comfort was just more important then that of the woman he used to show what a big man he was without her consent.
Too often in the media, emotionally immature bullies end up in positions of leadership. They’re not equipped to deal with the pressure, so they abuse their staff. They get away with it because many in the media won’t report the bad behaviour of others for fear that their own skeletons will get ripped out of the closet in retaliation. They’re right to fear that. That’s exactly what happens. A cornered narcissist is a nasty beast.
Jian Ghomeshi’s fall, however, is only one part of this story. There are dozens, if not hundreds of stories tied up in the damage he did – there were compelling rumors about the guy for years, coupled with an undeniable string of public temper tantrums. Worse, Jian Ghomeshi is not an isolated phenomenon. There are so many people in Canadian media who abuse their power that I started keeping a mental list of the ones who didn’t actively treat me like garbage. It was much shorter.
The bullies aren’t all men either. Notorious women, at the CBC and beyond, keep getting powerful jobs and keep abusing their staff with put downs, professional sabotage, screaming sessions, stolen ideas, and even sometimes physical isolation and abuse. With women and closeted gay men, the first thing a bully will use as a weapon is their sexuality. Slut shaming and forced “outings” are powerful weapons in the hands of a workplace media bully.
The cycle goes something like this: the person in a position of power starts the process of negatively labelling an ambitious young employee. For women, words like “cheap”, “unprofessional”, “star fucker”, and “attention whore’” start cropping up without evidence or justification. Co-workers take these digs to heart because they know that to keep their jobs, they have to agree with the boss, so after about three years in the business, practically every woman has some sort of scarlet letter on her. It’s usually not true, but that doesn’t matter. You have to prove you’re “tough enough” by labouring under lies.
Similarly, racial minorities get labelled with stereotypes such as “lazy” and “aggressive”, even though they get just as much work done, just as politely, as anyone else. Gay men get labelled “weak” or “overly-emotional” a lot. Especially when they point out that they’re only being assigned stereotypically gay stories. The thing that makes these tactics so toxic is that everyone makes mistakes, especially when you’re just starting out. But there’s a difference between having a moment of laziness or unprofessional conduct, and having that be something that defines your character. In essence, white, cisgendered, atheist men in Canadian media are allowed to make mistakes and learn. Gay men are allowed to be the “right kind of gay”, but that’s it. Everyone else? A single mistake is an easy way to “prove” that there’s something inherently wrong with you. Even taking off a non-Christian religious holiday can stall your career.
If you’re not male and a product of some British colonial upbringing, you’re easy to cut off at the knees. “Professional” workplace conduct is conduct that makes white people comfortable when other cultures find it slimy and dishonest – as someone who grew up in an environment immersed in other cultures, I’ve had trouble with this disconnect my entire career: I look white, but I wasn’t socialized white. So my script of right and wrong is not in keeping with the white-influenced Canadian media culture. Services like the CBC are apparently so afraid of the multicultural realities of Canada that one of the most popular shows is British soap Coronation Street. That’s the culture that cultivated Jian Ghomeshi.
Canadian media companies have a diversity mandate that only functions on paper. The beauty standard is white, but the behaviour standard is whiter. So the sweet spot in Canadian media is to look brown but act whiter than a lot of white people.
Ghomeshi milked that for millions of dollars, leveraging his minority status as a smoke screen to hide his bad acts. At the same time, he leveraged the privileged position of being a well-spoken, apparently non-threatening man in Canadian media. He sneered at men who were less erudite, and apparently collected a harem of women to secretly prop up the traditional masculinity he sacrificed on air for success. He was living the leftist lie that allowed him to hide his textbook abusive behaviour for decades.
Abuse in Canadian media is so widespread that everyone has some story. Get four female media personalities in a private room with drinks and the stories can fill hours. It usually involves the same four or five dirtbags – male and female – but every so often you hear a new one about some hotshot star or executive who is just as bad. The problem is that the very things that women in media are expected to do as part of our professional duties are used against us: provocative photo shoots, sexy on camera scenes, and daring evening gowns on red carpets are all used as “proof” that we’re just “looking for attention”. Sex and sexuality are so demonized that it’s frequently used as a lever of control by manipulators like Jian Ghomeshi. A guy like that gets so used to being peerless that he blames the women he mistreats for his own loneliness, and the encounters get rougher and more demeaning because the victimizer increasingly feels like the victim.
In my experience, even when you’re a woman in a position of relative power in Canadian media, you’re treated as “hysterical” if you insist on getting rid of someone for inappropriate conduct. For reasons I can only guess at, employees who stopped being employees maintained a level of respect for the male authorities involved, but lashed out at the lone woman in the process – me. Maybe it’s driven by the same core hatred of women that caused them to behave poorly in the first place, but I refuse to accept that this is at all normal male behaviour. This is aberrant, and deserves to be treated as such. The thing is that it’s so hard to fire someone with cause in Ontario that you never fire them for sexual harassment. You eliminate their job, but you do so because they’re dirty pigs who are taking advantage despite being warned to stop.
Contrary to Jian Ghomeshi’s in-court assertions that workplaces should “not have any sexualized tone”, the reality is that media workplaces are inherently sexualized, and we’re supposed to be secure and grown up enough to respect people of all genders anyway.
What I love about working in the media is that you engage with people on a much deeper personal level than you would at a desk job. You meet the most fascinating people, and you hear their stories. You have to be secure enough in yourself that you can encounter new things, even new sexual proclivities, and not freak out, because the media is often on the bleeding edge of civil rights advocacy for LGBTQ people. When you work in news, you also hear stories of abuse, see photos of assaults and murders, and you have to be strong enough to resist being eaten alive by that darkness, especially when children are involved. Being able to trust your coworkers goes a long way in that regard – everyone has days when it just gets to them and they break, and you have to trust that your coworkers understand the struggle and won’t hold it over you. That trust is precisely what a guy like Jian Ghomeshi and his enablers destroy.
I’m not at all surprised at Jian Ghomeshi’s clueless protestations that he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong. His reality distortion field is still operational, if weakened some by public scrutiny, but this is far from the end of this tragedy. You’d think that seeing a guy like Jian Ghomeshi brought low would bring some comfort to the people he hurt, but it doesn’t. Careers were still destroyed, dreams were crushed on the altar of Ghomeshi’s ego, and not all of those will come back, despite what we now know.
The CBC rightly took away Ghomeshi’s power to bully his staff, but there are still people continuing that toxic legacy, and nothing less than a total overhaul of how the industry does business will stop a future Jian Ghomeshi-style scandal from happening. Worse, countless people will be destroyed before some other predator becomes bold enough to get caught. That’s the secret tragedy that will never get headlines.
You wonder why you don’t see more high ranking women in politics, and many media, business, and tech companies? There’s probably at least one Ghomeshi in those companies, and at least five other people covering up for them. They don’t just target women, but their attacks are most effective against women, because women don’t rise to CEO when some creep humps their ass at work and there’s nothing they can go to make it stop. As it stands, there are too many creeps in the workforce like Jian Ghomeshi, and as much as it hurts women, these things hurt men too: all men should not be treated like predators because we’re terrible at stopping the real ones, but that’s the paradigm Jian Ghomeshi set. The courts allowed him to say that he didn’t know that his absurd, demeaning, power trip behaviour was wrong. Boys will be boys, right? Nonsense. Men know better.
(NOTE: This article is NOT about the first trial that resulted in the not guilty verdict. This is about a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CASE involving a different woman that was scheduled to go to trial in June. Some commenters are confusing the cases.)