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A grope is a sexual assault, so why are feminists looking the other way?
As I sifted through Canadian media outlets during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, I was overwhelmed at the attention he got. Certainly, he deserved to be called out. Woman are mobilizing and once again sexual assault is in the forefront. Perhaps one day it will be safe for us to, well, just be.
On many of my friends’ social media accounts, I saw posts about Kavanaugh, about sexual assault, about #metoo. Women want justice, we want to be believed, and we want to move forward.
But there is also an underlying message that I am seeing, one that I find disturbing and baffling. It appears that if a man expresses left-of-centre ideologies or calls himself a feminist, then the same women marching to the #metoo drum are looking the other way.
I have heard things as ludicrous as ‘well it was 18 years ago, well he had been drinking, well it was just a touch, well she didn’t mind.’ These are just examples of the smattering of excuses for the alleged Justin Trudeau grope that I have heard.
A grope is a sexual assault, no matter which way you spin it or who perpetrated it. Having been the recipient of such a behaviour on more than one occasion, I can tell you, it sucks. It is a violation of your space and your body. To trivialize it is akin to accepting it, and I won’t do that.
The alleged incident took place in 2000 at the Kokanee Summit in Creston, B.C. The event was held to raise money for the Avalanche Foundation, a charity that Trudeau, now prime minister, was involved in because of the death of his brother in an avalanche.
An unsigned editorial appeared in the Creston Valley Advance after the event accusing Trudeau of "groping" and "inappropriately handling" a young female reporter while she was on assignment. The article stated that the woman felt "blatantly disrespected" by Trudeau.
The editorial also stated that the day after the alleged incident, Trudeau offered an apology of sorts: "I'm sorry," he is quoted as saying. "If I had known you were reporting for a national paper I never would have been so forward."
A former co-worker remembers the reporter's account of the encounter. Valerie Bourne was the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance at the time and said the reporter was "distressed" by her contact with Trudeau.
"My recollections of the conversation were that she came to me because she was unsettled by it. She didn't like what had happened," said Bourne. "She wasn't sure how she should proceed with it because, of course, we're talking somebody who was known to the Canadian community."
So my feminist friends, it’s time to put our #metoo, non-partisan, big women hats on. This woman clearly was touched in such a way that made her very uncomfortable, caused her distress and made her feel like she could not go forward with it because of who Trudeau was and is. Sound familiar? Sound like the rhetoric being forwarded by the #metoo movement? So why are we not collectively speaking out on this?
Why are we as women, not outraged by this? Does this mean that if she had been from a smaller paper, “being so forward” would have been acceptable to him? Do you buy that #metooers? Is a woman’s so-called station in life a determinate as to whether we can be violated or not? Does a man’s social status determine whether he gets a pass on assaulting women who he believes is in a lower social class? By giving Justin Trudeau a pass, that is exactly what we are saying.
Let’s now move on to his third excuse. "Over the past weeks, since this news resurfaced, I've been reflecting, we've all been reflecting, on past behaviours," he said after the issue was revived last year. "And as I've said, I'm confident I didn't act inappropriately, but I think the essence of this is people can experience interactions differently and part of the lesson we need to learn in this moment of collective awakening ... people in many cases, women, experience interactions in professional contexts and other contexts differently than men.”
Ok, let me see if I have this right: Women experience interactions in a professional context and other contexts, differently than men. So, if I am walking by a man, and he reaches out and grabs me by the breast, and I don’t like it, and I slap him and he tells me to “chill,” it’s just a plain old difference of perception? What, he thought I might like that? If you buy that, then, holy crap, you need to check your feminist ideologies at the door. By giving a pass on this, I am afraid it will lead us down a very slippery slope. Will “difference of perception” become the new rape defence?
In Trudeau’s own words: There is no context in which someone doesn’t have responsibility for things they have done in the past.
Those comments were part of an interview with the state broadcaster on the very issue of sexual harassment. Yet he never called for himself to be fired or for an independent investigation into his own actions.
What say you, my #metoo feminist counterparts?
-- Shirley Alexander