Sick of the Jian Ghomeshi hype? Let’s talk about Joe Murphy and a library scandal instead. Stick with me here, and I promise you reasons to be enraged, and copious amounts of kitten pictures along the way.
For what seems like ages, all anyone has been able to talk about is disgraced radio star Jian Ghomeshi and his alleged sexual assaults. I’m not sure if there are still Ghomeshi supporters out there, but there people who never really got the outrage, and they’re exhausted by constantly hearing about it. Most of them seem to be (male) friends of friends on my Facebook feed. And they’re Ghomeshi’d out.
To be fair, it can get exhausting. Even if you’re actively engaged and invested in this topic, no one wants to talk about some (alleged) narcissist who has (allegedly) sexually assaulted women and (allegedly) choked and beaten them. In part, that’s because we don’t have all of the facts yet. No one does. The police investigations are only just beginning, and as it stands, Ghomeshi is still suing the CBC for defamation. We don’t know for sure if Ghomeshi committed any crimes. although the number of women who have come forward with allegations is shocking and heartbreaking.
Another reason that this topic is so hard to keep on discussing is that it’s appalling. Most people have an aversion to the horrific – they don’t want to think about it, or talk about it, or see evidence of it. I certainly don’t want to spend my days thinking about abuse. Doing so would be traumatic, and the people whose job it is to sort through filth, like anti-child-pornography investigators, have well-documented struggles with morale and mental health. (Off topic, please see this fascinating article about the sorts of horrifying content that are kept off of social media by underpaid workers.)
Despite knowing that the Ghomeshi scandal will eventually fade from the headlines, as all news does, I’m still frustrated that it will, and angry at the people that just don’t get it and don’t want to hear any about it. I’m frustrated because while I’m calling this a scandal, it isn’t a “sex scandal,” as the press keeps calling it, in any normal sense. We didn’t see someone’s “accidentally released” sex tape, or hear about a happily married man’s shocking affair. This is really a rape scandal. And as much as I don’t want to spend all day thinking about abused women, I also really don’t want rape to occur – not to these women, and not to me.
Have we stumbled onto a horrific subject? Here’s a picture of a kitten to help ease your pain.
No one wants to think about violence and rape, and the possibility that they can happen at anytime to anyone, no matter how careful, or professional, or educated they are. None of that matters. The monsters are out there. That’s one of the reasons that I’m loath to see the Ghomeshi scandal disappear, because once it does we can all go back to forgetting that the threat of abuse is real. Specifically, we can forget about the kinds of privilege that men like Ghomeshi hold that can enable abuses of power. And those systems of power aren’t going away anytime soon.
Time for another kitten:
Is the desire to forget linked to a desire to deny? It might be the case, which would explain why it seems more prevalent for the men in my news feed to be avoiding this topic. In general, I find that men are less likely to engage with these kinds of topics. They don’t respond to the threat of male on female violence as emotionally as women do. This isn’t the way it should be, but it’s reasonable, as women just have higher stakes in the game. They might also be afraid that the answer to the question of “who’s the rapist?” is “often, men” and they don’t like that they fall into this category. Understandable, but inexcusable if it means that the systematic abuses of power aren’t looked at because no one wants to look at them.
As the Ghomeshi scandal continues to develop, and as allegations are proved or found baseless, I just want to point out that this scandal isn’t just about Ghomeshi. It is. I don’t want to undermine how awful this must be for the women involved. But it’s also an occasion to talk about an ongoing problem that doesn’t often fall into the public eye. It’s a chance to look at our laws and our systems of power, and say, how have these failed the women that were (allegedly) assaulted? It’s also our chance to examine how much of this scandal is about Ghomeshi what he has allegedly done, and how much of it is about every woman who has ever been sexually abused in Canada but whose attacker wasn’t a celebrity.
This blog post has been my way to talk about Ghomeshi, but I’ve buried the lead. My real point is to suggest some of the reasons that we don’t want to talk about sexual abuse, and then to bring up a case that has made much small waves than Ghomeshi’s has: Joe Murphy’s defamation case.
This is a library scandal, and by scandal, I mean embittered defamation case. In essence, a man is suing two women for defamation after they alleged that he is a known to harass women at conferences, and is a “sexual predator.” I do not claim to have any knowledge of who is right and who is wrong in this case, but it’s worth reading up on. Librarian in Black does a great FAQ, and Library Journal does a great recap with some new developments and a lively comments section.
Now, I’m pretty sure that Joe Murphy wouldn’t like me bringing up him in the same blog post as Jian Ghomeshi. I’ve felt the need to, not because they are equivalent, but because while everyone was talking about the Joe Murphy case when it first came out, the interest is trickling off. Nothing much is happening with the case. No witnesses for Team Harpy’s defense have gone to the newspaper. There haven’t been any shocking revelations about a teddy bear who shall not be named. It’s on the backburner, and soon, the Ghomeshi case will be there, too.
My plea is this. If you’re tired of talking about Jian Ghomeshi, that’s fine. Let’s talk about Joe Murphy for a bit instead. Because if Joe Murphy wins his lawsuit against Team Harpy, either an innocent man has been exonerated, or an awful crime has been perpetrated and silenced. Both Ghomeshi and Murphy are in lawsuits that are specifically about the desire for silence and the desire to deny that a crime has taken place. It’s that desire that I’m afraid of. I fear that once we stop talking about the Ghomeshis, the Murphys, and all of the other examples where accusations of defamation and accusations of sexual misdeeds fight it out in the courts, we’ll be left with nothing but silence on the subject of violence against women. So let’s keep talking about Joe Murphy. Let’s talk about whether he’s in a position of power as a library pseudo-celebrity, and why the women that he has accused of defamation have spoken up as they have. Let’s follow the case, view allegations, and exonerate as needed: let’s do anything but take this very appealing opportunity to turn away.
After all, if Ghomeshi can make national headlines while Joe Murphy barely makes waves in the library community, it’s easy to see which one will sooner be forgotten.
Photo credit for the above photos: Robert Wiśniewski, Mikael Tigerström, Nicolas Suzor, dmertl, David Goehring. All from flickr and all creative commons.