On Friday afternoon, Jian Ghomeshi trended on Twitter in Canada again.
The first time in 2014, it was because eight women had come forward in the Toronto Star to allege acts including non-consensual slapping, hitting and choking, and workplace sexual harassment.
On Friday, it was because he published a 3,500 word essay responding to the #MeToo movement and reflecting on the fallout after the allegations became public.
He was fired from his job as a CBC radio host, and charged and ultimately acquitted of four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking, in relation to incidents involving three women. He was later charged with sexually assaulting a co-worker, but the charge was withdrawn when he apologized to her and signed a peace bond.
The new essay is paywalled, and is the cover of the New York Review of Books. In it, the former CBC radio host expresses remorse but does not apologize.
In response to the essay, Canadian feminists and one of his accusers told VICE News he hasn’t made amends.
“While he says he wants to atone, has he actually reached out to anyone he has hurt the most? I see no evidence of that,” said Lucy DeCoutere, one of the women whose accusation resulted in criminal charges.
“I don’t think this is him making things right for the people he harmed, this is self serving,” consent educator and sexual violence support worker Farrah Khan told us.
"I don’t think this is him making things right for the people he harmed, this is self serving."
Feminist and educator Julie Lalonde told VICE News she found it heartening to see people tweeting that they had chosen to give money to organizations fighting violence against women, rather than pay to read the piece, or tweet about it.
“He has no right to ‘reflect’ on a hashtag or the #MeToo movement without first owning his behaviour, apologizing and taking active steps to change,” Kristin Raworth, who publicly accused Liberal MP Kent Hehr of sexual harassment this year, told VICE News. “Nothing in this article suggests he is ready to do any of that.”
What was Ghomeshi accused of?
In 2014, eight women came forward in The Toronto Star to publicly accuse Ghomeshi of physical abuse, sexual assault and sexual harassment. By November 2014, 15 women and one man had come forward to The Star with allegations against the CBC radio host.
Actress Lucy DeCoutere accused him of non-consensually pushing her against a wall, choking her until she couldn’t breathe, and then slapping her head three times.
Another woman alleged he grabbed her hair and “yanked it hard.” On another occasion, she alleged he grabbed her hair and pulled her to the floor before punching her head three times.
Another unnamed woman said he kissed her forcefully and choked her while they were sitting on a park bench.
These three women would later testify against him in court. In relation to those incidents, Ghomeshi was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. The judge in the case concluded there was not enough evidence to convict Ghomeshi. In response to the outcry over the case, the Canadian government proposed amending the rape shield law.
The Star also published allegations from an unnamed CBC producer, who alleged he threw her against the wall and was “forceful” with her, and that she performed oral sex on him “to get out of there.”
CBC employee Kathryn Borel alleged that in 2007 Ghomeshi told her “I want to hate fuck you,” and another time thrusted into her backside in front of a coworker, along with other instances of sexual harassment. She told her union in 2010, but nothing came of her complaint. CBC later apologized to Borel. Ghomeshi signed a peace bond in relation to her allegation, and apologized to her in exchange for having a sexual assault charge withdrawn against him.
Reva Seth accused Ghomeshi of “aggressively and violently” penetrating her with his fingers. Journalist Carla Ciccone wrote on XOJane that she went on a date with Ghomeshi and he “aggressively” touched her without her consent.
What does Ghomeshi write?
Ghomeshi’s piece opens with the disgraced former CBC radio host at a karaoke bar in New York. A woman sees his name on the list and says, “Jian! Your name is Jian? Ha! Hey, you know who ruined that name for you?” “No. Who?” Jian replies. The woman stops smiling and apologizes to him.
“Mostly I felt bad because she felt bad,” he writes. And then they sing a duet together.
“Chalk up one more human being who no longer thinks I’m a creep,” Ghomeshi writes.
In his new essay, Ghomeshi lists the charges against him and says he was cleared of all of them. He does not provide a full list of the allegations against him, and does not offer an apology for his alleged behaviour. Instead he says he used his influence to entice women, and that he should have been more respectful toward the women in his life. He calls the allegations against him “inaccurate.”
“Even as I feel deep remorse about how I treated some people in my life, I cannot confess to the accusations that are inaccurate,” he writes. “What I do confess is that I was emotionally thoughtless in the way I treated those I dated and tried to date. As well, I leveraged my influence and status to try to entice women and lead them on when they were interested. There are all sorts of old-fashioned words to describe men like this: player, creep, cad, Lothario.
“There are lots of guys more hated than me now. But I was the guy everyone hated first.”
“But it went deeper than that,” he continues. “I was demanding on dates and in personal affairs. I would keep lobbying for what I wanted. I was critical and dismissive. Some women I cared about went along with things I wanted to avoid my disappointment or moods. I ought to have been more respectful and responsive with the women in my life. To them I say, you deserved much better from me.”
Following the public reckoning against him, he says he received racist hate mail, and contemplated suicide. Men also contacted him saying that they, too, could have been accused of abuse the same way he was.
This led him to see his actions “as part of a systemic culture of unhealthy masculinity.” He says he has had a “crash course in empathy.”
But on the question of an apology, he writes: “In a maelstrom of confusion, humiliation, resistance, and conflicting feedback from those around you, how much can anyone really inhabit ‘I’m sorry’?”
He writes that one of his female friends joked that he “should get some kind of public recognition as a #MeToo pioneer.”
“There are lots of guys more hated than me now. But I was the guy everyone hated first.”
One of his accusers, Lucy DeCoutere, took issue with his quip about spearheading the #MeToo movement.
“Is that something to boast about if he’s the perpetrator in this scenario?” she asked. “Parliament sat to change the rape shield law because of so many problematic elements that were highlighted in the trial that got him off. I don’t think that’s a boastful position to be in when you’re in the history books.”
She stressed: “Often when talking about sexual assault, the word scandal is used when in fact they are criminal acts that garner jail time for the criminal parties.”
Farrah Khan also called out the boastful #MeToo line. Tarana Burke started the #MeToo movement, she pointed out, and North America has a long history of struggle against sexual violence.
“The movement against sexual violence has been happening in Canada since the inception of this country, this country was created on the sexual violence against Indigenous people … so there’s been resistance to and resilience from sexual violence for a very long time.”
“This movement did not start with an abuser; it started with survivors, and to put that in an article shows that you haven’t done your work,” she added.
"Women have the right to be outraged and I just roll my eyes when people are like, you’re just feeding into the machine."
On social media Friday, some were hesitant to react to the essay, not wanting to give Ghomeshi attention. “The engage or ignore tension is something I have struggled with my entire career,” Julie Lalonde said.
“Women have the right to be outraged and I just roll my eyes when people are like, you’re just feeding into the machine,” she continued. “So what’s my alternative? Sit here and watch him be on the cover of a magazine and not educate people on what he’s done? Especially American audiences, who might not have that context?”
She advised: “Don’t buy the magazine, don’t pay to get across the paywall.”
“To me, the conversation is, well what do we want from Ghomeshi? That’s an easy answer for me: may you die in obscurity. But it could be a launching point for a broader conversation around, what is accountability?”
Cover image: Former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi arrives at court in Toronto, Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press