I don’t want to write about Jian Ghomeshi.
Yet I find myself reading, tweeting, commenting endlessly. Not even about him directly, but about all of the reactions to him and the story he crafted. What our collective responses mean, how this news brought the words Rape Culture into mainstream media. How that carefully crafted statement drips with the venom of language used in service of an agenda, which it always is, but this one is so, well, apparent.
Who speaks, and who is silent?
For the first time in a long time, I’m at a loss for words. The only words that I can reach for aren’t exactly words, but descriptors that I’ve enlisted to take the place of names. Common male names that I’ve chosen to replace, because dragging those around and being reminded of them on a daily or weekly basis just wouldn’t do. A conscious trick of the mind, take away the names, perhaps take away the power?
Even nameless, I can’t forget the fact that I still carry around a list. The drunken violent one. The cutely coercive one. The roofie guy. I can’t un-name them out of existence, and their half-erased faces are lurking around in my memory this week, stomping all over the words I was saving for other things.
The women who will not give their names for fear of retribution had a list too, a list one name long or many names longer. They took that one name on their list and they shared it publicly. Now we all watch the responses coming in, and those who have words close at hand weave them together into gorgeous pieces, shouting all those thoughts and statements usually reserved for whispers.
Women with wise words ask for caution: Think about how you respond. You probably won’t know if you’re in the company of a survivor of sexual assault, so act as if everyone you’re talking to is potentially a survivor.
Women with wise words warn others: Watch what you say. There are more of us than you think, and we are standing in the wings, maybe crying softly, maybe stone-faced. We’re watching your response, considering whether or not it’s safe to step forward.
Women with wise words are explaining, sometimes patiently, sometimes rightly less so, why anonymity is the only real form of safety, even if it won’t sate your taste for facts. It’s safer than a key-fist or a whistle. We know that those are decoys, tactics of diversion, covering for the Nice Guys, the Famous Guys, the Charismatic Guys, the It Couldn’t Possibly Be Him Guys.
Because it can possibly be one of those guys, it was, it has been, and it will be again, as long as they remain names or stand-ins for names to be added, silently, to another woman’s list.
I’m surprised at how long it’s gotten, my list, 20-odd years in the making. I don’t want to write about the name that’s trending and all the names still unspoken, but for once, at least, I’m not alone.