My evening with Jian Ghomeshi

Opinion Mar 23, 2016 by Latham Hunter Hamilton Spectator

OK, that title you just read is slightly misleading. Yes, I did spend a couple of hours with Jian Ghomeshi once, but it was almost 20 years ago, shortly after I had gotten married. My husband had just left a band which, by Canadian standards, had been fairly successful: he was signed to a major label, doing shows across Canada and the United States in a tour bus, and playing in arenas and "soft seaters" (music industry talk for theatres). And then, recognizing the incompatibility of family life and being a musician, he left. It would be difficult to overstate just how agonizing this transition was, for both of us.

He started gigging with independent musicians, which is how I found myself sitting at a small table in a Toronto club, watching him play in a small band, when Jian Ghomeshi sat down next to me. I'd met a few unusually charismatic men since I'd gained access to the Canadian music industry, but none were as charming as Ghomeshi.

I was grateful that he and his date sat down next to me and that he struck up a conversation — I was glad to have the company. Though he was with someone, he engaged me in conversation for a good two hours, chatting easily with my husband during a break. This was an anxiety-ridden time — I had no idea what was going to happen to my husband's music career and thus far, the signs hadn't been good. He wasn't good at schmoozing — he didn't hang out with other musicians, or stay late after gigs for drinks. Perhaps Ghomeshi sensed this uncertainty; he had high praise for my husband's playing, and reassured me that he'd get lots of work. Ultimately, Ghomeshi behaved as though I was the most interesting person in the room (even though I was married and my husband was manfully pounding away at the drums not 15 feet away) and not once did he appear anything less than completely genuine (and I'm a cynic when it comes to this kind of thing).

As we left the club that night, my husband told me that "that guy" was from the band Moxy Früvous. "Oh, really? He seemed great." And we finished loading his gear in the car and went home.

Ghomeshi's trial revealed what appear to be some maddening contradictions: If a woman's physically abused by a man, why would she send him provocative emails? Why would she see him again? It just doesn't make sense. It's easier to understand why a battered wife might stay with an abusive husband, given the complexities of shared property and parenting. But a single woman with her own place?

There are theories about why women would accept victimization. We have always been living under a patriarchal system that degrades and dehumanizes us, and so it stands to reason that, after a few thousand years, we've internalized and accepted the validity of that oppression. In other words, we take all kinds of abuse because our culture suggests that it's natural and normal.

Though reasonable, that's a tough idea to really take on because it means grappling with endless variations of victimization — from an Afghan girl right up to Hillary Clinton. Where do we fit into that vast range? How do we even get a sense of it? And how do we really know what we've internalized? These are slippery concepts to try and hang onto.

On a personal level, I find it easier to understand Ghomeshi's alleged victims in two ways: First, that kind of charm and charisma are so persuasive, so captivating, that I can understand how a young woman might second guess a minute (a few minutes?) of violence. It would have to be an anomaly, surely? It wouldn't happen again, right?

Second, and perhaps more likely: Though many career trajectories rely on personal contacts, it's a more pervasive reality in the arts. Musicians, actors, dancers, artists … evaluating their work is subjective and their careers overlap with their social lives more so than the work of, say, accountants. You can't piss anyone off, especially in the relatively small world of the Toronto entertainment scene, and especially when it's your word — a woman's word — against the likes of socially gifted people like Ghomeshi. You need every connection you can get, because it could mean the difference between making rent and not making rent. It is a perpetually insecure existence. Jian Ghomeshi was part of — and moving up in — that scene. Better to keep things light. Better to keep things positive. Better to make him think that you weren't shocked and scared and revolted. Better to make rent.

My husband left the music industry. He didn't have the stomach for it — the uncertainty and the reliance on the people you think you know.

Latham Hunter is a writer and professor of cultural studies and communication. She blogs at The Kids’ Book Curator.

My evening with Jian Ghomeshi

Opinion Mar 23, 2016 by Latham Hunter Hamilton Spectator

OK, that title you just read is slightly misleading. Yes, I did spend a couple of hours with Jian Ghomeshi once, but it was almost 20 years ago, shortly after I had gotten married. My husband had just left a band which, by Canadian standards, had been fairly successful: he was signed to a major label, doing shows across Canada and the United States in a tour bus, and playing in arenas and "soft seaters" (music industry talk for theatres). And then, recognizing the incompatibility of family life and being a musician, he left. It would be difficult to overstate just how agonizing this transition was, for both of us.

He started gigging with independent musicians, which is how I found myself sitting at a small table in a Toronto club, watching him play in a small band, when Jian Ghomeshi sat down next to me. I'd met a few unusually charismatic men since I'd gained access to the Canadian music industry, but none were as charming as Ghomeshi.

I was grateful that he and his date sat down next to me and that he struck up a conversation — I was glad to have the company. Though he was with someone, he engaged me in conversation for a good two hours, chatting easily with my husband during a break. This was an anxiety-ridden time — I had no idea what was going to happen to my husband's music career and thus far, the signs hadn't been good. He wasn't good at schmoozing — he didn't hang out with other musicians, or stay late after gigs for drinks. Perhaps Ghomeshi sensed this uncertainty; he had high praise for my husband's playing, and reassured me that he'd get lots of work. Ultimately, Ghomeshi behaved as though I was the most interesting person in the room (even though I was married and my husband was manfully pounding away at the drums not 15 feet away) and not once did he appear anything less than completely genuine (and I'm a cynic when it comes to this kind of thing).

As we left the club that night, my husband told me that "that guy" was from the band Moxy Früvous. "Oh, really? He seemed great." And we finished loading his gear in the car and went home.

Ghomeshi's trial revealed what appear to be some maddening contradictions: If a woman's physically abused by a man, why would she send him provocative emails? Why would she see him again? It just doesn't make sense. It's easier to understand why a battered wife might stay with an abusive husband, given the complexities of shared property and parenting. But a single woman with her own place?

There are theories about why women would accept victimization. We have always been living under a patriarchal system that degrades and dehumanizes us, and so it stands to reason that, after a few thousand years, we've internalized and accepted the validity of that oppression. In other words, we take all kinds of abuse because our culture suggests that it's natural and normal.

Though reasonable, that's a tough idea to really take on because it means grappling with endless variations of victimization — from an Afghan girl right up to Hillary Clinton. Where do we fit into that vast range? How do we even get a sense of it? And how do we really know what we've internalized? These are slippery concepts to try and hang onto.

On a personal level, I find it easier to understand Ghomeshi's alleged victims in two ways: First, that kind of charm and charisma are so persuasive, so captivating, that I can understand how a young woman might second guess a minute (a few minutes?) of violence. It would have to be an anomaly, surely? It wouldn't happen again, right?

Second, and perhaps more likely: Though many career trajectories rely on personal contacts, it's a more pervasive reality in the arts. Musicians, actors, dancers, artists … evaluating their work is subjective and their careers overlap with their social lives more so than the work of, say, accountants. You can't piss anyone off, especially in the relatively small world of the Toronto entertainment scene, and especially when it's your word — a woman's word — against the likes of socially gifted people like Ghomeshi. You need every connection you can get, because it could mean the difference between making rent and not making rent. It is a perpetually insecure existence. Jian Ghomeshi was part of — and moving up in — that scene. Better to keep things light. Better to keep things positive. Better to make him think that you weren't shocked and scared and revolted. Better to make rent.

My husband left the music industry. He didn't have the stomach for it — the uncertainty and the reliance on the people you think you know.

Latham Hunter is a writer and professor of cultural studies and communication. She blogs at The Kids’ Book Curator.

My evening with Jian Ghomeshi

Opinion Mar 23, 2016 by Latham Hunter Hamilton Spectator

OK, that title you just read is slightly misleading. Yes, I did spend a couple of hours with Jian Ghomeshi once, but it was almost 20 years ago, shortly after I had gotten married. My husband had just left a band which, by Canadian standards, had been fairly successful: he was signed to a major label, doing shows across Canada and the United States in a tour bus, and playing in arenas and "soft seaters" (music industry talk for theatres). And then, recognizing the incompatibility of family life and being a musician, he left. It would be difficult to overstate just how agonizing this transition was, for both of us.

He started gigging with independent musicians, which is how I found myself sitting at a small table in a Toronto club, watching him play in a small band, when Jian Ghomeshi sat down next to me. I'd met a few unusually charismatic men since I'd gained access to the Canadian music industry, but none were as charming as Ghomeshi.

I was grateful that he and his date sat down next to me and that he struck up a conversation — I was glad to have the company. Though he was with someone, he engaged me in conversation for a good two hours, chatting easily with my husband during a break. This was an anxiety-ridden time — I had no idea what was going to happen to my husband's music career and thus far, the signs hadn't been good. He wasn't good at schmoozing — he didn't hang out with other musicians, or stay late after gigs for drinks. Perhaps Ghomeshi sensed this uncertainty; he had high praise for my husband's playing, and reassured me that he'd get lots of work. Ultimately, Ghomeshi behaved as though I was the most interesting person in the room (even though I was married and my husband was manfully pounding away at the drums not 15 feet away) and not once did he appear anything less than completely genuine (and I'm a cynic when it comes to this kind of thing).

As we left the club that night, my husband told me that "that guy" was from the band Moxy Früvous. "Oh, really? He seemed great." And we finished loading his gear in the car and went home.

Ghomeshi's trial revealed what appear to be some maddening contradictions: If a woman's physically abused by a man, why would she send him provocative emails? Why would she see him again? It just doesn't make sense. It's easier to understand why a battered wife might stay with an abusive husband, given the complexities of shared property and parenting. But a single woman with her own place?

There are theories about why women would accept victimization. We have always been living under a patriarchal system that degrades and dehumanizes us, and so it stands to reason that, after a few thousand years, we've internalized and accepted the validity of that oppression. In other words, we take all kinds of abuse because our culture suggests that it's natural and normal.

Though reasonable, that's a tough idea to really take on because it means grappling with endless variations of victimization — from an Afghan girl right up to Hillary Clinton. Where do we fit into that vast range? How do we even get a sense of it? And how do we really know what we've internalized? These are slippery concepts to try and hang onto.

On a personal level, I find it easier to understand Ghomeshi's alleged victims in two ways: First, that kind of charm and charisma are so persuasive, so captivating, that I can understand how a young woman might second guess a minute (a few minutes?) of violence. It would have to be an anomaly, surely? It wouldn't happen again, right?

Second, and perhaps more likely: Though many career trajectories rely on personal contacts, it's a more pervasive reality in the arts. Musicians, actors, dancers, artists … evaluating their work is subjective and their careers overlap with their social lives more so than the work of, say, accountants. You can't piss anyone off, especially in the relatively small world of the Toronto entertainment scene, and especially when it's your word — a woman's word — against the likes of socially gifted people like Ghomeshi. You need every connection you can get, because it could mean the difference between making rent and not making rent. It is a perpetually insecure existence. Jian Ghomeshi was part of — and moving up in — that scene. Better to keep things light. Better to keep things positive. Better to make him think that you weren't shocked and scared and revolted. Better to make rent.

My husband left the music industry. He didn't have the stomach for it — the uncertainty and the reliance on the people you think you know.

Latham Hunter is a writer and professor of cultural studies and communication. She blogs at The Kids’ Book Curator.