Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Category: violence

Flip the script, UBC Accountable. It’s time

graphic from U of Windsor

Today is a year since the anti-feminist, anti-victim, UBCAccountable letter went up. What a year it has been. What an autumn it has been. Now we’re in the middle of the “me too” initiative, awash in thousands of declarations of womxn’s experiences of sexual assault. I’m embarrassed for Canada that this letter exists, ashamed for CanLit, and scared because of the new chill on reporting that it’s caused. This letter had severe repercussions in my own writing life, and I’m old, published, experienced. Imagine how much worse for you if you happen to be young, unpublished and inexperienced. Imagine how much worse still if you are from a marginalized community with other barriers set against your literary success.

I’m more surprised than ever that women signatories haven’t taken their names off and whispered, chastened, “I’m so sorry. Me too.”

Jian Ghomeshi … A Raped Canadian Woman is Worth 1/328th of a Man

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 10.11.36 PM

There are an estimated 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. That is 1,260 rapes every day, 8,821 rapes every week, 35, 287 rapes every month.*

Count them. 460, 000 Canadian rapes a year.

Imagine that. Imagine your day. You wake, you rise, you shower, you eat breakfast, you go to work, you run errands, you pick up kids, you have dinner, you recreate, you fold laundry, you watch a movie, you check the baby, you go to bed, you sleep. 24 average hours. During that time, one thousand, two hundred and sixty Canadian women are sexually violated. Not in the US. Here. In your own country. Some of them, statistically-speaking, in your own town. Some of them, statistically-speaking, on your own street.

And when you have another day like that tomorrow, the kind of day that roles by without exclamation, a new set of 1260 women will be sexually aggressed upon, and mostly by a new set of men, or by repeaters who excaped punishment the last time.

1400 rapists are convicted every year. So if we got to choose how to arrange those rapes and convictions, we could stack the women raped in one day up against the rapists convicted in one year and this is what we’d see.

1260 rapes/day

1400 convictions/year

So if crime and punishment worked here, all the rapists who rape women in the average Canadian day would be tossed in the slammer. Plus we’d put away 140 more from the next day’s rape burden, which would leave only 1120 unpunished rapes that second day. 1260 the day after that. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day.1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day.

Does this give you any idea why women are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore?

For every rape–and this is me just guessing here–I’m guessing there are 10,000 Canadian incidents of workplace harassment, street harassment, bus harrassment, harassment at home. Indulge me here. Rape and kidnap and murder are the worst manifestations of what’s going on for women in Canada. But lots of smaller aggressions happen to us all the time. Every day.

That’s called the patriarchy, aka “rape culture.” This is where it shows up what a self-sustaining system it really is. If institutions cut off our ability to respond to these aggressions at every step of the way, whether through mocking us, demeaning us, disbelieving us, telling us we’re crazy, calling us whores, saying we asked for them, saying our skirts were too short, we learn. Not to fight harder. But to give up.

Men have a choice about the patriarchy, at least about whether or not they participate and perpetuate it, but women have no such choice. It’s our birthright. The patriarchy is forced on us, force-fed to us with our Cheerios, and every girl and every Canadian woman has to figure out how to deal with it. Every day we teach ourselves how to get through the onslaught. Every day. When we’re 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or 70, we are still learning how to deal with it.

Think about this. For every rapist we put behind bars, we let 328 go free. Lawyers tell us that we do this in the pursuit of justice. They tell us that we do this because having one innocent man go to jail is worth … anything.

“Anything” is not just an idea. “Anything” here refers to real women with real bodies with real trauma. It’s been proven in study after study that only around 5-8% of accusations are false.

We should be convicting, at the least, 92% of all Canadian rapists.

We actually convict 0.03% of all Canadian rapists.

It’s not acceptable to this country to have a man slip through the cracks and be jailed for a crime he didn’t commit (nor should it be). But it is more than acceptable–in fact, it is the daily reality, the reality our system of justice seeks–that 458,600 women in this country every year get raped without recourse to justice.

Is sexual assault a crime in Canada or not?

I don’t think it is.

This get-out-of-jail-free card worked for the men who formed our justice system and it is obviously an equation that still works.

People say it’s not that simple.

But it is.

If this system didn’t work for men, it wouldn’t be in place.

Ask Jian Ghomeshi. I’ll bet you that tonight he’d tell you it works very well indeed.

Any way you play the numbers they still add up to this:

A raped Canadian woman or girl is worth precisely 1/328s of what a Canadian man is worth.

 

Reading Stats

*I’m using gendered language but acknowledge that men are raped by women, that women are raped by women, that many Canadians do not identify as either men or women, and that trans people are subjected to high rates of all kinds of violence.

 

 

 

The Preludes to Assaults

Feel free to share. Note this essay and my other essays on violence are collected here at the site on my page: On Violence.

#gomeshi #ghomeshi #ibelievelucy #IStandWithLucy #BillCosby #hairextensions #truthmatters #rapeculture #cndjustice

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted]. I don’t know you very well, but I know this: one night in early 2004, after I’d been awarded a writing prize in Ottawa, you followed me to a side room annexed to the main hall, where I’d gone to get away from the crowds, and while my (then) wife was in the bathroom or off getting another drink, I’m not sure, you put your hand on me. That hand. One of the very hands that is being discussed in court this week. You closed the distance between us and you massaged my shoulder/neck while talking to me about how I needed to relieve the stress of my big win. Eventually my (then) wife returned, you dropped your hand (that hand), and we smiled politely and “uh-huh’d” while you bashed the Rockies, BC and, in particular, Vancouver.

You didn’t ask me if you could massage me. I guess you assumed you could touch me. The way men, the entitled 50%, have always assumed they could access women’s bodies at will. You were a star, and your status helped me to tamp down my resistance. I don’t know why the hell you picked me, as I had just been on stage thanking my (then) wife; I was obviously queer and out and significantly older. Maybe I was just the only woman alone during that function? I do know that a number of other men, and people elsewhere on the gender spectrum, have previously in my life singled me out for non-respectful interactions. The truth is, I did not step back, Jian Gomeshi, you [redacted], and I excoriate myself for that now. I should value myself more.

I was taught to be polite. I was taught to smile and nod and always, always be friendly. I was told that friendliness could get me out of pinches, even save my life, and indeed, through the years, this mostly proved to be true. Doing what men tell you to do is just a good idea. Not doing what they tell you to do can be disastrous.

I wish it weren’t so, because they would be illuminating, but stats for close calls don’t exist. The binds we’ve escaped because of our own instinct or intelligence or cunning remain undocumented.

Let me talk about what you touching me was and was not, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted]. Because you had followed me and waited until I was alone to approach, what you did was strange and mildly unsettling. I felt a sense of disquiet. But given my sexual orientation and marital status, I also didn’t take what you did particularly seriously. That night I stayed up with another Canadian literary luminary getting drunk and laughing until 4 a.m. He certainly didn’t massage me and I’ve never written a post about his bad behaviour, nor would I. Guess why? There wasn’t any.

Okay, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], I get that what you did to me was not a charge-able assault, or, arguably, even an assault. I didn’t take it as one, then, and I don’t now. But I’m going to tell you what it was. It was the something else that so many of us experience 1000 times a year as Canadian people assigned female at birth, and trans–and let’s name it for what I now believe it was: the prelude to a potential assault.

The preludes to potential assaults are these: language or behaviour or touching that create in their  targets vague senses of unease that we “get over” as the day or week wears on. There is so much of this kind of crap slung in women’s directions in the average day that often we don’t even bother mentioning an encounter. We don’t tell our spouse. We don’t tell our employer. We don’t call a friend. Because these little infractions against our sovereignty, these thousands of small infractions, intended to train us to patriarchy, are par for the course. But we all understand what they’re actually telling us: they’re actually reminding us about what could happen.

If, say, we get uppity. If, say, we say no. If, say, we fight back. If, say, he woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

A year before you massaged my back, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], you allegedly hurt Lucy de Coutere. And there were alleged other victims, too. With that same hand you extended to me. With that very same hand you used to caress me. If the allegations are true, you wrapped that hand around victims’ throats and choked them. If the allegations are true, you used one of your hands to slap and punch your victims.

But guess what, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], let me tell you something about society. There are lingering effects to minor harrassment. Harrassment is a bridge built of a substance called continuum that Canadian women walk over every day of our lives from the day we are pushed into our pink worlds to the day we close our eyes the last time. And on that bridge are guys, nice guys, scum nozzles, and turds rolled in sprinkles. On that bridge of spectrums are guys (and some others) with their hands out, fingers waggling. Guys demanding we pay the toll. We’ll let you cross, they say, but only if you’ll smile. Only if you’ll give us a little kiss. Only if you’ll stop a minute and chat. Only if you’ll go home with us. If you want an “A.” If you want that promotion. Only if you get scared, because we appreciate scared. Only if we get to bash you in the head, throttle you, rape you and leave you for dead.

They say, We know you like it. They say, You asked for it.

You know what this mountain of harassment (and worse) does to the harried? It makes us queasy. It makes us question our interpretations. It makes us question our importance. It makes us scared to go out at night. Nervous to walk our own streets. Careful to lock our windows. It makes us tamp ourselves down.

It does all that because it’s meant to do all that. That’s exactly what it’s for.

The truth is, we aren’t fully enfranchised members of society, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted].

This all has a name, this systemic oppression. It’s called misogyny, and in Canada we need an inquiry* to untangle its octopedal arms so we can root it the hell out of our country, and unfasten our institutions from it. Imagine the productivity here if all our population was equally enfranchised. Not 50%, or 60%, or 80%, but 100%?

Really, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], I want you to stop and think about that. I want you to imagine a different world, a world where one class of people can’t get away with (allegedly) treating another class of people violently.

Because right now, in part because of you, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], we people who’ve experienced violence are triggered. We are not just thinking about your behaviour, and your lawyer’s behaviour, we are thinking of so many other times in our lives where someone else has behaved badly, where someone didn’t respect and honour us.

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], this is all coming back up for us, all at once, until it pools like another Canadian ocean under that bridge men have been having us walk, tying us together across the country in one collective wave. We are thinking about times someone followed us onto the bridge. Times we were groped. Times we were pressured. Times we were coerced. Times we were held against our will. Times we had brusies. Times we were battered. Times we were raped.

This collective will says, We are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.* Pretty soon, if we have our way, you guys with your baitings and assaults are all going to tumble off that bridge and drown in a big cold ocean of women rising up.

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], ours is a world that celebrates the male. You know what else is part of our oppressive system? Not letting women drive, or vote, or own property, or go out without male accompaniment. Saying that girls are not good at math, giving girls passive toys, not letting women go to unversity, glass ceilings, few female politicians, women earning less than men for work of equal value, women bearing the brunt of child-rearing and housework, women who perpetuate stereotypes even as they obtain jobs where they could change them.

All that stuff we call sexism? That is just misogyny written in semen. Men like you built the world. You built it to work for you. And it works for you most of the time.

We are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.*

Some men are up in arms this week, cautioning Canadian women to calm the fuck down. Don’t get your sweet little heads all in a tizzy, they say, in Canada we have something called due process. This is supposed to happen to complainants in court. Ultimately, it protects all of us.

In Canada, during due process, victims get psychologically battered, and we, the potentially violated, are standing upright while court is in session, quite out of order, and questioning that. We are saying This is not okay. This is an abridgement of Canadian values and Charter freedoms.

We are saying to the survivors of spectrum violence and to the brave, fierce women in court: We believe you and we stand with you and our support will never waver.

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], isn’t this quite the amazing system men have developed for themselves over the centuries? This system where women are achingly vulnerable, taught from a young age to submit, while the other half of the population (and a few strays from our side) takes advantage? Because let’s face it, what our patriarchy requires more than convictions, and we all know it, is an intact status quo.

So Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], thanks for the back rub. But just so’s you know: I’m an anti-fan.

 

 

*A Canadian inquiry on misogyny is the idea of barbara findlay, QC

*adapted from “Network,” the movie

Canada is Raping You

This talk talks about violence as a men’s issue and I recommend it highly: Jackson Katz’s Ted Talk

If you are trying to understand abusive minds, I recommend this book highly, whether your abuser is a man, a woman or someone on the continuum: Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft

Here is a very good blog post about this situation: Bone, Broth and Breastmilk

For people worrying about due process, this article, citing rape conviction stats in Canada: 1 in 1000:

What’s Really on Trial in the Jian Ghomeshi Case by Anne Kingston

The Oracle of Chappell Street

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.37.58 PM

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 9.21.14 PM

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: