We've all known a Jian Ghomeshi

Women who've had a romantic or professional situation turn coercive -- most of us -- recognize a sad familiarity

Published October 31, 2014 3:43PM (EDT)

Jian Ghomeshi                (Reuters/Mark Blinch)
Jian Ghomeshi (Reuters/Mark Blinch)

I requested and received a fancy radio from my parents as a 30th birthday present. More than any other gift, it seemed to perfectly symbolize a transition into boring, nerdy, staid adulthood, but also I just really wanted a good radio. I cook a lot and spend a lot of time puttering around in the morning pretending to get ready to write, and mostly work at home, so the radio is my … friend. Frenemy?

I have a nuanced and fraught relationship to many of the programs that air on WNYC, WFUV and WFMU. (Hot 97 is for the car.) I love Brian Lehrer with a fierce loyalty born of deep respect. My warm feelings about Jonathan Schwartz defy logic and taste; I kind of feel like he’s my great-uncle or something at this point and I hope to someday love someone or something as much as he loves Frank Sinatra. The less said about "Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me," the better.

And even though it airs during prime dish-doing, kitchen-tidying hour, I change the channel whenever I hear the opening strains of the Q theme song, though sometimes I’m not quick enough to avoid hearing Jian Ghomeshi’s signature greeting of “Happy [day of the week].”  Or “wasn’t quick enough,” I should say, because after the events of this week, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever hear that particular voice on the radio again.

I disliked Q for a couple of petty reasons. The foremost was: come on, WNYC, make your own pop culture interview show instead of importing one from our neighbors to the north! The celebrity guests were North America-relevant most of the time, but occasionally they’d have, like, a famous high school hockey coach who’d written a book as a guest. I also just didn’t love Ghomeshi’s interview style; all interviewers must tread a fine line between flattering their guests enough to keep the conversation flowing and actually asking questions, and Ghomeshi often erred on the side of the former. He also talked about himself a lot, never a great trait in an interviewer.

Because I wasn’t a fan, when I initially heard that Ghomeshi had been fired over allegations of impropriety, my reaction was relief and a kind of schadenfreudey amusement. Now that the allegations have been reported more fully, that makes me feel gross.  The firing isn’t about a sex scandal or the sadly routine kind of office inappropriateness that would be easy to shake our heads at and then laugh off; this is about more than just another sexist older man who can’t get away with his intern-groping ways anymore. It’s about a pattern of behavior spanning years, an excuse that attempts to position a taste for hurting women as a consensual kinky proclivity, and a media climate and an imbalance of power that allowed Ghomeshi to get away with his patterns for years, and even now makes it dangerous for his accusers to come forward.

It seems like there’s been an onslaught of this kind of story lately, and the most painful part of it, for women, is knowing in our bones that this isn’t because there’s been an uptick in sexual violence and abuse. Instead, there are more stories like this because, every time someone comes forward with one, it makes it possible for someone else to tell a secret that she's been keeping for months or sometimes years. Reading last night’s Toronto Star article, which included eight stories from women whose experiences with Ghomeshi were sometimes so similar that I had to double-check to make sure that I wasn’t reading the same paragraph twice, was excruciating. For anyone who’s had a romantic or professional situation devolve into coercion or abuse, which is the majority of women, the discomfort of reading the article is about its familiarity. Ghomeshi isn’t some weird outlier; he’s representative of all the men who think their partners are willing and happy simply because they haven’t explicitly said no.

Last night I was getting ready to do the dishes when the opening bars of the Q theme music came on. The voice that followed them was a woman’s, a substitute host who’s filling in for Ghomeshi. I still turned off the radio and I haven’t turned it back on since.

By Emily Gould

Emily Gould is the cofounder of Emily Books and the author of the novel "Friendship" and the essay collection "And the Heart Says Whatever."

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