Were you to directly confront me on this, I would voraciously protest and point to my self-proclaimed open-mindedness. As the British writer Terry Pratchett has said, “The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” If only it were that simple—no one is force-feeding his or her opinion on me. I am a willing participant in this exchange.
This fact became blatantly obvious to me yesterday with the news surrounding the very public dismissal of popular CBC radio personality, Jian Ghomeshi. In the wake of his dismissal, Jian posted a personal letter on his Facebook page discounting the backstory surrounding his termination of employment as spurious claims by a “jilted” former lover. Ghomeshi credits his somewhat “alternative” sex life for his removal from his position has host of the popular syndicated arts program “Radio Q” on CBC Radio.
Within minutes of his posting on Facebook, social media lit up with the irate comments of fans coming to Jian’s defense in their backlash against the public broadcaster. In this day an age, how could a person be fired for what happens in the bedroom between “consenting” adults? I too was quick to jump on the bandwagon and add my voice to the growing chorus of outraged fans.
It wasn’t until the next morning, when I read the news reports that I realized that this story, like most things, is not a matter of black or white—there are fuzzy grey bits to every story. I immediately deleted my Facebook post from the night before, and wrote a new post stating that I should have known better. It’s not my place, nor my intention, to pass judgment on who is right or wrong in this very public issue. But I thought I would share with you a few lessons, I’ve learned about myself during the past 24 hours.
First, it was far too easy for me to get swept up in the mob mentality of supposed sanctimonious freedom fighters. It is truly shocking to me how quickly I silenced my inner critic.
Second, language is power—and this power can be a scathing weapon. I was reminded this morning by a very close friend of how carefully crafted words, such as those used by Jian Ghomeshi in his statement of defense, like “jilted ex-girlfriend with an axe to grind” are rife with images of misogyny and disempowerment. We also see the power of words in the article in today’s Toronto Star article when the reporter claims that statements made by Jian Ghomeshi’s alleged victims are credible because “The women [were] all educated and employed.” It’s quite alarming thinking that employment and the privilege of an education are prerequisites before one can make a legitimate claim of having been physically or sexually abused.
Moreover, what I find most shocking is that even though I am a survivor of rape and childhood sexual abuse, I was so easily swayed by the aura of power, prestige, and celebrity, as I quickly passed judgment before all of the facts have come out. This is by no means an indictment of Mr. Ghomeshi, just a reminder to myself that being a survivor of abuse has not made me immune to the influence of celebrity.
And finally, I need to be more vigilant when it comes to communicating my impressions in this digital age. There are no filters or time delays on social media—It’s time I step back and think twice before I press “enter”.