When I was an early teen, I loved the band Moxy Fruvous. They were a little indy band (at first) and their self-titled demo cassette tape, with only six songs, circulated among my friends, through copies of copies of copies. I actually had an original one, having forced my dad to drive me downtown one weekend so I could get one. Another time, I convinced him I should skip school to see them perform live at that same record store. I got a signed poster.
Whenever they played in Montreal, I went. I even started a letter-writing campaign to get one of their shows turned into an all-ages event, rather than an 18 and older only affair. It worked. Another time, I missed their show because I had my appendix taken out, and one of my best friends got them to all sign a “Get Well Soon” card for me. That same friend and I performed cover versions of some of their songs, struggling with the harmonies.
I loved that band. They were quirky, geeky (they had a song called My Baby Loved a Bunch of Authors, and one based on Green Eggs and Ham!), and while they sang about more serious matters like alcoholism and environmental destruction and consumerism, at least it was about something, and it was progressive and Canadian, and accessible, at least to me and to a lot of my friends.
So when news broke that one of their former members, Jian Ghomeshi, was in fact a serial sexual assaulter who preyed on young women trying to break into the media industry, using his power and influence gleaned from his popular radio show, I was at once saddened, angered, and terrified. I was saddened because a figure from my, not childhood, but developing years had turned out to be such a... well, what he turned out to be. I was angry because it had been apparently an open secret that had been allowed to continue for years, and terrified because I could have been one of those young women, seduced by the star, aspiring for a break, and too thick to listen to the persistent whispers and warnings.
Before Moxy Fruvous, there were many other influences, obviously. My parents had a healthy record collection that my brother and I were free to explore. My father had an impressive collection of comedy albums. You can pretty much guess where this is going. We loved listening to the old Bill Cosby comedy albums, and were just the right age to be inundated with The Cosby Show in afternoon syndication.
I had heard the allegations against Bill Cosby in 2006. I didn’t not believe them. I didn’t rush to defend him. But I didn’t know how to process it, nor what to do with the information that was so dissonant with what we thought we knew of him. But, then again, I thought, Hollywood, and Hollywood seemed to do things to people, enable and allow this kind of behavior. I wasn’t all that surprised the whole thing went away.
And now it’s back.
This article draws a connection between the two events, the two men, and our collective unwillingness now to simply ignore the pattern. I would also say that in 2006, Twitter was just getting started. Now, we have robust networks that allow for many women (and men) to connect, speak out, and collectively act against this kind of tacit approval of serial sexual assault. And we can collectively mourn our lost innocence together.
But there is another innocence that is lost here, too. The message that would tell women and girls to distrust, to harden themselves, to suspect all men of illicit intent. Not to trust. Even Bill Cosby. Even Jian Ghomeshi. We seek to prevent this kind of victimization and violence against women by saying, you should never have gotten yourself into that position to begin with. How dare we trust? It is a loss of innocence when we make all men into potential rapist, while forcing women into a place of deep distrust and suspicion.
I am less shaken now by the loss of certain heroes. But I am shaken by the sad fact that when heroes inevitably fall, my daughter will still be forced to re-evaluate her practices.
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