It’s been a tumultuous week for CBC Radio 1 listeners, and I count myself as one. I listen to CBC radio regularly and rely on the morning programming to keep me informed and entertained on my morning commute. Like so many listeners who have weighed in on the events of the past week, I feel a relationship with both the organization and some of the hosts. When I could, I liked to listen to Q with Jian Ghomeshi.
In the early days of the show, he was a bit precious and inflated, but he and the show improved, and I would pause to hear the opening essay with particular attention. The essays were often insightful, progressive, and sensitive. I thought, naively I realize now, that the ideas and opinions in the introduction were those of the host as the show was identified, by name, with Ghomeshi; as it turns out, according to the Globe and Mail (Friday, October 31, 2014, p.A21), ” . . . at least 95 per cent of the trademark essays Mr. Ghomeshi read at the opening of each show” were written by two other employees. This misunderstanding is likely why I feel, as do so many others, a sense of betrayal at the unfolding revelations of Ghomeshi’s alleged assaults.
The CBC has fired Ghomeshi; at least nine women have come forward, to date, to claim that he assaulted them, without consent, and three of the nine have taken the matter to the police. Though no charges have been laid, the court of public opinion has been loud and clear, careening from vocal support of the host just one week ago, to shock and condemnation today. Like others, I was in disbelief that a familiar radio voice, who expressed empathetic and feminist opinions, could act in the repugnant and abusive manner he has alleged to have done. It turns out from the revelations in the Toronto Stars‘ investigation and CBC interviews with some of the women who have come forward, that the assessment I made of Ghomeshi, based on his radio persona, was erroneous. However, the aspect of this story that I keep returning to, is how an individual, albeit a “personality”, could perpetrate such actions, if it’s proven that he did, for such a long time? The societal pressures that forestall women from reporting assault are complex, but the discussion of this topic, that has been generated by the Ghomeshi allegations, is long overdue.
“Why Don’t You Speak Up”, Elizabeth Renzetti’s examination of the “culture of shame and silence” around sexual assault (Globe and Mail, Saturday, November 1, 2014, pp. F1&5), profiles the many difficulties faced by women who are victimized by sexual predators; it’s a grim reality that women are routinely “blamed for the violence committed against them.” (G&M, p. F5.) The Ghomeshi file, now before the police, will unfold over the next weeks, months, maybe years; it’s the sort of salacious story that draws attention; let’s hope that whatever the future for the former “Q” host, a space will be opened up for the alleged victims to tell their stories and obtain justice.