When activist Tarana Burke coined the phrase “#MeToo” in 2007, she wanted to raise awareness for the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in the public sphere. The phrase didn’t catch on until a decade later when prominent Hollywood figures like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, and numerous others were called to account for allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and even rape. These revelations shook the entire world and brought focus on the alarming prevalence of sexual predation in Hollywood and in everyday workplaces.
The court of public opinion has litigated the misdeeds of sexual predators in Hollywood and in other industries. Some have lost their jobs, whereas others have gone into hiding. But most of them are waiting for a chance at redemption.
Jian Ghomeshi is one of them.
The disgraced former CBC Radio host has found himself in the spotlight once again after he wrote a 3,400-word essay in The New York Review of Books last week. The essay titled, “Reflections from a Hashtag” details his fall from grace and what he has lost after he was charged with several counts of sexual assault in 2014. Ghomeshi was acquitted of charges two years later and has stayed out of the public eye until now.
In his essay, Ghomeshi attributes his firing from the CBC to “allegations [that] circulated online.” He writes about him being shunned by the people closest to him, how he cried in his room late at night, and how he’s become depressed and suicidal.
If the intention was to invoke sympathy, then Ghomeshi has failed spectacularly.
The tone of Ghomeshi’s essay is more boastful than it is remorseful. Only a narcissist would say that he “was the guy that everyone hated first,” as if he hadn’t done anything wrong to warrant the hate.
This is why the decision to give him publishing space in The New York Review of Books is puzzling, and also reflects a misogynistic culture in that men like Ghomeshi should be given a road to redemption because they, too, have suffered.
The narratives are different though.
Victims of sexual abuse have been disbelieved and called liars for telling their truth. Justice has been hard to come by because of fear of retaliation.
Perpetrators, like Ghomeshi, suffer from no longer being rich and famous. They write these personal essays because they want gratification for being in the headlines again, not because they are actually sorry for the crimes they committed.
Thankfully, the #MeToo movement has alerted the public to the fact that redemption is also hard to come by. Ghomeshi’s essay has been met by widespread criticism, and the editor who approved it has been forced to step down from The New York Review of Books.
Perhaps if Ghomeshi atoned for his crimes and demonstrated some kind of awareness thinking about how his actions have affected his former colleagues and the women he dated over the years, redemption wouldn’t have been out of reach for him. The fact that he missed the point completely shows that he shouldn’t be heard anyway.
Vinney Wong is a fourth-year Communications student at the University of Toronto Mississauga