Jian Ghomeshi was a feminist. Not only did he identify himself as one as early as his freshman year at York University (and possibly earlier than that), he also put into practice feminist values. He was a women's studies student and while president of the student union advocated for increased funding for the York University Women's Centre. He even co-founded a pro-choice network on campus.
Jian Ghomeshi also allegedly physically and sexually abused women. And he did so from a position of authority as a celebrity of CBC radio. He took advantage of his power to abuse and silence women who are just now finally coming together to destroy the patriarchal and institutional veil that was draped over his trysts. So if feminism and education about feminism are so crucial for women's equality, then how did this slip through?
If a person, much less a man, can hold and practice feminist values which espouse equality for women while committing acts of violence against them, then how effective is feminism as a means to end said violence? This is the reality of abuse towards women that feminism now faces.
Feminist theory has long stated that the patriarchal causes of abuse towards women could be reduced and eventually eliminated with adequate social reprogramming. From rape culture to street harassment, men's attitudes and beliefs towards women collectively influence an ethos which affects a society at large. By helping to influence the beliefs of young, college-aged men, said ethos would change into a female positive one, thus reducing abuse.
|The "Ghomeshi wasn't a REAL Feminist" fallacy.|
But it should be clear that Jian Ghomeshi was as educated and enlightened as any person who subscribes to feminist core beliefs of social change. And in working on campus and actually advocating progressive, feminist values, he went to lengths much greater than an average person paying lip service to the cause. He was both a participant and a driver of changing men's beliefs towards women.
To respond to the cries of, "this is why we need feminism:" Are we to believe that if Jian Ghomeshi had just read more feminist literature, donated more money to women's shelters, or avoided supporting misogynistic video games that he would have not beaten those women? Or, conversely, if he had never taken that women's studies course at school would he have done much worse? It would seem unlikely.
So was Jian Ghomeshi a feminist who abused women, or a misogynist who believed in feminism? He was both and that is the problem. Ghomeshi didn't beat women because he wasn't a feminist, he beat them because it had nothing to do with feminism. He, like criminals, rationalize any internal behavior that they would easily dismiss as being immoral in another person. "If you kill me it's murder, but if I kill you it's self-defence; if you steal it's theft, if I steal it's a necessity to survive." Ghomeshi beat women, but could have easily committed various other offences unrelated to women.
Ghomeshi held mutually exclusive beliefs because he found a way to rationalize them, and no amount of educational influence can touch that. The Jian Ghomeshi scandal is the perfect example of what feminism cannot do (at least not on its own), and why feminism as a sole solution to violence against women is inadequate.
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