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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
I crossed many states just to stand here now, my face all hot with tears / I crossed city, and valley, desert, and stream, to bring my body here
— Woody Guthrie, Remember the Mountain Bed
December 9, 2014
Jian & L’Ecole Polytechnique

I haven’t written much about the Jian Ghomeshi situation that’s been unfolding at the CBC. To some extent, that’s because I didn’t have much to add. No sooner had the story begun to spin in Jian’s favour with his now infamous (and removed) Facebook post than it quickly turned and pretty much every social media network’s Canadian contingent was overwhelmed with stories about Jian.

This had a somewhat in direct effect on me: I had run a hulkghomeshi twitter account for a while before it got both boring and time consuming. When Jian’s Facebook post went up I reactivated it with a few posts that were arguably funny but as it became clear that the situation was anything but funny I shut it down for good after tweeting out some rape crisis links. (That account sort of peaked for me with my imaginary live tweeting of the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche was sitting in the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver at the time. It was kind of genius.)

The Jian Ghomeshi story was on my mind a couple of days ago: December 6, 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the death of 14 young and female engineering students at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. I was in school that day in Toronto—my last year of high school—and it was horrifying. It felt like it was happening just down the road. We knew what was happening to some extent: radio was a critical medium, tuned in on Walkmen. It was horrifying.

It’s not hard to draw a direct line from Jian Ghomeshi to the shootings. Both involve men who seemed to feel that they were entitled to women; that women weren’t the same as men in the workplace; that women were somehow meant to serve their needs, and not be equal. The specifics of the manifestation of that attitude may be different, the intent was not.

I work in tech, and it’s not an industry that’s known for welcoming women into the workplace. Google is fairly dominated by men, as is Microsoft. Those 14 women at L’Ecole Polytechnique were engineering students and they were entering a male dominated industry. It’s sad that 25 years later, not much has changed.

I think I’m respectful towards the women I work with—my last two employers have been women, and I’ve quite liked working for both of them on most levels. The Jian situation did make me realize that I’m not perfect though: jokes get told and comments are made, and I’m not immune from making them. More commonly I become a passive participant in the jokes that others make. That’s something that I need to stop, and I’m going to try even harder than I have in the past. Even jokes and comments that seem harmless have a sort of undertone that perpetuates the history of sexism in the workplace—I’m tempted to call my participation unwitting, but that wouldn’t be accurate.

Jian Ghomeshi created a workplace and a culture for himself that allowed him to, at the very least, exploit women. Whether some of his activity was consensual (The Guardian printed a particularly interesting article) it seems clear at this point that not all of it was. Jian Ghomeshi took advantage of women because he could.

Twenty-five years ago fourteen women died because they were pursuing an education, and because they were women. There was no other reason—there was no logic. The man who did this to them made that clear. It’s sad that twenty-five years later not that much has changed.

For my small part, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure the same thing isn’t happening in another twenty-five years. Here’s hoping.

Posted by skooter at 10:08 PM This entry is filed under Technology.
This entry is tagged: Ecole Polytechnique, Feminism

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