I Have No Opinion at All on Jian

“Have you seen this? http://youtu.be/OmD2nozwNcI” asked one of my male Facebook friends.

“No, just heard about it. And have experienced it to some degree, myself. I heard that it was edited to remove the catcalling white men.” Not that that’s racist, or anything. My experience has been – almost exclusively – with the catcalling white men. The point is that this comes as no surprise to any woman.

I got catcalls in NYC when I was thirteen. I was walking alone to the Metropolitan museum, wearing jeans and a long sleeved peasant shirt, and all the guys at the construction site I had to pass whistled and called out things I didn’t even understand at the time. I’m not sure I’d understand half of them, now. I did not feel “safe.” I walked faster – hoping to put some distance between me and the guys behind the chain link fence, before one of them got out.

That was in 1976. Had my grandfather been at my side, rather than in a Board meeting, I’m sure those guys would have behaved themselves. Because it’s true – most guys will back off what they see as another man’s “territory.” Nothing has changed. Except that I’m in my 50s, I “belong to” another man, my husband of 30 years. And there are younger, more attractive, sexier, more vulnerable women to harass. Some days, I’m truly thankful for the extra pounds, the silver strands of hair, and the little “smile lines.”

Stalker

I started college when I was 12. I had a stalker. I thought he was my friend – honest to God, I did. This went on for two quarters, and despite a tiny little warning buzzer at the back of my brain telling me something wasn’t quite right, I didn’t want to rat out my friend. I didn’t mention him to anyone, because there was a little voice whispering, “This is weird, you know this is weird. Tell someone and they’ll make him go away.” No, he was a nice guy. He never laid a hand on me. Just followed me around campus and talked to me, took an interest in me, slowly gaining my trust. One day, I decided I had enough time before class to learn my way around campus – to take the campus shuttle bus and see the sights. My friend was nowhere to be seen, and I was a little glad for the time alone. I got on the bus. I turned and saw my friend. He saw me. His footsteps quickened. He headed for the bus, too.

The bus driver, a young woman, slammed the doors in his face and stepped on the accelerator. I must’ve looked a little shocked. “I’m sorry, but that guy gives me the creeps.” She sized me up and maybe realized I wasn’t going to understand why, even if she told me why. So instead, she took me with her on her break – I got a tour of the campus bus driver’s lounge. I may have had a coffee or a hot chocolate. I remember most of the vending machines also gave out chicken soup, and that was one of my favorites. She made sure I was back to my side of campus just in time for class, and invited me to ride the bus any time I wanted to.

This went on for the rest of the first summer quarter. The second quarter, my class was in a different building on the far side of campus. It didn’t occur to me to ask what coincidence or stroke of luck caused my friend to be there, too. A police officer who was taking the same class I was noticed my friend hanging around at the start of class or showing up in time for breaks. My classmate made him uncomfortable; I noticed how my friend would take off abruptly whenever my classmate came out into the hallway.

The officer explained to me that this creep was not my friend. He didn’t treat me like the naive child I was, but rather gave me credit for being a nice girl who only saw the good in people. He said, “You have a problem. Please, will you let me deal with it? I know you’re too kindhearted to tell him to get lost, but I’m not.”

“Okay.”

“After I talk to him, he won’t be your friend anymore. And you have to tell me – or your mom, or a police officer – if he ever tries to talk to you again.” I agreed. And my new friend – because sometimes, the police officer really is your friend – stuck around, talked to my mom, and had us file a report with campus security. I never saw the man I know know was a stalker, again. As I recall, he was 24. He knew – because I’d told him – that I was only 12. Proving that even if you’re smart and mature for your age – I had a 4.0 average both quarters – you can be naive and too trusting.

And that little voice at the back of my head, vindicated and heard at last, became a constant and trusted friend.

Just Playing

My first employer sexually molested me in front of his daughters.

Wow, there’s a bombshell, huh? I’d earned enough pocket money at my job babysitting his kids to go horseback riding. He thought it would be fun to tag along, to take his two young daughters out for a trail ride, and I said, “Sure, sounds like fun.” I’d have preferred to explore the trails alone, but I knew his girls would have fun and didn’t have the heart to say “no.”

We rode for about thirty minutes of our hour, then tethered the horses to let them rest a bit. He confessed to needing to rest a bit, himself. We sat under the trees, near the lake, talking and laughing.

He was a nice guy. A daddy. His girls adored him.

At some point, he started tickling them. They giggled and laughed. I smiled. They all looked so happy. He turned and started to tickle me. Not cool, especially when he climbed on top of me and pinned me to the dirt. The girls were still giggling and laughing – I was fifteen, and might just as well have been their big sister. Their laughter seemed to encourage him. Instead of tickling my ribs, though, he pressed himself against me and copped a feel.

I really did not want these children to see and know, first-hand, what a creep their father was. I stared into that man’s eyes and drove my knee as hard as I could into his groin. Bingo! I was actually surprised that worked as well as it did. He rolled over, groaning, pretending to have grown tired of the game. He held a hand up in surrender. It was time to head back to the stables. I got on my horse as fast as I could. Out of earshot of the girls, I agreed not to tell my parents – in exchange for which he agreed never to touch me, ever again. I didn’t make that promise to protect him. I made it – I believed – to protect my dad from killing him.

A darker truth that I didn’t admit to myself, for years, is that I would have been deeply disappointed, had I told my dad, had he not beaten the guy to a bloody pulp.

I continued to work for him, never letting down my guard. I liked his girls, a lot, and enjoyed babysitting them.  I honestly don’t believe he ever abused either of his daughters. The possibility of it never even crossed my mind. Years later, I realized I should have said something for their sakes. The last time I worked for him, he stayed out too late and called, trying to convince me to sleep over so he could go out again – with a grown up woman. I told him no. He came home drunk. I called my dad to pick me up. I think that was the “warning bell” my parents needed to suggest I not work for him again. I was glad of an excuse – other than the real one.

I wonder if his male friends ever had any idea what kind of person he really was, or whether they saw him as nice, gentlemanly, affable guy who would never molest a teenaged girl? Were they complicit, or clueless?

#YesAllWomen, #NotAllMen

I have good men in my life. They far outnumber the creeps, the bad guys, the stalkers, the child molesters, the perverts. But I’ve known them, too – more than the two described here. They are real, and they don’t come with a big scarlet “PERVERT” tattoo on their foreheads. They are fathers, brothers, uncles, sons, the “nice guy next door.” Sometimes the guy who gives off the creepy vibes turns out to be nice, after all.

It’s hard to know for sure; but we learn to listen to that little buzz at the back of our brains.I am a happily married woman. I have a son. I am surrounded by good men – men I believe right down to my core are good, anyway. How could I not love and want to defend men when, as a group, they come under fire? I believe in the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. And so there you have it – why I have no opinion at all on Jian Ghomeshi. I don’t know him. I don’t know what he’s done, not done, thought of doing… I have no right to an opinion on him, personally, unless and until he has his day in court.

I’ve never engaged in BDSM and don’t want to – that’s not my kick. But I’ve known people who do, and I know that what they say about “safe words” and the power being in the hands of the sub is true. It must get confusing when the safe word isn’t “no” or “stop,” and it’s even worse when abusers can use that as some sort of sick justification for arguing that “no doesn’t always mean no.” I kind of think the BDSM crowd could do us all a favor and come up with another word for “no” – when they really mean “yes” – and let “no” be the universal “safe word.” So that “no” could always, unequivocally mean “not only no, but hell no and stop yesterday.”

I’d like all the young men out there to know that you deserve nothing less than enthusiastic consent – not something manufactured in your confused and hormonal brains, but a real, vocal, lusty cry of, “Yes!” Nice guys may finish last, but what woman wants a guy who finishes first?

Be decent, be kind, be honest, be loving.

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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9 thoughts on “I Have No Opinion at All on Jian”

    1. I was thinking more on this on the way to work. Yes, there are angry, vindictive women in the world (you have to assume they have some reason to be, even if their current targets don’t all deserve it). But I think, more often than that, women keep silent or lie to protect themselves and others. I thought that I was protecting my father from committing a criminal act of battery or murder (or told myself I was – maybe I was protecting us both from me wanting him to). Even if we don’t mind bringing scandal and scrutiny down on our OWN heads, we’re reluctant to have it touch people we love. We’re very cognizant that it would. And when something like this rocks the foundations of our faith in humanity, we patch up the cracks rather than cause earthquakes. We want to preserve – not the “status quo,” but whatever faith we still cling to.

      God help people when the day comes that we no longer care to protect others, or have so little faith left in humanity that it’s not even worth clinging to.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted…Prurient Political InterestsMy Profile

  1. When prominent people are accused of sexual assault, the piling on is immediate. The court of public opinion may be the only one in the land to consistently deliver a speedy verdict (and it is always “guilty as charged”). I agree: hands off, MYOB, etc. Although I have one question: according to something I read on Twitter, Ghomeshi hired a damage control PR firm to help him write the Facebook post where he tried to head accusations off at the pass … does that EVER work?

    1. “according to something I read on Twitter, Ghomeshi hired a damage control PR firm to help him write the Facebook post where he tried to head accusations off at the pass … does that EVER work?” Probably not. Although it may be better than what a lot of celebs and politicians do, which is to grab a shovel and dig their graves deeper. Sometimes, silence and a good lawyer are the best self-help methods. Because, as they say when reading you your Miranda rights, “Anything you say can and will be held against you.”

      Or, as my Dad used to say, “If people are in doubt about your intelligence, don’t open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…I Have No Opinion at All on JianMy Profile

  2. I had no opinion on Jian Gomeshi either. I had never heard of him until this incident. I am not a celebrity watcher. However, Holly, your excellent post and the fact that every channel on TV or radio up here in Canada now seems to give this incident more airtime than ISIS or Ebola combined, compels me to comment.

    First, I am no fan of the CBC, but I do not believe an employer should be blamed for the actions of an employee in his or her private capacity and outside company premises.

    If the accuser is a fellow employee, that muddies the water somewhat and may require the employer’s intervention.

    Until an employee has been charged and found guilty of an offence, I do not believe that the employer should prejudge the issue. That said I do think an employer should be able to terminate the employment of any employee whose actions damage the employers image. There is a difference between these two points.

    I do have an opinion on why some men believe that they can behave badly towards women.

    It has to do with your comments “had my grandfather been at my side…” and “to stop my Dad killing him…”

    I believe it is because of the emasculation of men that is a side effect of the anti – violence society and erosion of individual rights that have evolved in this era of political correctness.

    In your grandfather’s and father’s days and in my younger days, normal men who respected women could and did, come to their defence using physical force if necessary.

    Now, with the fear or prosecution or civil litigation for merely grabbing an offender’s arm, men are nervous about using force.

    The bad guys know this and get away with unacceptable behaviour.

    Oh for the days of chivalry when a knight on a white charger could rescue a damsel from distress and not be charged for assault with a dangerous weapon.
    Peter Wright recently posted…Focus is possible in the age of distraction.My Profile

    1. This is, unfortunately, the world we live in. Consumers bring pressure to bear on employers – once they have tried and sentenced the “guilty” in the media – to carry out their sentencing. This is better than if they were allowed to play vigilante, but it is still something that should give us all pause. There, but by the grace of God and our neighbors…

      Until a person is found guilty, none of us – employers, family, neighbors, friends, journalists – should presume to judge. I’d make an exception, perhaps, if 100 people witnessed the crime and corroborated evidence on video. But videos can be altered, photos can be altered, evidence can be manufactured, witnesses’ stories can change. This is not to say that anyone is lying in the present case, but only to say that every accused person deserves his or her day in court.

      I think it’s ironic, though, when a media figure is, himself, tried in the media. Is it fair and just? No. Is it poetic? A little.

      I’m not sure that I agree with your statements on the “emasculation of men.” At least not entirely. Men are not entitled by right to be the all-powerful, patriarchal creatures some of them believe they are. Saying that all humans deserve equal rights is not to “emasculate” men or elevate women over them, any more than racial equality makes victims of white men. To say that a woman should be able to walk the street without being harassed or assaulted is to say that I respect men enough to ASSUME that they are capable of behaving like decent human beings if they see a woman who is not wearing a burka and who is not “owned” by another man – a male protector. But when I say that a man will behave when a woman is walking with another man, it’s not necessarily that she is “safe” because he’s there to protect her or that other men respect her – they respect the man she’s with.

      In the US, at least, you are allowed to use force – including deadly force – to defend yourself or another person. A chivalrous man wouldn’t let a theoretical fear of litigation stop him from doing the right thing for a woman (or another man) that he respected. Not unless he’d emasculated himself.

      See http://changefromwithin.org/2014/06/26/10-ways-men-can-combat-sexist-entitlement-in-public/

      As a woman, I’d be the first to say that this mostly applies to both genders. But it is usually the men who act entitled and take their place at the head of the table for granted. And pointing to the other gender’s misbehavior isn’t justification for our OWN, either way. “But THEY do that!” doesn’t work with me. And it isn’t chivalrous. Imagine the difficulty I had in explaining certain social etiquette – like the order in which people board an elevator, or why a gentleman should hold the door for a lady. It’s not because she’s better or more entitled than he is. It’s because having an order to these things is practical and keeps these situations from being confusing. We don’t all hit the door at once and block the exit. And it’s because he’s a good man in his own right – not because women are so special, but because he’s polite. A polite woman, on getting to the door first, could hold it for him. But now that he’s an adult, I see him making some effort not to let that happen. He holds the door. He knows I’d hold it for him, but he gets it now, and he tries to get there first. He knows that doesn’t entitle either of us to more pay for doing the same work. He knows it doesn’t give him permission to put his hand at the small of a woman’s back and guide her through the doorway.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…The Haunted PhotoMy Profile

  3. I had to go look the guy up also because I was unfamiliar with the name and what he did. I actually thought initially you were talking about the YouTube guy who’s been scrambling lately because of accusations of sexual assault, which started because of a stupid, idiotic video he put on his channel and his past history also.

    There are so many of these creeps that it’s hard to keep up with it all. Just the other day I interviewed someone and she confided, for the first time in public no less, that some guy sexually harassed her at a local networking meeting where she lives, and there were lots of people around; I mean the gall and audacity!

    These folks have a false sense of power and I’m always happy when they get theirs, which eventually happens to all of them. I’m glad we don’t have a worse story to hear about you from college, especially since you were only 12 (now that’s impressive!).
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…7 Certainties Of BloggingMy Profile

    1. I wonder if they have any sense of power at all, or if it’s like “retail therapy” when you feel poor. “Hey, I can’t be out of money, I still have checks left! See?” People who have a healthy self-esteem or know that they have power hardly have to prove it to themselves or others. I used to have a friend who could stand along the wall at a disco and attract women to him like flies to flypaper. It was fascinating. He didn’t even have to speak. Nah, the creeps have to resort to being creepy because they feel absolutely powerLESS. Maybe they feel entitled, but if they had healthy self esteems or confidence, they wouldn’t have to force their unwanted attentions on women.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Coloring Creativity into BloggingMy Profile

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