Expanding the Feminist Response to Jian Ghomeshi

 

By Harsha Walia

I’m still waiting on the feminist response to Gomeshi and rape culture and ‘why women don’t report’ that goes beyond the generic feminist (read: white middle class) answer of fear/disbelief/stigma. That is, of course, true, but a holistic and grounded response about why women don’t report includes a very real threat of not just state under protection, but overt state violence – whether incarceration, deportation, child apprehension, homelessness – that Indigenous, migrant, racialized, poor, trans*, sex working women encounter if we/they report sexual violence.

Furthermore, the state is actively complicit in creating the conditions that makes certain women more vulnerable to systemic sexual violence – like forcing migrant women to live with employers, continuing to dispossess Indigenous women from their landbase, criminalizing sex work, etc.

If the horrific misogynist violence of Jian is exposing the epidemic of rape culture, then we have a responsibility to push the conversation to center the reality of those most vulnerable to sexual violence to avoid perpetuating the exclusions of all those feminist ‘waves’ before us.

5 Comments

  1. maryam

    This is an incredible point!! thanks for sharing harsha. I liked this article to give some response as to why women dont report (it is not a feminist response, i’d say…but useful nonetheless) http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/sandy-garossino/jian-ghomeshi-women-report-sex-assault_b_6059124.html

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  2. Andrea Peloso

    Thanks for this. One thing that has struck me is just HOW MUCH coverage this particular case of sexual violence is getting, in comparison with Canada’s Missing and Murdered women, or the many other cases of crimes against women many of whom also are at risk of racism, poverty, displacement. While it is very good that this is coming into the public eye, it is also true that this case has been marked as “exceptional” given some of the high profiles of those who unfortunately experienced assault. I’ve been trying to include mention of other cases that are being ignored, making links, when discussing this particular case. Its safe to say that the high profile nature of coverage for this case is also demonstrating how much racism and classism normally impacts the coverage of stories of violence against women in the media.

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  3. Jim Watson

    I don’t know if I’d call it “feminist”, but I thought this was a brave, very candid response. http://www.nothinginwinnipeg.com/2014/10/do-you-know-about-jian/

    Reply
  4. thereginamom

    Yes, yes, yes! Harsha, you’ve nailed it and given me the language I’ve been struggling to find over the past couple of days. I’ve been saying that nothing less than a complete overhaul of our so-called justice system will be good enough. And it can’t just be a simple overhaul. It will have to be an intersectional lens because it’s all interconnected.

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  5. Jim

    That’s a very good observation. A thorough response must address the various structures in society (e.g., incentive structures, legal structures, etc) that contribute to this. One quibble, however, is your characterization of ‘generic’ feminism as ‘white middle class’. Many prominent feminist authors are in fact Jewish, and some were quite wealthy (e.g., Betty Friedan) and not middle class at all.

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