Category Archives: Opinion (Editorial & Commentary)

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Canada’s Shifting Perspective on Sexual Assault

Note: I have become painfully aware of language for sexual assault survivors this week. There are some who loathe the word “victim” and insist they are survivors. I would like to agree with them, but for clarity and legal purposes, I’m using the word “victim” where it is most apt, and I apologize to those who take offense. I can’t sanitize everything for you, and I hope you understand why.

And So It Begins

As I write, a third accuser is on the record with the Ontario police investigation into Jian Ghomeshi. They are requesting anyone with any knowledge, social media engagement, or evidence of Ghomeshi’s attacks and behaviour to come forward. (Call 416–808-7474 if you know anything.)

Ever since the first came forward last night, Lucy and another woman staying nameless in the media, I’ve been jumping for joy. I’m so proud of these ladies for starting what I think will prove to be a massive case, the extent of which, and the scale, has never before been seen in Canada.

When the Going Gets Weird…

It’s been a weird week in my world. As a result of unwittingly going viral, I’ve been a lightning rod for so many conversations and contacts. I’ve been inundated with stories and private emails thanking me for changing the conversation from Poor Jian to “But he beats women.”

Despite their wonderful notes and letters, and the since-changing conversation, I still found myself butting heads with many misogynists, apologists, and staunch defenders who insist that a sex crime without charges is most certainly not a sex crime. (But I’ve also felt celebrated and supported by men who steadfastly believe his accusers.)

And then there are still the idiots who insist this whole thing is about BDSM, even though they have never participated in BDSM, don’t know anyone living in the lifestyle, and think that because they read an excerpt of 50 Shades of Grey, they’re knowledgeable enough to declare Ghomeshi got a raw deal from chicks enamored with his mega-watt star who later decided they didn’t like how they were treated.

Now, I don’t understand how to get through to people I feel are being flat-out ignorant about this. I don’t grasp where their morals come from, how they could possibly expect people to empathize with them in their times of trial in years to come. But worse, I find myself imagining just what kind of person they really are if they’re behaving this way online.

96% of Sex Crime Perpetrators Walk Free

I’ve ended years-old friendships this week, blocked people close and far, and I’d do it all again. On the flipside, it’s been thrilling to see some people about-face on their positions when they finally realized everything they were saying was effectively another assault on women who might very well be telling the truth.

After all, of 100 sexual assaults or rapes, only 3.3–4% end in convictions. On the 40% chance she reports it to authorities, there’s a 10% her case results in charges, for which her entire life will be investigated, on the 8% chance she can be ravaged by the defense, judged by others, made to feel like she “wanted it,” all while possibly damage her career, and for what? Nothing. Just to have a too-painful reminder that ultimately sexual assaults are the hardest crime to prove.

Before you start attacking those statistics, you might want to take your arguments up with the FBI, the National Policy Center, and the Department of Justice, since the numbers are theirs.

False Accusations Do Happen

One conversation I kept seeing was that of false accusers. “But what about all the guys falsely accused?”

So many people I know say that they know all these guys that have been falsely accused. But the statistics behind false reporting say that it tends to be about 10% of all rapes reported.

That percentage doesn’t jive with how many people I have had telling me their friends were falsely accused. I question if they know their friends as well as they think.

Let me be clear: I am absolutely certain false accusations exist and do not argue it is 10% of those accused. I am certain some of these false claims become a very serious problem for a wrongly-accused man. I will not argue that. I do not condone this behaviour, I think a false accusation is one of the most despicable acts a person could make, and I would never, ever think it was a justified means of resolving a dispute or exacting revenge.

That said, let’s talk about false accusations and the seemingly large number of men who claim they’ve faced them. But first I’ll tell you a story.

There Be Monsters

When I lived in the Yukon, from ‘94–95, a young man named James Ward lived in my townhouse complex. He killed his girlfriend, stuffed her corpse in his waterbed, refilled it, and literally slept on it.

I won’t get into the case because it’s nearly impossible to find evidence online anymore (aside from comments here), given it’s from 20 years ago, before the internet took hold up North, but it served as a huge lesson for me at the age of 21: We really don’t know anyone.

People don’t tend to consider the implications of how much we don’t know about those around us. For me, this was a darkly cynical message to learn early, but many learn it the hard way. There are bad people, and they come in all kinds. Some are in our homes, where we work, and in our neighbourhoods.

The problem most people on the internet seem to have is, they haven’t had a come-to-Jesus moment like mine, where their eyes have opened to the darkness that can loom inside of some people.

Just because someone’s smart and funny to hang out with doesn’t mean they don’t have another side. Just because they’re your friend doesn’t mean you know what they’re like after they’ve snorted cocaine and it’s 2am on a date with a girl they don’t care about, but really want to have sex with.

Consent Can’t Be a Debate. Ever.

All sexual assaults don’t end in bruises and violence. No means no, and if it’s intimidation or force or brutality that takes it to the next level, it’s sexual assault.

Consent cannot be muddy or unclear. It’s time we have this discussion over, and over, and over again, because my social media accounts tell me there are a lot of guys who still aren’t getting this. Girls too. Consent is a changing landscape, minute by minute. When the mood shifts and one of the two says “No,” then it needs to be over.

The law needs to state this with razor-sharp clarity. It is not impossible to stop a sex act once it has begun, if someone changes their mind and says no. We need to stop acting like consent is gold once given.

If the BDSM community and their sacred “safeword” rules can mean playtime is over despite hours of planning and preparing, then why can’t the vanilla sex world figure out the same?

The hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported went viral this week and it’s one of the most powerful moments to emerge from this. I’m sure more than a few men were stunned by how many women they know say they’ve been raped, and recoiled at the stories their friends and family were telling. (And kudos to the men who had the courage to tell their own stories about being raped, using this hashtag. Wow. Brave.)

We Can’t Solve What Isn’t Investigated

I’m pretty sure a majority of my male friends are good men, safe men, and kind men. Some I’d trust my life with. I believe they respect women to their core. These men of mine have been on the side of the accusers since Monday, or shortly thereafter. They’ve blocked misogynist friends of theirs. They’ve been incredible advocates for the accusers.

And yet rape culture is a reality. At least one in four women will suffer rape or sexual assault, and usually at the hands of a man she knows.

Only 4% of them will ever hear the word “Guilty.”

Our society still doesn’t value rape as a crime. Rape kits languish untested, in the thousands. It costs $1,500 to process a rape kit. That’s how little we value the safety of our women.

In the United States alone, just 10 years ago more than 221,000 rapekits remained untested, and the assailants remained on the streets. Five years ago in Detroit, some 11,300 kits were found never processed.

As the Economist wrote in July of this year, “Tens of thousands of untested kits have been discovered in police warehouses in America, including as many as 20,000 in Texas, 4,000 in Illinois and more than 12,000 in Memphis, where three survivors are now suing the city for mishandling evidence. In addition, crime labs are estimated to have a backlog of 100,000 rape kits. Such delays betray victims. Most rapists are never caught.”

And how many of those assailants are guilty for multiple attacks? I don’t even want to guess. How many could have been arrested with a simple kit processing? My stomach turns at the thought. Jezebel looked at one example.

Despite all these kits never being processed, accusers are scorned as having an ax to grind or an ulterior goal they’re after. The accused generally get defended by coworkers and everyone else as a “nice, charming guy.”

But men who successfully prey on women can be good-looking, nice, and charming too. Look at serial killer Ted Bundy.

The Takeaway

This week, the country has learned what I learned two decades ago. We don’t know anyone, and terrible things happen even at the hands of people we see or hear daily.

Most people, when confronted with an accuser and an accused, will simply side with whomever their friend is. This is a big problem, and reached epidemic proportions here in Canada just last Sunday.

If there’s anything that we can learn this week, I hope it’s that we never, ever take anyone at their word without listening to both sides.

Maybe I appeared to do this with my now-infamous post on Monday, but I’ve been educated in both PR and journalism, and Ghomeshi’s take just didn’t add up under scrutiny. I never questioned my reaction when Jian Ghomeshi turned much of a nation against his accusers with his moving lie-filled missive. After all, lying can be persuasive, and he’s certainly considered a master manipulator.

For a couple days there, there may have been dozens, if not more, women across the country who felt like they’d just been kicked and beaten all over again, as legions of fans rushed to Ghomeshi’s side, swearing support and railing against these “petty, greedy women” they believed were launching smear campaigns against a beloved host.

Those women didn’t deserve that treatment at the hands of Ghomeshi, and they certainly didn’t deserve the fan-based attacks that followed after his exposure.

In the end, the tide turned. A nation began to say “I believe Lucy,” and an outpouring of support for those brave enough to tell tales followed and swelled.

Today we sit with bated breath as authorities investigate this. Ghomeshi is at large and authorities don’t know where he is. As yet, a search has not begun, charges have not been laid, and only three victims have come forward.

As I’ve been saying all along, the rumours of his behaviour go back years. Even celebrities like Jann Arden have said they’ve known of this behaviour for “years.” How it took so long for truth to out, we’ll never really understand.

For his accusers, though, what matters is that a man they see as a monster has finally been stopped. His stories are exposed, his behaviours are known, and his predilections are notorious the world over. Today, there’s one less serial monster in action, and if we’re lucky, we’ll see legal proceedings ensure the only rough sex he ever has again is of the prison variety.

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The Strange Saga of Big Ears Teddy and Jian Ghomeshi

Wednesday was an explosive day in the saga of Jian Ghomeshi, so much so that there’s now an online graph depicting his “likers” dropping like leaves in a fall windstorm.

Much occurred, but I want to focus on one major development: Big Ears Teddy, a stuffed animal so valued by Jian Ghomeshi that it merited thanks in the acknowledgements of his 2012 book called 1982.

Last night, Twitter exploded with the news this account had been sitting there since April of this year, when, for only three days, it levelled massive allegations against Ghomeshi.

There are a lot of similarities between one of the eight accusers detailed by The Toronto Star and the newly notorious teddy bear of Twitter. It’s an interesting aspect to this saga and one I wanted to look at more closely.

CONTINUE READING over at the Vancouver Observer.

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My Latest on Ghomeshi

I’ve written another entry in this scandal, but it’s running over at the Vancouver Observer. 

It starts off…

We have the stupidest trend in word history going on, one that makes me want to jam a fork in my eye and twist every time someone starts it up again.

It’s this fad of using “-gate” as a suffix in order to denote scandal. Such as “Ghomeshi-gate.”

You know the origin of this, right? 1974’s Watergate?

The short version: basically burglary, doxxing, and invasion of privacy, plus a little cover-up on, oh, you know, a scale never before seen. Oh, Nixon, you dirty dog.

Phew, that’s some pretty impressive stuff. But you know what didn’t happen there? Women weren’t reported to have been shoved up against a wall, choked, thrown, beaten upside the head, or basically abused in every other way, including verbally.

To continue reading, please check me out at the Observer. Thanks!

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Smells Like Sexism, Playtex

It’s been pointed out to me that the wipes discussed below are aimed at both sexes, which I already knew, but since I’m used to advertising telling me my vagina is foul, I’ll leave it up to boys to defend themselves.

***

What fresh, steamy hell is this?

I’ll give you a clue: It ain’t lavender-scented, bitches!

That stanky pile of shit you’re getting a whiff of is the latest advertising campaign by Playtex.

Like other beauty and hygiene companies, their cash-cow is in the form of hyping up our insecurities.

Wanna get laid? Make babies? Fulfill your dreams of love and destiny?

Better clean your snatch, baby. No man will have you if you smell normal. You’d better be smelling like roses and unicorns down there, girls, or you’ll die alone and wretched.

In short, Playtex wants you buying their wipes so you don’t offend the masses by smelling like a human being. You know, that smell that biologically is meant to attract men and signal our arousal? BAD. DON’T DO ITEVER.

A clean beaver always finds more wood”? No, a wet one does.

Their campaign has sent their misogynistic advertising company to the library on a quest for every dated, tired euphemism for “vagina,” because god knows the censors would never let any female bodyparts be uttered on daytime TV, and they’ve cranked out a series of offensive slogans, thinking women would find it cute, adorable, and true.

Because, hey, everyone knows women will respond positively if you use nice colours and pretty pictures. Lord knows we’d do anything to avoid taxing our pretty little heads with big thinky words or complicated concepts like empowerment, independence, or confidence.

Funny enough, there’s no proof these things do anything positive other than masking bodily odours with chemical ones. It doesn’t STOP the source, it just hides it for a while.

In fact, the odds of your getting yeast infections SKYROCKETS if you use these products.*

Then what happens? More shame over being human. More use of the product that actually causes the problem. Desperate use of yeast-infection products to solve the infection you’ve caused by using something unnatural to fight something natural. Either way, more money for the industry.

Whether it’s anal bleaching, vaginal wipes, or other cosmetic/chemical fixes for twats and penises, it’s all a sign of just how stupid we’re becoming.

Bleaching your ass  because it looks like ass? Pretty dumb, people. Getting surgery to make your snatch look like a porn star’s? Infinitely stupid.

And using wipes doused in chemicals and maxed out with scents so you can avoid smelling the way you’re supposed to smell? Yep. Stupid.

If you’re not pissed off by this advertising campaign, then you’re a part of the problem. Period.

*As opposed to wiping with, say, apple cider vinegar, under $5 a bottle, whose smell evaporates in 30 seconds and which actually fights, and kills, yeast, and is good for you. Want portable wipes without giving into this misogynistic bullshit? Papertowel dampened with apple cider vinegar, carried in a Ziploc bag, will fight any infection-induced odours & help CURE you rather than perpetuate the problem.

______________________

Don’t forget to check out my new Victoria Lifestyle Blog, about my new city and home of choice: http://VanIsleStyle.com.

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Jumping the Gun: Irresponsible Media After the Shootings

I can’t say I’ve followed the Aurora Tragedy all that closely in the 64 hours since that all went down, but what I’ve seen on Twitter in the limited time I’ve been online this weekend has left me ill and angry at those in the journalistic field who should know better, demand better, and do better.

There are those who, like me, feel that saying the shooter’s name more than absolutely necessary is giving the sick fuck exactly what he’s looking for. There are those who are sitting on details until law enforcement confirms or denies the findings. There are also those who don’t want to “be first” with the details, who realize their value now isn’t in the speed of sharing information but is rather in assigning context to one of the worst domestic acts of violence in history. (There are also those like Anderson Cooper, who try not to say the shooter’s name, who are not speculating, and who do not want to be a part of this circus. Thank goodness for ethos.)

Much of the news media has social media and news in 2012 wrong. The business interests running the industry just don’t get it.

We need context now. The time for objectivity and passive reporting is gone. So too is the time for sensationalism and over-selling a story.

Unfortunately, many in the media disagree. They deludedly think being the first and telling the “most stuff” is what resonates long-term.

But we live in a world now where a man buys some weapons, can wear a costume, walk into a theatre, and shoot 70+ people.

We live in that world.

I read today where @ProducerMatthew Keys, a Deputy Social Media Editor for @Reuters News, was posting photos of the Aurora Shooter’s parent’s San Diego home. I’d link to the tweets and all, but then I feel I’d be committing the same borderline ethical transgressions. He seems to think it’s all well and good, that the license plates and house addresses were blurred. True — but the address is not blurred where it’s painted on the street curb.

Still: Really? This is “news”? Why does it matter where they live? Why do we need to see their home at all? Why do we care that the shooter’s car remains parked in front of their home? What value does the picture have over merely telling us the car is parked at his parents’ home? Where is the context provided for why this “news” is relevant to the story overall?

And where, most importantly, is the commentary that says his parents didn’t shoot anyone, and his mother acquiesced and said they had the right person when media and authorities first called her?

Oh, right. There’s only 140 characters, and 21 of those are absorbed by the photo’s URL, so, clearly in the remaining 119 characters, none of the Other Stuff That Can’t Fit matters.

Clearly, every consumer of content on the web is an upstanding and reliable individual who will take such information and behave as a civilized soul should. Right?

Most people are horrified by this crime, therefore all are equally horrified, and thusly we should reveal all we can about the atrocity so all can collectively mourn. Right?

Are you KIDDING me?

This shooter was a nutbag.* Who’s to say some off-the-deep-end family or friend of a victim doesn’t track down that Google Streetview address of the  shooter’s parents’ home and then go teach them what “they shoulda taught their son” or something?

We live in THAT WORLD now.

We live in the world where economies spanning the globe teeter on the brink. We live in the world where the rich get richer and the poor foot the bill, and are fed up.

We live in a time when people are angry and getting angrier.

These spree-killing crimes aren’t just an American phenomena now. They’ve spread, but America remains the leader.

Somehow, the ridiculous American legal system seems to think “freedom to bear arms” in an age where killing is high-tech and big-biz equates that same freedom granted 223 years ago, when a firearm required complicated loading and was slow, cumbersome, and often dangerous fire.

Today, weapons are out of control. There’s no need to fire dozens, even hundreds of rounds per minute. I don’t care who you are, where you are.

No need for such efficiency in death unless you’re a psychopath trying to make the biggest kill you can.

No need unless you’re big business trying to prove you can do it bigger, faster than before. New! Improved! Able to kill entire congregations with one continuous fire-burst! Fun for the whole family!

And yet the media wants to jump the gun, so to speak, on spilling the details about the killer. They give into our baser instincts and seek out all the dirty little details, pushing it on us like an overzealous Italian grandmother. Eat! Eat! Oh, sure you want more! Eat! There’s always more. Eat!

Some members of the media this weekend remind me of this guy I knew as a teen. He told me he was gonna trying to make a bird explode by feeding it nonstop. He’d heard that a gull would eat until the food source vanished. So, he’d feed ‘em and feed ‘em and feed ‘em, hoping they’d go POW, with guts flying everywhere.

In recalling this messed-up kid and his feeding fetish, I find myself wondering when that day comes that journalists stop reporting on happenings and start becoming a part of the story by distributing information they have no ethical business distributing, and who’s gonna be the one who takes their information and acts from that place we all have inside — that place where we want to see these sick bastards get what they got comin’.

No shortage of Americans thought Lee Harvey Oswald got his due. That’s who we were 50 years ago. I’m sure we’re further evolved in vendetta-wishes by now.

And then there’s the likely innocent peripherals. What about the parents of these shooters? What about their family, their friends? The people who had nothing to do with it, who knew them before they went all mad and wanted to kill innocents, who maybe tried to get them to find help, who tried to be a part of the solution when they had no idea the magnitude of the problem? What about them? What if they were spurned by a system when they sough help, a system lacking support for sicker individuals, a system that often never sees the signs that are all too plain to see?

When will those family and friends begin being the retribution committed by someone connected to victims in a spree killing?

These aren’t unthinkable scenarios. Many have been written in the annals of TV and fiction. We understand retribution and revenge. It’s an entirely human reaction. It’s there in the Bible — an eye for an eye. We blame parents for children, but not every parent is to blame when we have chemical dysfunction, doctors overprescribing, and other possible neurochemical factors. We don’t know who’s to blame. That’s why we wait on the investigation, to be sure we’re not jumping to conclusions that come consequences.

Let the amateurs speculate. Journalists’ jobs ought to be to aggregate the available information, put it into context, and dispel the sensationalist details that give nothing to the real story, which we the consumers do fine conjuring on our own.

But we all know that’s not in the media’s interest. It’s big business now, and it’s tough to be a dinosaur in a digital age.

They’re the kid at the party who’s trying too hard. Only, the kid at the party never gets anyone killed.

Journalists, and the news media, owe us better.

*If you’re gonna get on me about calling a shooter “insane” because you’re a proponent of mental health, well, good for you for defending mental health issues, but no one sane picks up a weapon and fires, wounding 70 innocents. Nobody sane does that. So, let’s call it what it is, and instead of getting all offended he’s being called nuts, fight for the care he should have had long before he snapped. I’m not gonna fucking mince words.

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A Carnivore Ruminates: Thoughts About Balance

Food. Some eat to live, others live to eat. Either way, it’s the source of life.

The Chinese believe in the Chi of food. Eat food from the place you’re from, and you get Earth-drawn energy to live upon the place you’re in. It’s a circle-of-life thing.

Me, I clearly live to eat. Lately, too indulgently and without balance. Sproing goes the waistline this summer, I’m afraid. And that’s no good.

Living to eat and doing it badly is an ironic way to embrace death. I’m certainly better than I’ve likely ever been as an eater, but it’s a constant act of re-education, and the more I learn and deprogram myself on the white-food-rules upbringing I had, the further I’ve yet to go.

I had a bit of a Twitter spanking as I tongue-in-cheek suggested I get great pleasure from seeing former Vegan/Vegetarian people going back to meat. I explained that it vindicates my belief that vegetarianism and veganism are somewhat unnatural.

Then again, entire cultures, like the Hindu, go their whole lives without food that comes of taking a life.

I get that. But I’m Irish and French. It’s just never gonna happen chez Steff. I mean, really. If we weren’t supposed to eat meat, it wouldn’t be so tasty.

It’s that simple.

But it’s good meat that’s tasty. Meat raised under ethical conditions, raised eating real food, not stuffed with commercial feed, who have access to pastures, live naturally, and are slaughtered compassionately, then processed with care by people who value the product and the life given to provide it.

Give me a steak by a grow-factory, slaughtered en masse without empathy, processed on a conveyor belt, versus a local farm-raised product, slaughtered the old-school way, and hand-trimmed, with both prepared and cooked the same, and I’ll tell you on the first bite which is which. Easy. Done. It’s right there. That je ne sais quoi of having been raised ethically and killed compassionately.

There are lamb in Spain who get walked — WALKED! — on a 650+ kilometre trek across the mountains, feeding on grass as they go, birthing, mating, living like they should, being sight-seers for many weeks before they meet their end. That’s something you taste. Real grass grown from valley to valley, by river and stream, under olive trees and by grapevines. It’s all there in that lamb.

The French believe in terroir and how it applies to not just wine like most people think, but to everything from meat through to oysters. You taste the land that the food comes from. Like where you’re born imprints you, so too does it to the meat and seafood and everything else we consume. Like those Spanish lamb I think would surpass any I’ve ever had.

Yum.

It’s a beautiful thought, that this interconnectivity runs through everything around us, and that we can choose to focus on more seasonal, local produce and it’ll not only be of better quality, but also of better Chi, of better terroir, and even just better for the environment, and ultimately more fulfilling for our soul.

As I reflect on food and what it means to me this week, I know where I’m going wrong with my diet is simply too many carbs and too much meat. I won’t go paleo or Zone or Atkins or any of those faddish diets. I just want to find a balance that works for me — ethically, tastefully, healthily, and financially.

I will never eat what I don’t enjoy, and I’ll never omit things like juicy steaks, cheeses, or other great food-of-love things that transport me when I eat them. Life’s meant to be lived, not survived.

There’s a perfect balance of finding flavour yet eating a diet that makes your body happy, and that’s the balance I’ve lost.

I’ll be eating less meat, less cheese, but when I have them, having far better quality. At the same time, I want to explore vegetarian dishes from around the world, particularly from places where they manage to go entire lives without meat, because clearly they’re doing it properly.

I’ve known people who’ve been extreme vegetarians, who did it balanced as best as one can, but who ultimately returned to the Meat Side when they ran into energy problems when being more active (like a boxer I knew, and a hardcore mountain cyclist). I don’t believe one needs to omit anything completely (except when allergic, obviously) to live an “ethical food” life.

Yet we as a society in the West eat meat to excess and a compromise would be good. I’ll attempt a 50% vegetarian week. I’m sure there’ll be weeks I fail, but I’m probably meat-eatin’ 6 days a week now, if not 7. That ain’t no good.

There’s one thing I can’t argue. That’s the issue that raising meat, farm or factory, creates a lot of methane, which is hugely responsible for global warming. If the world went vegetarian tomorrow and commercial meat production ended, we’d probably see a drastic difference in climate change quickly. This is true. Irrefutable.

So, mandate methane capture and conversion. Let’s solve that problem. Let’s have our cake steak and eat it too.

Because, to me, every cow is sacred, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it salted and grilled.

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