March 8 marks International Women's Day, and we've come a long way, baby - or have we? Here, a look at modern misogyny ...
When I was hired as a columnist in the late '90s, the message on my answering machine. "You've got the job," said my new boss, "even though you didn't put out."
The newspaper's offices were out in the sticks, so we had met at a downtown restaurant for a drink and interview the evening before. I'd pitched him on why I was ideal for the position; he'd agreed. Then he got drunk and wrapped things up by attempting to paw me in a taxi. I gamely fended him off until I was able to leap out at my address, deploying the nuanced rebuff with which women in this situation are all too familiar – the one where your disinterest is conveyed but in a jovial manner that won't offend the man who's offending you. After all, you do want the job.
It's a memory, and one that seems sepia-quaint by today's standards, that came back to me last year as the Jian Ghomeshi scandal detonated. Of all the sordid details, what struck me most was an anecdote by former Q producer Kathryn Borel who'd been openly groped, massaged and dry humped by Ghomeshi, who had also relayed during a workplace meeting in the company offices that he'd like to "hate f***" her. Reporting his lewdness to CBC higher-ups, Borel was advised to "figure out how to cope with" her boss, who "was the way he was." In other words: quit or deal with it.
As another woman told the media in the wake of the Ghomeshi tsunami, things over on Parliament Hill weren't much better. A 22-year-old intern at the time, Jasmine Ali was fired from the office of a Liberal MP in 2007 after objecting to the conduct of her supervisor. "Parliament is not a place for women," he'd announced on her second day at work, pointing to his erection, while defining the capital as "a men's locker room where it's all about whose thing is bigger." During her second week, he informed her, "Women can't sue for sexual harassment on the Hill. It's the one place exempt." She rejected his advances; he sabotaged her efforts to impress their boss, took credit for her work and made her wash his dishes. The treatment would cease, he noted, if she agreed to date him.
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