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Oxford defines Kaput as "broken and useless; no longer working or effective" - similar to our unbalanced economic system. This is a page dedicated to the intersection of capitalism and social, political, and environmental problems.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Jian Ghomeshi, Privilege, and Consent

Let me be the first to say that I loved Jian Ghomeshi from the first listen. His stature to me only grew over the next decade, including meeting him twice in 2007. I was surprised on Monday when my friend Jenn texted me that there was news about him. When I saw he was fired from the CBC it took mere moments to find a wide range of information about his 'departure'.

In this post I aim to write about the public reaction to Jian's firing. The details of the sexual assault allegations are appalling and, as much as they are deeply troubling and central to this case, these issues need to be sorted out in a legal environment.

I'd also like to point out that I think it'd be helpful if more people would at least try to separate his professional work from his personal life. Much of the reaction that has come to Jian's side has used his body of work to build him up as an upstanding man. This of course was aided by the fact that Jian decided quite quickly to make his own emotionally-charged public statement in which he definitely attempted to paint himself as both a victim and as someone who has worked hard to gain the respect of Canadians.

Jian's PR move (let's recognise it for what it is) has been pulled from the book of privileged men attempting to deflect allegations of sexual assault. Males already have a significant amount of privilege in modern western societies (despite what many of them will have you think). In particular, when it comes to sexual misconduct we are programmed to have sympathy for the male who is falsely accused by a "jilted" former partner. This is amplified significantly when you add other layers of privilege, like class, social status, or education. Jian is about as close as a media personality in Canada is ever going to come to being a rock star. He is known both nationally and around the world as a arts and culture superstar.

The other salient element is consent. Jian went out of his way to mention numerous times in his statement that he engaged in sexual practices that were consensual, as well as "exciting" for everyone involved. Consent is already an isuse that our society has enough trouble understanding. Consent cannot be given under duress, in an intoxicated state, or when someone is in a position of privilege. All the people that came forward most certainly did not give their consent. And those are just the ones who came forward.

In line with misunderstandings about consent and public apologia for men of privilege, it's no surprise that women don't line up to publicly or privately come forward with allegations of sexual assault. One of the most powerful hashtags I've seen this year is #whyistayed. Victims of sexual violence and intimidation have numerous reasons to not come forward and they should be respected for their courage in stepping up. They have so much to lose and often so little to gain.

This is a time for a national discussion about consent as much as it is a time for hopefulness. Many Canadians have shown that they will not be intimidated by Jian's immense stature. Many others have shown immense support. I've read so many fantastic articles that empower the victims in this case. Hopefully that will convince others to come forward, leave unhealthy relationships, or talk to others about issues like consent.

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