From Ghomeshi to Schneiderman: how men who say they're feminists can fool us

时间:2019-09-29 责任编辑:牛铠 来源:2018正规博彩娱乐网 点击:298 次

The women’s stories of abuse mirror one another so closely you can almost hear the echo.

“All of a sudden, he just slapped me.”

“He began to choke me.”

“He asked if I like it rough. I was so shocked.”

“He pulled my hair so hard my neck flew backward, and when it did he smacked me.”

In the first two quotes, “he” is Eric Schneiderman, the celebrated New York attorney general who resigned last Monday after the reports of brutal and repeated physical assaults, including that he hit and choked four women over a period of years.

In the second two, it’s Jian Ghomeshi, the former celebrity broadcaster whose career shattered in 2014 in the wake of nearly a dozen allegations of sexual abuse and harassment, from hitting and punching to whipping with a belt, and remained in pieces despite a 2016 acquittal of criminal charges.

Both men deny the allegations.

A hallmark of the #MeToo movement isn’t how diverse the stories of abuse, harassment and assault have been. It’s how repetitive. Yet nowhere are the parallels more striking than in these two cases: the Schneiderman allegations are uncannily familiar to those of us who followed the Ghomeshi trial closely in . Above all, these are stories of men whose reputations as feminist progressives cast a kind of smokescreen not just over society, but also over the very women who have claimed abuse. The question isn’t just about who would believe the women. It’s about whether the women – faced with men of such golden reputations – could believe themselves.

Schneiderman, after all, was the former state senator who sponsored the Strangulation Prevention Act (which could, ironically, aid his downfall). As attorney general, he was a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement and a critic of Harvey Weinstein. Ghomeshi, for his part, put his star power behind the White Ribbon campaign, an organization of men and boys fighting violence against women, and pitched Q, his hugely popular CBC radio show, as a harbour of inclusiveness. Their cultural currency at the time of the accusations couldn’t be higher.

“All of a sudden, he just slapped me, open-handed and with great force, across the face, landing the blow directly on to my ear,” Michelle Manning Barish told the New Yorker about Schneiderman. She said he choked her and hit her repeatedly so hard she developed recurring ear problems. Tanya Selvaratnam said he “slapped her across the face, often four or five times, back and forth, with his open hand; he also spat at her and choked her,” the magazine reported. She added that eventually, “we could rarely have sex without him beating me”.

As I read this, I heard the voice of Lucy DeCoutere in 2014.

Jian Ghomeshi arrives at court with his lawyer in Toronto on 11 May 2016. He was acquitted of criminal charges. Photograph: Mark Blinch/AP

“He did take me by the throat and press me against the wall and choke me, and he did slap me across the face a couple of times,” the actor told NPR, after the Toronto Star first reported allegations against Ghomeshi. The newspaper described another woman’s story: “She says he demanded that she kneel, then hit her repeatedly about the head while she stared up in shock.”

Some of Shneiderman’s accusers described confusion: between the man they thought he was, and the man who was treating them this way. They justified his behaviour, or convinced themselves there was nothing wrong – or that they were wrong – just as Kathryn Borel, who said Ghomeshi sexually assaulted her at work at the CBC, convinced herself that his behaviour wasn’t criminal.

“The relentless message to me, from my celebrity boss and the national institution we worked for, were that his whims were more important than my humanity or my dignity,” Borel wrote. “So I came to accept this.”

Similarly, when an unnamed ex-girlfriend in the New Yorker story told her friends of Schneiderman’s abuse, “a number of them advised her to keep the story to herself, arguing that Schneiderman was too valuable a politician for the Democrats to lose.”

Even the language of defense feels parroted. Schneiderman responded to the allegations by claiming consent. “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity,” he wrote, in what could have been modeled on Ghomeshi’s 2014 statement: “I have always been interested in a variety of activities in the bedroom but I only participate in sexual practices that are mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners.”

In the New Yorker, Selvaratnam called Schneiderman a “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” character. During Ghomeshi’s trial, one witness told the court that “he went from being really nice, to this rage, and dark”; writer Anne Kingston later described it as “the Mr Hyde we never saw”.

What happened at the Ghomeshi trial could teach us a lot about what might be in the future for Schneiderman. The women’s statements to media and police came back to haunt them, as the defense team scrutinized every small, changing detail. His subsequent acquittal plunged the country into a kind of moral chaos. Was the criminal justice system broken? Was the crown attorney inept? Were the women simply liars? Could you make an allegation publicly and still survive a trial? One woman told me on the courthouse steps that she’d lost her faith in the courts. Canada has yet to see another high-profile sexual assault trial to reverse that despair.

That could be a lesson for New York: not to place all your hopes for sexual assault justice into a single trial, and not to conflate the work of journalists who check stories with the requirements of courtroom testimony.

It can, of course, go another way. Bill Cosby’s trial – where multiple women were allowed to testify, and an expert witness explained the conflicting and sometimes irrational behaviours of victims – has given women hope. Perhaps the Schneiderman allegations will follow that path. The thornier question, however, will remain: why exactly it is that men who robe themselves with feminism find it so easy to fool the rest of us.