Monthly Archives: November 2014

Celebration of the Female Form – Into the Third Year

“Words matter. Art matters”. – Derrick Jensen

In reviewing it now, my statement for 2014 Celebration of the Female Form seems a somewhat naive and optimistic treatise on the virtues of the community, issued in good faith.

Photographer Tracie Tee

Photographer Tracie Tee

 

On this day, given recent months, I do not feel so sanguine.

At least 600 artists, volunteers, and members of the community attended celebration night in June, and we received overwhelmingly positive feedback and great suggestions for our next event. However, there have been certain developments that I have come to recognise as inevitable. There are those who have never attended the event who perceive some of the art used to promote the show as illustrations of the very same mechanisms that perpetuate the hostility toward women in our current culture. Photographs are criticised for for being photoshopped, as if a painter’s brush does not commit the same sins of addition and subtraction. Images by female artists are criticised for depicting women in poses of submission. Works by male artists are criticised for being included in the exhibition at all.

photographer Steve Peters

photographer Steve Peters

Importantly, these interpretations of the images are legitimate, as are the many other interpretations of these same works. Art is not “above it all” and can certainly not be excused from critique. However, these works must be distinguished from marketing, popular culture, and all other forms of propaganda. Art, and here I use the term to include performance, visual art, music, the spoken and written word, and all disciplines in which a person creates and expresses, is an invitation to engage. It must be remembered that artists are not evangelists, it is not the purpose of art to instruct the public, or to represent a moral stance. Art is also not literal, if it invokes a reaction, honour that reaction, but do not presume that yours is the only interpretation. Art must must allow breathing room, so that each individual can welcome in their individual associations and experiences, to feel and react, whether it is indifference, contempt, grief, engagement, pleasure.

If an image, or performance, or written work evokes a reaction in you, congratulations, you are a member of the human race. Do not lash out at the artist for bringing you back to a poignant place, be grateful that you still have the ability to feel. We have entered an era where art is “supposed” to be an adornment, but that’s commercialism, not art. Get mad at an artist for being crap, get mad at an artist for being forgettable, get mad at an artist for being safe. If the work makes you angry or sad, be angry or sad, but be discerning enough to know that these feelings are yours.

Furthermore, with over a hundred artists exhibited, no single artist will represent the event. We aim to provide a spotlight on each artist in the lead-up to the exhibition. We do not expect every artist to appeal to everyone, and I consider this diversity to be the very thesis of the celebration.

I propose that equality for female artists is for each to able engage in her process without apology. As Vanessa Swift states, “I offend a certain kind of people. I am too dark or too sexual or I objectify women. I don’t paint for other people. I paint for myself. I do not push the boundaries, I have none and won’t have any placed upon me. I just paint what’s inside me, for me. To release.” In addition, in instances where the artists use models for these works, their creative subjects are collaborators, not passive objects for scopophilic consumption, and any critique needs to take this into consideration.

Photographer Persefóni Tide

Photographer Persefóni Tide

The event strives to be inclusive, but can by no means cater to everyone’s preferences. In bringing the community together, we seek to create opportunities to discuss these subjects openly and to raise funds for organisations that support abused and hurting women, and represent the causes close to our own experiences.

This year, the organisations we have chosen are: Brisbane Domestic Violence ServiceMental Health Carers Arafmi QueenslandBrisbane Youth Service and proceeds from our raffle will support QuAC’s Clinic30.

In embarking on this steep learning curve, I have had to face my own naivety. Prior to this project, I had never before heard of women who were against feminism. I had never previously encountered women who are Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) or Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists (SWERFS). I also encountered individuals who felt that men had no role to play in this Celebration, who claimed that we were simply reaffirming the patriarchal structure, not subverting it.

Artist Michelle Draper

Artist Michelle Draper

Above all, I have encountered countless men and women who consider feminism to be a dirty word. Feminism should not be confused with misandry. Simply, Feminism is the belief in equality, and a recognition that gender equality does not yet exist. Ironically, Feminism has its own history of exclusion and power imbalance. Historically, caucasian, upper-class, cis-gendered women have set the agenda for the women’s rights movement. Nowadays, those seeking to determine the dialogue may change, but the fundamental issue remains: exclusion is the result of privilege, as exclusion is enacted by those who feel entitled.

Exclusionary Radical Feminists argue that individual choice must play a backseat to feminist aims. However this affirms our bodies as political minefields – every action, every adornment, every utterance that is associated with our Selves must be interrogated as to what statement it will contribute to the feminine discourse. We must police ourselves and submit to being policed by others. Our desires, values, or pragmatic considerations are subverted. Most importantly our identities must remain fixed within this paradigm. In many ways I agree with the argument that individuals must acknowledge that their “personal is political”.  However when women are told to “tow the line”, to forgo what brings them actualisation in deference to another’s criteria, are we not simply trading one oppressive system for another?

As Germaine Greer states “it’s harder being a woman in the 21st century than it was 40 or so years ago”.

Self-determination is a hallmark of any movement dedicated to equality. It is therefore not true self-determination when rights are meted out as if to a homogenised group, and denies the diversity of individuals contained therein. To do so is to establish a norm, from which anything else is divergent. This form of “othering” refers to the act of emphasizing the perceived weaknesses of marginalized groups as a way of stressing the alleged strength of those in positions of power.

Artist Jacklyn Louise Miller

Artist Jacklyn Louise Miller

As celebrators of the female form, we are autonomous individuals who share a common trait, who unite in respect for ourselves and each other. We recognise that the bodies of those who identify with the feminine become battlefields on which Politicians, Health Professionals, Beauty Professionals, Marketers, and many others stage their invasions. We see the myriad of individual experiences of domination and oppression as part of the greater intersecting mechanisms of misogyny and abuse, and instead of letting this awareness isolate us, we make it a rallying cry for creative expression and gather in celebration as a radical act of defiance.

Part of the TWERF argument, as it has been made to me, is that to accept a transwomen as “legitimate” women would be to capitulate that women are simply a “cut out” men. Such an argument is another version of the misogynistic view that women are walking vaginas. My mother remembers a time when her biology textbooks described female genitalia as male genitalia turned inside out.  Such an obsession with what is between a person’s legs misses the beautiful complexity of identity. It also alienates cisgendered women who are born with non-average genitalia, those who choose to surgically augment or change their bodies, those who will never engage in the forms of sexual intercourse typically ascribed to female genitalia, those who will never reproduce, or those who lose body parts due to injury or illness. What makes a woman?  Gender lies in the mind, not the uterus.

It strikes me as counter to the aims of feminism to refuse to include self-identified men. There was a time when feminists were required to rely on men because men were the gatekeepers – they controlled what laws were reformed and enforced, who was admitted and educated at university, and how people were hired and promoted. We do not need to have men advocate for us any longer, but to discount all men strikes me as counterproductive. Men need to have a place at the table in order to understand the politics of gendered privilege, in order to be held accountable. Furthermore, when we alienate men we alienate women as well, the mothers, sisters, and lovers of men. We alienate the men who have held us and listened to our experiences of abuse. We alienate the men who should be calling out their friends on problematic behaviours.  This is part of the problem of abuse. Whilst women know that “not all men” rape, we cannot easily differentiate between those who are supporters and those who are predators.

Here is what we know: women face an oppressive system that enables violence, abuse, and systemic social, cultural, religious, economic, and political inequalities.

To be a female means that you are more likely to die. “These deaths are estimated at about 3.9 million women and girls under the age of 60 each year”. This is a rough estimate because many women are killed before they are born, are undocumented, or disappear. About two-fifths of them are never born, one-sixth die in early childhood, and over one-third die in their reproductive years.This is widely documented, such as the fact that in the majority of countries, women’s wages represent between 70 and 90 per cent of men’s, with even lower ratios in some Asian and Latin American countries. Despite the fact that it is acknowledged, it has failed to have been addressed, even in our most forward-thinking of nations.

Artist Robyn Janetzki

Artist Robyn Janetzkinations.

Sexual abuse results in a myriad of consequences such as unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, gynaecological problems, sexually transmitted infections, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep difficulties, eating disorders, emotional distress, suicide attempts, and substance abuse. Gender inequality operates in many subtle ways. Studies have shown that when women perceive their bodies as under male scrutiny, the experience has a muzzling effect on women and that benevolent sexism is another mechanism which justifies women’s subordinate status to men.

As I write this, Abbott is Minister for Women, the very man who stated, “What if men are by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?” and other members of his party suggest a link between abortion and breast cancer. This is the country where domestic violence kills at least one woman a week, a statistic the Police largely attribute to Australia’s culture.

The Gamergate culture war is taking place, showcasing the shocking misogyny that is permissible in gamer culture. The New York wing of Hollaback made headlines when it showed a video of a Caucasian Cisgendered women in jeans and a t-shirt receiving a hundred instances of street harassment and cat calling. More column space has been spent on Renee Zellweger’s new face than on the increased violence experienced by women due to the instances of violence on the people of the Levant. Twitter hashtags such as #yesallwomen, #youoksis, and #beenrapedneverreported create a virtual communities accessed by some women in order to share their stories of abuse and the incidences of street harassment they have witnessed when “real” spaces and official channels have failed.

Reflecting on these instances, I recognise that there are imbedded inequalities within developed nations, where racialised, queer, or disabled women are assigned a lesser value than caucasian, educated, middle class, cisgendered women. Non Indigenous Australian women have a life expectancy of 83.1 years. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have a life expectancy of 73.7 years. Transgendered women have a life expectancy of 30-32 years. The RCMP reported that in Canada, Indigenous women are four times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women, in fact 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered between 1980 and 2012. When Mayang Prasetyo was murdered and dismembered by her husband in Queensland, the media devoted its coverage to depicting her in transphobic and sensationalised terminology, rather than exploring the issues of domestic violence and abuse that underpinned Prasetyo’s death, and impacts so many transwomen.

This is nothing less than a human rights crisis.

Artist Shelley L Chalmers

Artist Shelley L Chalmers

Women in developing countries face forms of persecution permitted by their culture and sustained by their government, entrenched by an international framework that requires inequality and poverty to enable profit. It is well documented that abuse against women correlates with poverty, conflict, and displacement. In Gaza City, following the Israeli-Imposed economic blockade of 2007, Palestinian women have endured increased instances of abuse at the hands of their husbands, choosing silence rather than face the stigma of reporting that abuse. A South African women is raped every four minutes yet only 66,196 incidents were reported to police last year, and the investigations of these reports resulted in 4,500 convictions. A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours in South Africa, but this is considered an underestimate because in 20 percent of these killings no perpetrator is determined. When Brazil hosted the World Cup, it became well-documented that underage girls would sleep with Europeans and Americans in order to avoid a night on the streets. In India, women face barbaric gang rapes and honour killings decreed by all-male khap panchayats. In Tokyo, Japan, 60-70% of women experience at least one incidence of molestation in a crowded train, yet only 5% of women report this form of attack to the police. In rural Peru, 24% of women reported their first sexual experience as forced.

The list continues, and it astounds me that it is still a question as to wether or not sexual inequality exists. Make no

 Artist Vanessa Armstrong

Artist Vanessa Armstrong

mistake, globally and locally, women are accorded less value, less dignity, less autonomy than men. Different forms of discrimination, oppression, and domination intersect to impact women differently, but all are complicit in this system. The feminist rallying cry from the 60’s is still true: “The personal is political”, and this is why feminism is still relevant in our contemporary culture. However, in order for feminism to achieve its aim, it must have an inclusive definition of female identity.

I remain naive however, because I still have hope because this is what we know: successfully addressing the oppression of women has dramatic benefits for everyone. Providing one additional year of education for women of reproductive age decreases child mortality by 9.5 per cent. Eliminating all forms of discrimination against female workers and managers boosts productivity per worker by up to 40 per cent. We must address discrimination against women, promote gender equality, support all women, and help to move all societies towards more peaceful cultural norms.

 Whilst the 2014 Celebration of the Female Form was a time for optimism, perhaps as we work toward the 2015 Celebration Night, it is time for a stronger, more dynamic voice. We can no longer put up and shut up, it is time for a real and measurable change.

Artist Kira Crees-Rackley

Artist Kira Crees-Rackley

Celebration of the Female Form 

The Brisbane Table Tennis Centre 86 Green Tce Windsor. 

Exhibition weekend is the 19th – 21st June, 2015 with two night shows Friday and Saturday, open to the public through the day Saturday and Sunday. 

Please contact Vanessa at femaleform2015@gmail.com 

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A Dialogue With Mayor Seiler..

16/11/2014
Dear Mayor Seiler,

I am writing to you add my voice to the global chorus, to express my immense disappointment regarding the ban on “public sharing” and subsequent arrests of Arnold Abbott’s for feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As a founder of Love Thy Neighbor Foundation, Abbott is living the values that a city should celebrate – showing compassion for those in need and going out of way to improve the lives of those who are hungry, who lack access to support networks.
That the city would spend its resources on preventing such an important act of civic responsibility shocks me. Why not encourage good citizenship and facilitate a culture where citizens take initiative to care for their city and the people therein?
fPlease focus on enforcing laws against white collar crime, on violent offenders, and tackle the causes homelessness by directing resources to address childhood trauma, mental illness, substance abuse, and provide permanent accommodation to those in need.
What are the values of Fort Lauderdale? What kind of city would you like to have your hand in forming? If one man such as Abbott can have such a profound impact that he is deemed to present a criminal risk to the citizens of Fort Lauderdale, then I challenge you May Seiler to harness the passion and skills of Abbott, to enable him to do his good work and to increase his ability to impact and improve upon the lives of those in need. Above all, I hope that you will allow him to inspire you to find ways to make such necessary contributions to your constituents. You are a Politician, a civil servant. It is high time to restore honour to your profession – one person at a time.

Thank you for your attention on this important matter

Frances Worster

20/11/2014
[reply from Mayor Seiler]

Once the real story got out, the global chorus has been apologies and corrections, but thanks for your input and for caring about the homeless. We truly appreciate the concern and respectful approach, and we recognize that this is a very difficult and emotional issue.

The City Commission did not realize that requiring the homeless be fed in safe, secure, sanitary and healthy conditions would be distorted by the media as an attack on the homeless. The City Commission did not ban feeding the homeless in the City of Fort Lauderdale and did not make it illegal to feed the homeless; the City Commission only regulated the location of those feedings. In fact, there are numerous locations where homeless feedings may be legally held in the City, including our downtown. You can read the ordinance online at our website: FortLauderdale.gov.

Further, the cycle of homeless and homelessness on the streets of Fort Lauderdale is unacceptable, and this City Commission will do everything possible to get them off the streets and into the right programs, to the appropriate facilities, and to the proper resources necessary to turn their lives around.

This City Commission also does substantial charitable work for the homeless here in South Florida, volunteer at the local homeless assistance center, contribute financially to assist homeless programs and benefits, and work on several successful homeless veterans programs and projects. You can find many of those programs listed on our website at FortLauderdale.gov.

Your assistance is also appreciated, and we welcome volunteers, partners, charitable contributions, donations, and all levels of support.

Best wishes and Happy Thanksgiving.

John P. “Jack” Seiler
Mayor
City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

21/11/2014
Dear Mayor Seiler,

I suspect the “global chorus” to which you allude is a somewhat optimistic description.

Far be it for a member of the public to presume to have relevant input as to public policy in a democracy.
I do however have a modicum of experience in this matter. I spent 14 years in Vancouver, a city with a severe homelessness “issue”, exacerbated by the closure of mental health facilities, and the bureaucratic structure that hampers service delivery.
As an Occupational Therapist I have worked with people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, chronic pain, and cerebral palsy.

I learned something very significant when I worked at a homelessness hostel. As I am sure you are aware, people who experience homelessness are not “single issue” consumers. Almost every individual with whom I worked had experienced all of the following: childhood trauma, physical (often sexual) abuse, substance use, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, and legal and financial issues. In short, “regulation” have failed them time and again.

Politicians and Therapists both rely on evidence to inform their practices and I am sure that you have found “business as usual” to have limited efficacy in addressing the issue of chronic homelessness. Trauma-informed models of care help to inform service providers about the ways in which these consumers may view authority and bureaucracy as a result of their prior experiences. Healthy engagement, positive relationships, healing experiences, and services that do not trigger prior traumas must be pillars to any services geared toward homelessness. Perhaps that is the “Abbot difference”?

It strikes me that Fort Lauderdale and Abbott have fundamental theoretical differences underpinning service delivery. Abbott seems to consider his location to be adequate for users to access – those who may not be attending your approved locations.

Time and again, I have seen services designed in such a way that they sound viable, yet fail on pragmatics – not actually meeting the needs of those intended to access the system, and therefore a waste of valuable resources.

Have consumers been surveyed? Has there been effort at collaborative consultation between all stakeholders with relation to service design?

Regards,
Frances Worster

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(Rich White Man) Mark Latham Has Something to Say

aka

Women in Western Suburbs Have No Neuroses

aka

Left Feminism is Akin to a Psychoneurotic Disorder

(but being on antidepressants is not an indicator of a psychoneurotic disorder)

 

Photograph: AAP

Photograph: AAP

 

Hey everyone, I read an article written by someone I have never met, whose identity is different from my own, writing about about a lived experience vastly different to mine. As an educated, white, cis male, I am required to pass judgement on this person and any of their ilk. As a person a privilege, I have access to various vehicles in the media through which I can make my opinions known and seek to influence the hearts and minds of others. Have a nice day.

 

 

And the antidote :

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/20/mark-latham-read-my-mind-of-course-i-hate-my-daughter-im-a-feminist

 

If you still feel dirty:

http://junkee.com/mark-latham-lisa-pryor-feminism/45634#jCpPLmQmJ1SPlrPb.99

http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/life-style/current-affairs/what-mark-latham-needs-to-know-about-depression-and-motherhood-20141120-11qwzf.html

http://www.mamamia.com.au/wellbeing/mark-latham-column/

 

 

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Bad Date

It was during high school when I first learned the statistic that one in three women is sexually assaulted. I had two best friends, Ria and Sanja, stunning individuals, who are now brilliant and beautiful women, and I wondered…

I have been fairly open about my experiences with being in two abusive relationships when I was in my late teens & early 20’s. Working with my incredibly resilient and visionary friend Vanessa on her Celebration of the Female Form exhibition truly brought that to a head this year. These relationships involved a lot of doubt, fear, running, and hiding behind locked doors. When there were no more barriers, I hid some part of my Self deep within, taking my mind far away, and rolling over to sleep in the foetal position, my body convulsing in anger and grief.

1928344_7900771791_8650_nHowever, I have never spoken openly about the “bad date” in 2011. I successfully repressed a lot of it, reducing it to hazy “before” and “after” snapshots that I honestly never thought about – or rather refused to think about whenever something surfaced. Recent events and reflections have brought it racing back.

Anyone who thinks that women report assault does not understand how people cope and try protect themselves. I honestly do not believe that most people truly understand consent and I would like understanding ongoing consent to comprise of a main component of sexual education.

Shame is a powerful influencer of behaviour. I told myself I should have known better, that I was ridiculous to think someone so gorgeous and charming would be interested in romancing me. I mistakenly took the fact that he had a female housemate and expressed great love for his mother in Iran as protective indicators. I told myself that the outcome could have been much worse, no one knew where I was going and few would notice if I did not return. Everything seemed so surreal.

I didn’t know him.
I didn’t have anyone to turn to to help me process my experience.
I said nothing.
I did nothing.
I feel a lot of emotions about it now. It’s difficult to breathe, to feel centered.
I don’t feel shame anymore, and that is the worst part. I don’t feel shame because I know how common my experience is.

I clearly remember going to his house – feeling desirable, sexy, excited.

He cooked me a delicious dinner – which is a very impressive first-date activity for a gluten-free vegan.

Repeated and clear “No’s” were not effective, an invitation to try another tactic. Abusers can use all kinds of excuses. His were “I’m just really missing my ex”, and “I recently had my driver’s license suspended” (yes, these were the reasons he gave me).

Afterward,  he offered to pay for my cab home, leafing through a stack of $50 bills in a final display for my benefit.

On the way home, I told myself that I had been so stupid – that dinner is never free.

I clearly remember the final insult – arriving home to find the power was off in my neighbourhood. My housemate had found someplace elsewhere to stay. I curled up in my frigid bedroom in the dark, angry and shaken, resolving to forget this man. It is easier to erase a phone number from a phone than to erase memories ingrained in the body. 1044064_10151442359761792_1867557694_n

Do I consider myself broken? Yes. Do I doubt that I will ever build a long term loving relationship with a partner? Yes. Do I know that no one will ever desire that type long-term loving relationship with me? Yes – and that’s the toughest truth to accept.

In the meantime, there is much important work to do. To remove the stigma and shame around being the recipient of abuse. To facilitate ongoing dialogue about consent. To speak clearly and truthfully when there is so much “noise” out there and a complete lack of understanding about the mechanisms of power and abuse. To bring beauty and healing to those in need.

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Ghomeshi

Jian Ghomeshi’s voice has kept me anchored for years. It may have even saved my life – and now it haunts me.

That is why this past week has been exhausting, and confusing, and gut-wrenching.

To avoid rehashing the details, here is the Huffington Post’s comprehensive summary of what has become Ghomeshigate.

Q-from-the-CBC_620x230I was raised on a steady diet of CBC Radio. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the hideously patterned flooring of the kitchen in my family home in Toronto, listening to the “pips” on the radio that foretold the evening news. The family took a road trip to move to Vancouver when I was six. CBC Radio was awaiting my arrival.

CBC Radio meant home. As I have grown, CBC has changed. With the disappearance of Radio3, I discovered Q and Jian Gomeshi’s smooth and seductive voice. Gomeshi presented himself as endearingly nerdy, someone who had grown into his potential, surpassing his Moxy Fruvous beginnings and conquering his anxiety in order to be able to interview the likes of Leonard Cohen, Billy Bob Thornton, Joni Mitchell, Christopher Hitchens, and Jane Gooddall; to share the stage with Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, and Tegan and Sara. Ghomeshi was the epitome of the Canadian dream – the son of Iranian parents who had immigrated to Canada, a hard-working creative individual with a passion for David Bowie, music, radio, and literature.

I have lived in Australia for almost five years. When I experienced periods of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and trauma, the voices of Anna Maria Tremonti, Carol Off and Jeff Douglas, and Paul Kennedy kept me feeling connected to home, but it was Jian Gomeshi in particular who I turned to. When I heard his duet with Serena Ryder, I was brought to tears in a public space. It is confusing to hear that song again within the new context of Gomeshi’s violence.

B1Su9dXCEAEcYG2The women who have shared allegations of violence at the hands of Gomeshi have been criticised for not reporting the attacks, for remaining anonymous. It is well documented that a relatively small percentage of sexual assaults are reported. With trends such as #yesallwomen, #youoksis, and #beenrapedneverreported, women are using Twitter to access virtual spaces in which to be heard and recognised to share their experiences in a public forum. Not only does this enable women to share their stories, but they serve as answers to those questioning why a victim would not report her abuse immediately to the Police. The grassroots movements are informing the official institutions. These virtual spaces and informal support networks have led to publications such as The Huffington Post to devote its front page to the tweets of survivors. Public outcry over rape chants resulted in the CBC talking about rape culture (ironically it was debated on Q – poorly)

Initially, Ghomeshi framed the allegations against him as recasting consensual BDSM play as assault. Whilst negotiating consent and receiving ongoing consent is vital to BDSM, it is not always a skill that Kinksters posses. This is an important discussion to have however, as women continue to come forward to speak about Ghomeshi, it is clear that BDSM has nothing to do with these attacks. The wasn’t about having a fetish or gaining pleasure by inflicting pain. These women’s stories are accounts of sudden and unpredictable violence – and the Big Ears Teddy element of the story is disturbed and bizarre. I take offence that someone would use BDSM as a smokescreen for his illegal activities. Not only does it cloud the issue, but it misrepresents what BDSM is, doing a disservice to the individuals who are kinky and who face serious risks due to misunderstandings about their lifestyle. I have friends who have lost jobs, or undergone custody disputes where their kinky lifestyle choices were recast as unethical or abusive, and used against them.

The interview that has stayed with me has been the frank interview with Lucy DeCoutiere. Not only is she involved in broadcasting, but she is also a Training Development Officer with the Armed Forces. Despite being a sassy, strong, outspoken woman, she spoke about remaining with Ghomeshi in his home following the attack, and going to a social event with him a few days later. To do otherwise might have been rude. And my gut turned over in recognition.

These stories have forced me to reflect on my past experiences with abusive men. Situations where I have coped with abuse by not doing or saying anything. When “no” was not enough, I chose to just lie there until he had finished with my body, the times when I was so shocked that I froze like a deer, or docilely allowed myself to be led somewhere. Why? Because I was afraid that there would be greater violence if I refused.

Women have learned to assess for danger, to consider “which option is the one where I won’t die? If I fight back, or speak up too much I might anger someone who could kill me. If I give in, maybe I could get out of here alive…”. My friend Zen recounted an experience where she encountered a group of men whilst walking home resulting in an exchange that provoked an anxiety attack. My other friend is sure that she was drugged while partying on Friday night.

Fight, flight – or freeze.

If something good is to come out of this, it will be a frank discussion about rape culture. It will be an acknowledgement of the commodification of women and their bodies, the “right” of men to appraise and access women.

In the meantime, as the media continue to trace Ghomeshigate, as the CBC and Police pursue their own investigations, I am left with worrisome lessons to sit with. It doesn’t change the fact that this man who helped me through his weekly program, has been violent and abusive to several women and yet I wanted to believe that he was incapable of mistreating women.

I feel for the women. I feel for the CBC.

And I know first-hand that even predators can be charming.

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