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The Ghomeshi Scandal Isn't Just a "Women's Issue"

11/08/2014 11:44 EST | Updated 01/08/2015 05:59 EST
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TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 07: Jian Ghomeshi hosts the Hope Rising! Benefit Concert for the Stephen Lewis Foundation at Roy Thomson Hall on November 7, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)

"Guys like you."

This phrase was directed at me a number of times in a recent interaction I had online in regards to the Ghomeshi scandal. From my perspective, the woman who said this to me was prematurely categorizing me as a misogynist patriarch, as if simply disagreeing with the way she expressed herself meant that I was flying against the winds of feminism. As a man who hopes and strives to dissolve gender- and racial-based biases in our world, this worries me. Although it's rare, it's this type of behaviour from feminists that turn men off of the idea, and makes the struggle all that much harder. After all, what hope do we have for gender equality if even men and women on the same side can't play together nicely?

Something I see far more often, especially in the past several months, is women speaking out about the oppression, threats, insults, and generally unwanted attention they and their peers are receiving. Women like Brianna Wu and Felicia Day have bravely spoken out against the #GamerGate movement (read: a bunch of socially inept white dudes who rejoiced at being able to use "ethics in journalism" as a thin veil for their unbridled misogyny), even though the repercussions are often death and rape threats, financial hackery, and having their personal information leaked online. It must be terrifying for them, and I commend them for their ability to stay strong and keep fighting back, knowing that each push could incite further consequences. I'm proud to be able to call them fellow humans. Likewise, it also embarrasses me as a man, that by no other virtue than my gender identity, I'm associated with a group of terrorists. And make no mistake about it, it's definitely terrorism. Female game developers are fleeing their homes due to the death and rape threats they've received.

Of course it's not every man that is participating in this behaviour, in fact it seems like a relatively small group of men. However, it is a group made up entirely of men, and they are holding back the progression of gender equality. Every time I see a woman post about how she's been made to feel like less of a person, I feel sick, and a little responsible, as an indirect member of the group that caused that to happen.

On the flip side, I'm also deeply concerned about the lack of male response to these situations. The most immediate example that comes to mind was on Monday, October 27, the day after the CBC announced Jian Ghomeshi's firing, and his subsequent and now infamous Facebook post claiming no wrong doing and that it was a smear campaign perpetrated by a "jilted ex."

I made a Facebook post of my own about how so many people automatically took his side in the matter, even though at that point four women had come forward and claimed to be victims of his assault and harassment. I stated my belief that a lot still needs to be done about victim blaming/shaming in our society.

Within a day, the post had received 24 likes, yet only three of those were by men. For comparison, recent pictures of my cat (hey, the internet wants what the internet wants) produced a far more even distribution of likes, with 35-65 per cent of them being from male Facebook friends. At best, this seems like male apathy. And what can I (we) do about it? That's a question I ask myself any time this topic arises. I do my best to facilitate change, be it by sharing posts on Facebook, actively participating in conversations, or lending my abilities and efforts to awareness events around the city. Yet there is still this void, this absence of a response from a lot of men.

So what's my reaction to women speaking out about how they've been treated badly by men? To summarize, I'd say that it feels good to know that women are in fact speaking out about it, and that they're banding together to help keep each other safe. But at the same time it feels horrible and demoralizing to know that men aren't saying anything about it. If men do nothing to change how we, as a gender, treat women, then I believe women are always going to live with some level of fear and imposed inferiority. What I wish for most is that men stop perceiving this as a women's issue, and realize that both genders need to be active in fixing things, because until that happens, things can't change.

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