Thursday, May 12, 2016

Through a feminist lens: Solving the patriarchal puzzle

I should never write, "I'll be back tomorrow." It's tempting Fate.

Two days ago, I wrote A bad book, a dispiriting trial — connecting society's dots — about a Mick Jagger biography, the Jian Ghomeshi trial and the suggestion that everything is connected.

I knew exactly what I wanted to say but as often happens, I got bogged down and made the whole thing much more complicated than it really is.

I've looked at the world for many years through a feminist lens. In all those years, I can't tell you how many times something awful happened and people believed that it would cause everything to change. "This is a turning point!" "Things will be different now!"

Most recently, this happened with the revelations of the violent behaviour of Jian Ghomeshi and the subsequent trial. There's so much righteous anger right across the country, renewed this week as his sexual assault trial scheduled for early June was exchanged for a peace bond.

I've heard it too many times and I seriously doubt anything is going to change. Women will still be sexually assaulted; if it's taken to the police, the same barriers will be in place; if by some miracle, it ends up in court, women will be revictimized and the lawyers and judges will come out looking like swaggering bullies. And the guy will get off.

The reason is that our society has accepted and normalized the kind of sexual "relationships" that exist when there is a vast imbalance of power. The young women who testified against Jian Ghomeshi in his first trial did not behave the way victims of sexual assault are "supposed" to behave. They kept in touch with him after the attack. They flirted and wanted to see him again.

This book is trashy and it happens that I was reading it during the same time Jian Ghomeshi was on trial. One day, I read this, about an evening Jagger was with a very young model named Nicole Kruk. They were watching the movie Mrs. Doubtfire:

At one point in the film, star Robin Williams is being made up to look like an older woman and complains this his skin looks "saggy — like Mick Jagger's." Kruk laughed at the line, but Mick was clearly agitated and started biting her — hard.

"He was pretty rough," Nicole said. "It was like I was a piece of meat." When she looked in the mirror the next day, she was "horrified. I looked like I'd been in an accident, and my nipple was bleeding and sore." Kruk conceded that although she told him to stop, she found the whole experience "exciting."

. . .The next morning, Nicole called Mick and told him that she looked like she'd been "dragged through a hedge backward." He laughed and promised to be more gentle, but when the model jokingly threatened to sell pictures of her bruised and bloodied body to the papers, he suddenly turned quiet.

She was 22-years-old. He was the the most famous and powerful rock star in the world and he was 52. He was sneaking around with her because he was married but she stayed with him during that leg of the tour he was on.

There are such stories throughout the book. If, as he claims, Mick slept with over 4,000 women (and quite a few men) over the years, Christopher Andersen tried to get quite a percentage of them into this charming biography — not by name, of course, because how could he? And in the context of Mick Jagger on tour, what difference would the names make?

His wives and a couple of his higher-profile girlfriends all remark, quite off-handedly, that he's a misogynist (which so much of his music confirms), that he has a basic contempt for women. As he got older — he'll be 73 this year — the women in his life got younger and younger. Throughout his 60s, his conquests were much younger than his daughters.

Mick Jagger leaves me cold and he always has. I'm not sorry I read this book though, especially right now. It's one more piece of the puzzle that is our society's attitudes around sexual assault and the lines that so many people seem unable to draw.

Mick Jagger is a rock and roll idol to millions of people around the world. People pay — collectively — millions of dollars to hear him and his ancient band-mates make music. Hell, even I walked down the street in the rain to see the Stones — although I wouldn't have paid.

The Establishment in Great Britain (led by Tony Blair) fussed until he was given a knighthood (although I'm gratified to see that Her Majesty passed on the "honour" of bestowing it.)

When I see this picture, of Mick with his father and two of his daughters, I can't separate him from the violent offender who has got away with so much — and been so handsomely rewarded.

My point is clear, I'm sure. The stories about the many many women in this Mick Jagger book are the same stories as in the Jian Ghomeshi trial — and they're all our stories.

One shocking event — or two, or ten, or more — will not change attitudes around sexual assault.

In a patriarchal society, these attitudes are completely normal.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are right, nothing will change, or not much, and not for long. For anything long term, I depend on parents like you, and Phoebe and Kateri, and young men like William, and Duncan and Graeme and Ben. Not many, but I also hope there are others out there that I don't know about.