Thursday 30 October 2014

The Brave Woman & Jian

Warning: mention of sexual/physical violence in post.

Canadian star Jian Ghomeshi's Facebook post was salacious and creepy, and I don't want to talk about it. But now one brave woman has come forward to speak on CBC radio about a physical attack on her. That's worth talking about.

This woman is brave because internet has made the entire world a gossipy neighbour, and I can't imagine any woman in Toronto wanting to be known among her friends and acquaintances as "one of the women who got whacked around for kicks by Jian Ghomeshi." I didn't recognize her voice, and I'm relieved.  I know a number of women in the Toronto arts scene, including the music scene. And my guess is that everybody would like a job, or at least an interview, at the CBC.

She is also brave because inevitably hundreds of people will ask the air (or the internet), "Why did she go back?"  She says that when she was with him in a car, he suddenly grabbed her hair, pulling her head back. She didn't like this, and just went home. Then he asked her out again, and she went.

She did a pretty good job explaining why she did this when you consider all the judgement and suspicion implied in such questions as "Why did you go back?" as if the woman involved hasn't asked herself this a thousand times. However, I thought I would throw in my own two cents about such a common female response to bad male behaviour as "going back."

Sudden craziness like a moment of surprise violence is "negging" writ large. It's shocking and throws many women off our balance. "What the heck was that?" we wonder. It is so illogical in part because it seems completely out of character--especially if the guy is a self-declared feminist or Catholic or intellectual or whatever other identity we don't associate with brutality. ("Was it me? Did I do something?") It bothers us a lot. It's like some object is out of place on the chimney piece, and we think we will go nuts unless we can fix it. So we meet again with Mr Momentarily Crazy for reassurance. And very often, we are relieved  because Mr Momentarily Crazy is his charming old self again. He's handsome, he's witty, he's relaxed. Everything is cool, and so if we think that maybe we "did" something "wrong", he obviously doesn't think so. Whew!

And then, as quick and as unexpected as lightning on a sunny day, he is nasty again.

Pick-up artists (PUAs) seem to think it is the unusually beautiful girls who fall for negging. Their theory is that the beauties hear so much flattery, the only way to get their attention is to surprise them with insults. (e.g. "That coat makes you look like a dirty little snowflake."). But my theory is that it works on women who have a certain kind of thought process and take whatever men say seriously, even if those men are complete strangers talking to them in a bar.  Other women get angry as soon as they hear an insult and/or don't automatically assume all men are as straightforward as their own brothers or, ahem, women. Actually, the beautiful girls might see through tricks faster than the ordinary girls.

Negging works on me and, up until six years ago, if a charming and handsome man was suddenly nasty to me, I would worry about it until I saw him again "to make things right."I have, in fact, been slapped in the face by a date--many years ago--and I did absolutely nothing about it, even though I always told myself I would never, ever stick around if some guy hit me. I think I said something like "You shouldn't have done that" and he said "It was your fault."*  No, it darn well wasn't.  But I let it slide, which was, pondering it all now in tranquility, my call to make.

That brings me to the next question in the Scandal Ghomeshi:  "Why didn't you go to the police?" Well, my cherubs, I have been to the police about someone (neither Ghomeshi, whom I have never met, nor the slapper), and it was not great. The police asked me all kinds of questions about my relationship with the weirdo and wrote it down in his notebook. That I did not like. Also, the someone hit the roof and sent me really vicious, scary emails which left me a quivering wreck and ultimately led to my moving into a convent for a year. (Great security system, incidentally.)

So I maintain absolutely that it is a woman's call if she should go to the police or not, and if she decides not to, this does not mean she has to forever hold her peace. Waiting until other women come forward, gauging the public reaction, and then handing in her testimony to support them seems very reasonable to me. Incidentally, I think the best way to stop unwanted harrassment (by a man or a woman) IS to go to the police, and I would hope that if some guy knocked me to the ground and beat me around the head I would go to the police and demand justice, but it hasn't happened, so I don't know.

Can you imagine going to the police, wondering 'Oh gee, is this guy with the notebook a big Ghomeshi fan? Oh crap, the station radio is playing the CBC. Oh super crap, now the CBC is playing "Once I was the King of Spain".'

But to return to the theme of my vulnerable thought processes, I am supremely fortunate that I met Benedict Ambrose, who habitually overturns expectations in a nice way. Instead of behaving in crazy ways, he says crazy things--making puns or comically exaggerated claims all the time. And of course almost as soon as my squirrel-like mind starts scurrying around, it just relaxes, and I laugh. Negging, on the other hand, is the humour of orcs.

*The phenomenon of guilty men who say "It was your fault" as a kneejerk reaction is an interesting theme. Who are they really talking to, eh?

Update: This is brilliant. Of course, if you are a fellow contrarian, you could see it as much proof of the insidiousness of gossip as you can of the reputation of Jian Ghomeshi.  However, it also illustrates how gossip is sometimes how people protect each other--especially the vulnerable--from powerful people who could hurt them. One of the tragedies is that no-one seems to have said to Ghomeshi, "You have got to stop touching women all the time. It is creepy, and just because they don't say anything doesn't mean they don't hate it."

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