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‘Woman-led’ businesses are now identified by Google Business

It’s certainly an exciting time to be a woman, seeing as movements for equality have been sparked around the globe, in addition to those encouraging women to speak up. One bit of news that was recently announced that has my attention, is how Google has introduced a new feature that allows business owners to identify their business as “woman-led” on Google My Business, per Google. Businesses that use Google My Business can enable the attribute from their dashboard, where it will appear in their listing until they choose to disable it.

I see this as one more way that females can support and empower other females, and it also presents the opportunity for women to publicly showcase their efforts and abilities in their given industry.

The My Business verification process gives the opportunity for women to manage information on their Google platforms, such as the maps and searches. Now, the “woman-led” descriptor, which will have a female gender symbol associated, is set to appear next to the details in the listing of the business, which will highlight any special offerings as well.

Female business owners and businesses that are women-led, can easily add this icon by clicking on the info tab on the left-hand side and scrolling down to the “Add Attributes” option. Simply click on the pencil icon, and a new window will then pop up, that will allow you to click on the “Women-led” button and apply this option to your page.

A Google spokesperson spoke about the new feature, early last month, in celebration and as a means to recognize International Women’s Day.

“We strive to organize the world’s information in a way that is inclusive of all people. Last year, we added an LGBTQ-friendly attribute in time for Pride. This year we’ve added the women-led attribute to empower women-led businesses to succeed online and enable people to find businesses to visit using Google Maps and Search.”

Google highlighted three women-led business at the time of its latest announcement, to demonstrate how the new option works for female Google Business users. These three businesses are Progetto Quid, out of Verona, Italy, which is a textile company that offers employment opportunities to women who are struggling to find employment. The second highlighted business is Reaching Out Teahouse, in Hoi An, Vietnam, which provides jobs and a support network to people with physical disabilities. The final business highlighted and used in Google’s example is Yogolandia Yogurt & Botana Bar, out of Chicago.

What are your thoughts about this new feature from Google?

 

Woman of the Week: Laurie Young

Caring is the word that first comes to mind when reflecting on my meeting with Laurie Young, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather. She has a strong handshake and a big smile. Not pretentious, rather a combination of thoughtful and spirited.

We met to discuss the #MeToo campaign in Canada and the role women leaders must take to bring about social change.

Young’s office is orderly and functional. In jeans and a blouse, she is relaxed and open. She told me about her family – two kids, aged 24 and 28, and her husband of 30 years (a rarity in the media industry). She describes him as “amazing” and explains that his hero status comes from his consistent and unwavering support through all the ups and downs in her career – “the cancelled vacations and 2 am talks.”

Laurie graduated with an Arts degree and was immediately attracted to a job in advertising, where she found the commercial and creative successes appealing. “I could use my creative side but it also fed my competitive side. And I was constantly meeting interesting people.” The advertising industry is all about building relationships and it is obvious that she enjoys getting to know people, but this isn’t what drives her.  “Others would say I am driven by success, and I am competitive, so I’d have to say they are right.”

I asked Young about the gender balance in the advertising industry.  She explained that the industry still has men dominating board positions, but she’s hopeful it will change as more women gain leadership roles.  Laurie spoke about a week-long conference Ogilvy held in Saville – their “creative cadre” – a meeting for their top offices from around the world to share their current campaigns. Each office presented their campaigns on stage and when it was Young’s turn to present, she decided to go off script… and focus on the fact that it was International Women’s Day. Her speech began “What has struck me today is the number of campaigns about domestic violence, sexual harassment and gender equality that have been presented from around the world, but especially from India, South Africa and Indonesia. On the eve of International Women’s Day, we should not only celebrate great work, but we should strive to ensure that these campaigns make it to market and that they change attitudes and behaviours, so that fewer of these are needed in the future.” The room was silent for a few very long seconds, but then one woman, followed by another began to clap and then the entire room suddenly broke out in applause.

Young isn’t afraid to lead on tough issues like sexual harassment and gender equality. She acknowledged that her industry still has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and admits her desire to break down the barriers. As CEO of Ogilvy she hosts networking events for her women clients that are specifically designed to help them develop leadership skills.

We talked about how society still expects women to dismiss sexual harassment and assault, how women are still blamed if they speak out about it.  I asked Laurie to tell me about some of her #MeToo experiences. She remembered a time she was sitting in a boardroom full of her colleagues (mostly men). She had just landed a big client and was excited to share the news with them until one man joked that her male client signed on because he “wanted” her. Laurie remembered her raw anger and the snickering from all of her colleagues.

When I asked her if she had ever been groped, Young remembered a time years ago when she was 16 and backpacking. She was travelling by bus and had picked out a window seat. As she settled in a hand from behind her slipped in between the window and her body, grabbing her breast. She remembered her anger, jumping up and yelling at the man while people tried to calm her down. She remembered that the colour of the seats on the bus were blue. Our conversation touched on emotional moments and how they seem to embed themselves into your memory. To what extent do these embedded memories of harassment or assault cause women to lose confidence, hesitate, or pull back from experiencing the world fully? Young didn’t view her sexual assault as a #MeToo moment because she didn’t hide the experience, rather she had the courage to turn on the man and expose his actions. And that is what the #MeToo movement is about – women finding courage to expose men who behave badly.

Laurie Young has the courage to face adversity with confidence and grace. And whatever her next challenge might be, I know she will rise to it with a twinkle in her eye.

 

The #MeToo campaign is a revolt not a witch hunt

The #MeToo campaign was designed to point out the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment, but here in Canada reaction to the campaign is widespread disapproval.  Instead of embracing and supporting women who speak out about sexual harassment, many Canadians choose to scorn, shame and defame them.

Research into sexual assault has found that, on average, only 4% of allegations are proven false, while 40% of those accused are proven to be guilty.  People who don’t know this research insist that innocent men will be destroyed by false accusations and claim the #MeToo movement is just a “witch hunt.” They ignore the facts. And these facts make it easy to identify a sexual predator:

  • Sexual predators push their victims into the court of public opinion to try to discredit them. They don’t care about the harm or shame they cause their victim
  • Sexual predators deny all accusations, unequivocally and strongly. They take to social media to broadcast their denial and shame their victim.
  • Sexual predators threaten defamation. This is designed to scare other victims from stepping forward, and push witnesses into hiding.
  • Women who come out publicly always get scorned and shamed – nobody wants that kind of attention, but sexual predators try to insist that their victims step forward to face the scorning.

Sexual predators need to scare both victims and witnesses from stepping forward, and threats of lawsuits are a common tactic they use to push witnesses into hiding.  Too few people know enough about the law to realize that they can’t be sued for giving private testimony.

Innocent men don’t push their case out to the court of public opinion, or allow women to be vilified when they come forward. Most large corporations have a sexual harassment policy that requires complete confidentiality through an investigation. This confidentiality is key to a fair investigation as it protects the woman who make the allegations, and the witnesses who might come forward.  It also conveys the message to all employees that they are free to report sexual harassment without being punished. Any company that doesn’t follow these guidelines has extremely questionable HR practices.

An actual investigation into sexual harassment needs to uncover if the person accused of harassment exhibited improper and offensive conduct, including objectionable act(s), comment(s) or display(s) that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat.  Sexual predators often ignore the fact that by taking their fight to the court of public opinion they are publicly trying to shame the women involved. They will usually demean her, and try to intimidate her, without even realizing that their actions display an attempt to “belittle or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment.”  

Innocent men allow the investigation to be carried out without prejudice. Guilty men can be judged by the way they treat their accuser.  If they go public when she has asked for confidentiality, if they threaten defamation, if they try to smear her reputation, their actions indicate they are not innocent. A decent man doesn’t drag a woman out to be stoned in the court of public opinion, only a desperate man does that. 

The #MeToo campaign is not a witch hunt, it’s a revolt by women who have been silent for decades.

Tactics used to protect guilty men

In the case of the two women who have accused Patrick Brown of sexual misconduct, it will be interesting to see if his defence team follows the age-old tactics that are used to defend men accused of sexual assault. The public can be easily fooled by a slick PR strategy that capitalizes on the fact that nobody wants to believe their “good” guy has a bad side. From his latest behaviour it’s obvious that Patrick Brown now has a defence team in place whose first order of business was to repair the damage Brown did by showing weakness when he resigned.  They would likely have advised him that showing strength scares witnesses away and showing weakness attracts witnesses to pounce on him. There are four key tactics used to defend men who are charged with sexual misconduct.  

  1. Absolute denial combined with hints of defamation charges:  The accused is usually advised to come out loud and strong, denying everything and suggesting legal action. This is designed to gain public support – the public naturally follow someone who shows strength – but it is also designed to scare witnesses from testifying. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of public opinion or get into a costly defamation trial. If the perpetrator can get public opinion on his side, and convince people he’s going to sue for defamation, witnesses will crawl into hiding. Patrick Brown has now come out strongly denying everything and suggesting he’ll sue CTV for defamation. Yet CTV claims they have not been notified by anyone from Brown’s team. Which indicates he is simply bluffing to scare witnesses into hiding. If he doesn’t sue them, it’s a strong indication that there may be some truth to the allegations.                                                                                                                                                 The first woman who alleged Patrick Brown assaulted her at a party said that she attended it with a friend, but now the “friend” doesn’t remember being there with her.  I’m told this happens a lot when public shaming occurs. Witnesses feign memory loss and make themselves out to be unreliable because they don’t want to face public shaming or stand up beside a victim who is being shamed. They would rather abandon her than tell the truth. We assume people will defend the truth, they will do the right thing because a just society needs people to stand up for the truth. The sad fact is few witnesses do, unless forced by the courts in a defamation trial, or criminal investigation.                                                                                                                                                Personally, I believe that the women who accused Patrick Brown are victims of his misconduct and victims of the court of public opinion (which can be even worse).  I find it highly unlikely that any woman would come out had she known in advance that her friend wouldn’t stand up beside her. That a very weak man calling himself her “friend” has backed out of defending the truth is the real shame.  That kind of immorality eats away at a person, I hope she takes comfort in the fact that his shame will haunt him for the rest of his life.
  1. Blame the victim: This includes attacking her entire history and showing her as promiscuous. I have no doubt the next stage of Brown’s strategy will be to get social media focused on the background of both his accusers.  They may try to “slut” shame them or create the idea that these victims somehow set Patrick Brown up as a political stunt. This serves two purposes. It  will stir up hate on social media and it will protect him from other witnesses who may be thinking of coming forward. Now is the time women, who may have similar experiences with him need to stand up for the truth. We must come together to push social change forward, and build a just society for our children.
  2. Elicit sympathy for the man accused:  This is the next stage that Patrick Brown will need to work at. Sympathy isn’t as easy to achieve for a powerful man as it is for a younger man. Remember the case of Brock Turner who was caught in the act of sexually assaulting a woman behind a dumpster? His legal team tried to focus on his accomplishments and the bright future he had ahead of him – they suggested the victim’s accusations would hurt Turner’s future. The same is being said about Patrick Brown. The victims are now being accused of ruining his future in politics, no thought or comment is given to their futures, and his media supporters would have us all ignore that Brown may have tried to force himself on two intoxicated women.
  3. Promote Doubt: By promoting enough doubt, the perpetrator aims to steer the focus off of the facts and onto the unreliability of the women involved. Evidence will be distorted, past events and statements taken out of context, their friends questioned, and witnesses scared into hiding – anything that will discredit the woman is fair game. Distorting evidence equalizes the victim and the perpetrator. The Toronto Sun has now come out with a story claiming Patrick Brown is innocent simply because one of the victims got the timing of the event wrong – the timing doesn’t change that he might have forced himself on her while she was intoxicated, or that another woman stated that she too had a similar experience. Both accounts suggest a predatory pattern. That he had an intoxicated woman employee alone in his bedroom is the issue everyone should be questioning. What employer would be fool enough to do that?

Memory of an event is usually triggered by the emotion a woman feels when facing sexual assault or misconduct. They might feel angry, or powerless, and it is that memory that stays with you no matter how much you try to forget it. Women who have had such experiences usually tell and warn their friends about it. The timing might blur and details surrounding the event might fade, but the actual event itself and those feelings of anger, frustration, and helplessness don’t fade away. Every time you hear about another woman experiencing sexual assault or misconduct you are reminded of your own experience.  To jump to the conclusion that the women were lying simply because one got her timing off, or because one of them was friends with a reporter doesn’t explain why Patrick Brown took an intoxicated female employee to his bedroom. These other issues are designed to promote doubt.

The media seems to be glossing over an extremely important issue that is highly questionable, and something the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns are trying to address.  That Patrick Brown, or someone on his defence team, may have started a social media campaign designed to shame his two accusers.  This attack campaign released the names of the two women over social media. When it comes to sexual assault or misconduct the standard practice is to protect women who report the incident from backlash until an investigation has concluded. Most employers know this and take extra effort to protect their identity and create a safe work environment for all women. Why hasn’t the Ontario PC party called for an investigation into this? Why hasn’t Patrick Brown called in an outside investigator?

By identifying the women by name over social media, has Patrick Brown’s team crossed the line from civil to barbaric?

In a sexual misconduct or assault case, the perpetrator will often come up with a parallel story to explain why they were with the victim, and/or to fool the public into thinking them innocent. For example, Patrick Brown originally denied categorically that any of the events the two women spoke of had happened. But his former girlfriend has come out saying she watched him go to his bedroom with the woman employee, and then come down later to immediately drive her home. What girlfriend doesn’t think something is wrong when her boyfriend rushes out of the bedroom with a drunk woman and immediately drives her home?

I expect Patrick Brown’s strategy will involve all of the tactics above. The sad fact is that even if the women’s allegations are proven true, the court of public opinion has already shamed them, and once the masses take a position they don’t want to be told they were wrong.  Most people won’t remember that these women were forced to endure pubic shaming and social media attacks just because they came out with the truth. The public still sees strong women who stand up to powerful men as suspect, as women who “rock the boat for attention” –  instead of women who are trying to stop powerful men from abusing their positions.  

Social change is coming, but it will be a long time before the public understands the personal cost women endure by speaking up to protect others.

Why the ‘peoplekind’ debacle is so insulting

When I first heard that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau interrupted a woman during a town hall meeting to suggest she say “peoplekind” instead of “mankind”, because it was more inclusive, I laughed. I assumed it was a mistake, as to my knowledge there is no word or term in the English language for “peoplekind”. He meant “humankind” right?

Apparently, that wasn’t the mistake he made.

“I made a dumb joke a few days ago that seems to have gone a little viral in the room, on the peoplekind comment,” Trudeau told reporters after the fact. “It played well in the room and in context. Out of context it doesn’t play so well, and it’s a little reminder that I shouldn’t be making jokes even when I think they’re funny.”

This is disappointing. Essentially, he was saying his mistake wasn’t the word, but rather the Canadian prime minister, someone who describes himself as a staunch feminist, said he was joking about inclusivity. Not only that, but he interrupted a woman with a legitimate question to do so.

This is not just a matter of a joke not playing well. It’s proof that even the Prime Minister still has a patriarchal mentality.

Oh, and the international media is having a field day.

Trudeau’s comment, in addition to the way he injected his opinion overtop of that of a woman, is the reason why no progress can be made in the feminist movement. Women are fighting to be heard, to be considered active citizens and get involved in politics. Yet, they are being shoved out, belittled with fake expressions of equality.

This woman’s question was about a policy that would see religious charities lose funding, not a light-hearted topic. However, the condescending way in which she was treated at the town hall meeting diminished the importance of what she was saying. It also acted as an embarrassment technique. This woman was essentially corrected in front of a couple hundred people, told she was being sexist and politically incorrect.

Trudeau’s boyish charm will only get him so far if he continues to act so cavalier when speaking with the people of Canada, especially women. It’s important to remember that everyone has the vote now — and this silly, stupid “joke” may have lost him some.

Featured Image: Justin Trudeau | by JustinLing

Media personality uses his position to gain sex

The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns are empowering women to step forward to try to stop sexual misconduct, and to shape a better world for our children. To do this it requires that guilty men fall.  The question that many are asking is do these men need to fall so harshly? The court of public opinion can ruin careers, it is unforgiving and the media stokes the flames with every dirty little secret uncovered. Is this public shaming a necessary part of the change our society is going through?

I hope we will get to a day when it isn’t needed, but think, as the beginning of social change sets in, the public shaming is a necessary part of the social change. And I say this as someone who has experienced public shaming. 

By taking on the Mayor of Toronto in 2013, and being the first to talk about his drug use and sexual misconduct, I became a target for Ford nation. And I admit that I wasn’t prepared to go up against a very savvy and strategic campaign (led by Rob’s brother Doug Ford) to bury the truth. From the moment the news hit social media, Doug Ford was on the phone with all the media personalities in Toronto, calling in favours and working to gain their support for his brother. His goal was to get them to discredit me, to turn the public against me and make the Mayor out to be the victim.  A friend of mine was, at the time, hosting a talk show on Newstalk 1010 and he warned me that Doug Ford was calling all the key commentators and trying to get them to discredit me. Doug was able to manipulate many of them. Even those who knew me to be a legitimate community advocate turned against me.  They spent a week questioning my background, my authenticity, and making Mayor Ford out to be the victim. Doug Ford succeeded at manipulating the media to work on his agenda, and for a time they were so busy attacking me, they ignored the legitimate stories swirling around the Mayor. Ford’s strategy to deceive the public through the media worked – until it didn’t.

But the public shaming was a terrible experience and I understand now why so few came to defend me. I am thankful to the men who did – Mayor John Tory and Greg Sorbara – were two men who stood up in a sea of accusations to suggest that I wasn’t one to exaggerate. But for a week or two I couldn’t get on the subway or walk through a grocery store without a Ford fanatic following behind me screaming that I was a lying bitch.  So I know very well what the court of public opinion can do to someone. And I also know that eventually the truth comes out – as it did on Mayor Ford.

Today women are finally uniting and using their voices to shine a spotlight on the sexual abuse and misconduct of some very powerful public figures. The guilty need to fall. And I for one believe that the truth will protect those who are wrongfully accused, as it did me. I went through hell, but I am stronger for it. The time has come for men who abuse their power to pay for their actions.  

There is still one man whose actions haunt me. In 2010 when I was running for Mayor of Toronto, I was on a political talk show with the other top four candidates.  The show was widely watched and it helped my numbers in the polls, so the next time I saw the host I asked if I might get on his show again. Always kind and friendly, he suggested we meet over lunch to discuss.  My assistant and I met him at Grano’s on Yonge Street, and the three of us ordered our lunch. Not five minutes into the lunch the host asked me if I would sleep with him. My assistant almost spit his drink all over the table. I politely told the host that I loved my husband and would never do that. I then excused myself, went to the washroom and called my campaign manager. My manager was at first angry that I was alone with a talk show host, but when I explained that my assistant was actually sitting there with us and had heard the entire thing, his anger turned to shock. He was great at calming me down and  joked that if I didn’t want to “take one for the team” then I should excuse myself and leave.  I followed his instruction, and later asked my EA what he and the host had talked about while I was in the washroom. He told me he questioned the talk show host to see if asking directly for sex actually worked for him. The host said that it worked 50 percent of the time. I hope he was just bragging, but I’ve always wondered if the women who are frequent guests on his show have slept with him.

Back in 2010 this meant that some of the male candidates had extra exposure on his show that I couldn’t get. They didn’t have to sleep with him to get on his show.  It was frustrating but in a busy campaign we didn’t have time to address it.  When I talk with younger women, they are shocked at the way the world was back then.  I realize that women of my generation were programmed to accept how it was. We had to joke about it because getting mad every other day wasn’t healthy. I remember a woman saying to me once when I complained about an editor who slept with interns that “boys will be boys.”  It wasn’t until I met my husband that I learned that some boys turn into caring and compassionate men concerned about building a fair and just society. 

In 2010 the host  made it harder for me to compete with the men I was up against, because they were invited to appear on his show while I wasn’t. He didn’t give a damn about how he impacted my future.   In the years since he’s approached me several times, usually at political functions, to suggest we “sleep together” and he always laughs about it.  I wonder if he does this so that if he is ever held to account he can claim that he was only joking? I also wonder how he would explain why he has never had me on his show, in a climate where talk show hosts complain that they can’t get women to appear on their shows?  And I wonder how many other women have had the same experience I did with him? How many women have not been invited back to his show simply because they won’t sleep with him?

I wonder too what our next steps should be? My assistant who sat with me at the table when I was propositioned by this host, remembers the conversation well. But my gut tells me we will need to gather a few other women who have shared a similar experience in order for his CEO to take this seriously. With two elections coming up this year the host will have many opportunities to prey on women candidates. I hope my words will stop him from abusing his power. So I shout them and warn women to be careful – avoid lunching with the host of a talk show!  If you have experienced the same situation, and know whom I am writing about, please contact me – sarah@sarahthomson.ca. We will protect your identity. 

And I warn him: we are coming. We aren’t rushing, but we are slowly gathering our facts and we won’t let up.  Do the right thing, and step down from your job.

Guilty men fear the truth

Finally women are coming out on sexual assault, and shining a spotlight on men who use their positions of power to exploit women. But, as with all change, there are people who don’t like this new world. They scream that it isn’t fair, that men in positions of power should continue to be protected, and the women who accuse them should be scrutinized. They ignore the flaws in the democratic system that allow the media to shame women into silence.  Studies show that 80 percent of sexual assaults are not reported, in most cases it is because women don’t want to face the shame and humiliation society hurls at them. Protecting these women is the first step toward moving our society forward.

Last week. when two women came forward to charge Patrick Brown with sexual misconduct, reporter Christie Blatchford, master of spin, came out ranting that the two women should have faced the media “because fundamental to a democracy is… the right to face your accuser and make full answer in defence.”  She didn’t explain why she believes that facing the accuser and defending yourself has to be done on a public stage for the media. Nor did she admit that it is the media that so often distorts the truth.  Finally our society is starting to realize that this shaming makes innocent victims suffer in silence rather than come forward. Exposing the accuser to ridicule and shame, to the spin that media personalities want to weave around them isn’t democratic – it’s archaic.

Make no mistake, Patrick Brown will face his accusers and he’ll get a chance to defend himself if he wants that. Every accuser puts herself at risk of being sued. Blatchford ignores this and laments that Brown has already been tried in a court of public opinion – she forgets it is the same court that has tried and hung so many women who sought justice. Take for instance, Monica Lewinsky – when it finally came out that she was telling the truth, the media refused to admit their own responsibility over the damage they had caused to her reputation.  Nobody paid a penalty but her, and the friends and staff who protected President Clinton walked away unscathed.  The media personalities who were directly to blame for damaging her reputation never had to be accountable.  They didn’t care what they had done, and they didn’t apologize.

Democracy isn’t perfect. It’s a constantly changing idea, a moving target that social change tries to improve. It is flawed. It allows people to hold positions of power over others, and if this power is held by someone who abuses it, people get hurt. It isn’t just men in power who cause harm, there are women like Blatchford who have a pulpit but no sense of responsibility, and they use their words to damage others. What she does too often isn’t reporting, or journalism… it’s public shaming.

Today our society is trying to make up for the decades of shame and public humiliation forced on women who reported sexual assault. Blatchford claims she is worried that all men in positions of power will become easy targets. And I worry too. I worry that the gutter style media is the very noose that will hang innocent men. 

Democracy is founded on the desire for fairness –  and it is this desire for fairness that is guiding the social changes we are seeing today. The far right accuses women of claiming victimhood, but today women have gone far beyond being victims. Women are angry, they don’t forget – they want to even the playing field.  If men in leadership are to be safe from false accusations, it will be up to the media to become more accountable for our role in shaping public opinion.

The two women who reported Patrick Brown have inspired other women. But what I find inspiring about them is the very thing Blatchford can’t stand — they have shown  women a path to reporting sexual misconduct that doesn’t involve being publicly identified, humiliated and shamed. I believe these two women have opened the floodgates, and the sad fact is that there are few women over 40 who don’t have a story, or two, to tell of men who abused their position of power.

I remember a time in 2010 when I was running for Mayor of Toronto and was on a show with the other top four candidates.  The show helped my numbers in the polls, so the next time I saw the host I asked if I might get on his show again. Always kind and friendly, he suggested we meet over lunch to discuss.  My assistant and I met him at Grano’s on Yonge Street, and the three of us ordered our lunch. Not five minutes in he asked me if I would have sex with him. My assistant almost spit his drink all over the table. I politely told the host that I loved my husband and would never do that. I then excused myself, went to the washroom and called my campaign manager. My manager was at first angry that I was alone with a talk show host, but when I explained that my assistant was actually sitting there with us and had heard the entire thing, his anger turned to shock. He advised me that if I didn’t want to “take one for the team,” then I should excuse myself and leave.  I followed his instruction, and later asked my EA what he and the host had talked about while I was in the washroom. He told me he questioned the talk show host to see if asking directly for sex actually worked for him. The host said that it worked 50 percent of the time.  Needless to say, I never got on his show again. His refusal to have me on his show simply because I wouldn’t have sex with him, made it harder to compete with the men I was running against who appeared on his show several times. 

And now, eight years later, I question if I should have spoken up. By keeping silent, have I allowed him to sexually prey on other women? If you are a woman and have experienced a talk show host who used a similar line on you, please reach out to me (sarah@sarahthomson.ca). Let’s talk. Your identity will be protected.  

As the publisher of Women’s Post, I believe there should be a way for women to report sexual misconduct without having to face shame and humiliation, and without having to drag men through the court of public opinion.  The world is changing,  you can fight the change or you can embrace it and try to make the world just a little more balanced for all.

But be careful of the likes of Christie Blatchford — she is the kind of person who will invite you to a party at her house and act like your friend. But, years later, when everyone is accusing you of lying and kicking you, she’ll sneak in a few kicks just to fit in with the guys – and then later, when  the truth comes out, she’ll hope that you didn’t notice how many times she kicked you. I noticed.

 

 

‘He said, she said’ physical intimidation in PC party

A story broke early this morning alleging Randy Hillier, the MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, made unwanted physical contact with a female politician at a party convention in 2016.

The allegations were made by Goldie Ghamari, the Tory candidate in new south-Ottawa riding of Carleton. She says the two politicians went outside for a smoke and Hillier put his arms around her and dug his fingernails into her shoulders. As Hillier is a much larger man, Ghamari felt intimidated and threatened by the action. They had a brief exchange of words, and then Hillier left, after her laniard to read her name.

Ghamari said she went to the party executive director to discuss what happened. They investigated, but there were no security cameras pointed to the area where the two politicians were standing. And when asked, Hillier denied touching Ghamari, saying only they exchanged a few pleasantries before parting ways. With this information, Ghamari was told her option was to take him to court; otherwise, there was nothing the party could do.

Ghamari posted to social media leading up to the breaking of this story in the Ottawa Citizen, saying, “A sitting MPP harassed me, intimidated me, & used his body to bully & scare me out of getting involved in politics. I gave him an opportunity to apologize and recognize that his actions were wrong. He chose to deny it ever happened.”  She urged the person to acknowledge their actions and apologize.

In response, Hillier sent her a personal email and posted a statement on Twitter, saying exactly what he said two years ago:

The two politicians are telling very different stories, which is one of the leading challenges when investigating a harassment claim. History has shown that investigators tend to side with the accused, unless clear evidence presents itself — and this instance was no exception. It was clear the party executive made a slight effort to determine what happened (with the insistence of Ghamari), but when no concrete evidence could be found, Ghamari was left to decide on her own whether to take legal action, without any support from her party.

These kind of stories are not unique, especially in politics. More stories will be heard in the coming months, and while some may say women are using these instances as political leverage leading up to an election, others would argue they are pushing the #MeToo conversation forward and bringing awareness to the treatment of women in public service.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Doug Ford: King of cover up

Today, the worst candidate I can think of for leadership of the Ontario PC party – Doug Ford – has announced he is running. And I realize now why he didn’t come rushing to Patrick Brown’s side to defend him. Doug Ford is an overly ambitious man who would use his brother’s coffin to vault himself into the limelight.  Harsh words, but never have any truer words been written about the man.

Let me tell you about some of the secrets I’ve learned that happened in 2013, when I came out on Mayor Rob Ford’s drug induced grope.  Apparently, when the news hit social media, Doug Ford immediately started making phone calls to his “buddies” in the press. His strategy was to control and manipulate public opinion. He fed the press questions that cast doubt on me, he pulled the shadiest councillors he could find (from Vaughn) to twist the narrative, and finally he went on the Fords Newstalk 1010 radio show and made me out to be just another “crazy” woman.  Doug Ford knew that taking things out of context, and controlling the court of public opinion was the only way he could hide the truth. And for a while he managed to do it. 

But hiding the truth is a bit like trying to hold water in a broken bucket – it eventually leaks out. 

Doug succeeded in manipulating the public and hiding the truth about his brother and  his friends in the media made quick work of degrading me and making me out to be an opportunist.  They questioned my intentions and Newstalk 1010 in particular did some nasty public shaming. But that came to an end pretty quickly when the truth about Mayor Ford’s drug use finally came out.  That was when Doug Ford began claiming that he didn’t know anything about his brother’s drug use. By then most of the media realized they’d been used as his pawns. The Ford’s show on Newstalk1010 was cancelled and their power over the media went spiralling.  

When I learned about Mayor Ford’s drug dependency and the demons he was fighting, I forgave the Mayor. But I will never forgive Doug Ford for using his position of power to influence the media to demean and humiliate me.  I wonder how many women will actually support a man who demonstrated that he didn’t care about sexual assault, or that his brother was a drug addict?

I’ve always believed that Doug Ford’s lies put more stress on his brother than the truth ever did. Instead of encouraging the Mayor to tell the truth, I wonder if Doug counselled him to deny it?  When I think of the weeks that Mayor Ford had to carry the lie, and the pressure it must have put on him, I don’t understand how Doug couldn’t see what it was doing to him.

And make no mistake, there was a cost. Mayor Ford paid it. I paid it. But Doug Ford walked away relatively unscathed.  It is men like Doug Ford, men who abuse their power to twist and distort the truth, who need to be held accountable. He is a man so desperate for power he’s now decided that instead of running for mayor of Toronto, he’ll run for leadership of the Ontario PC party. 

The #MeToo campaign and #TimesUp campaign are a sign the world is changing, and women are no longer staying silent about corrupt men who abuse their power. It won’t be an easy road for men like Doug Ford.

Doug Ford is an example of a man who worked to hide sexual assault, drug use, and anything that might hinder his future ambitions. The world he once thrived in is changing and women are coming together to speak out.  Here at the Women’s Post we encourage women to step forward. To tell their story. If you have suffered, like I did, from the actions of Doug Ford please reach out to me. Let’s talk. Your identity will be protected.  

Why consent should be included in #MeToo movement

A woman has made allegations of sexual misconduct against television actor and comedian Aziz Ansari. In her claim, she says the two went out on a date and when she indicated, using “nonverbal and verbal cues” that she wasn’t interested in having sex with him, he tried to seduce her over and over again. Eventually, he called her an uber and she went home.

Ansari has told the media that “it was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned.”

While the allegations may not be as serious as those against Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey, these kind of stories do expose an important issue of consent, or basic respect, on the dating scene. The criticism this woman is receiving online is reason enough why this story is so important. People are saying this woman should have been clearer about her sexual desires, and that it wasn’t fair to Ansari to ruin his career over something he didn’t know he did wrong. An opinion columnist in the New York Times actually said the only thing Ansari is guilty of is not being a mindreader.

Essentially, those responding to this story are saying that because this woman didn’t cry out “no” and push Ansari away, this story has no value to the #MeToo movement. I disagree.

This story is one many women, and probably a few men, are familiar with. Their date indicates a need to slow down, and are promptly ignored. You kind of like the person, so you try to express your consent in a different way. You do this by joking around, distracting your partner, suggesting alternative activities, and finally, by saying you aren’t in the mood. This can result in anger, frustration, embarrassment, and sometimes lead to dangerous situations.

I was dating a man for a few weeks I met online. He was funny, smart, and nice — pretty much exactly what I was looking for. During conversation at dinner, my date invited me back to his apartment. I said that while I liked him, I wanted to take our relationship slow. I like to really get to know a potential partner before jumping into bed with them, especially considering the dangers of the online dating scene. I was about as clear as a person could be about my romantic intensions, and my date seemed understanding. He said there were no strings attached to the invitation, and we could simply watch a movie, drink coffee, and spend more time with each other.

Isn’t that sweet?

Of course, once I arrived at the apartment, there was no coffee. He did put on a movie, but as soon as the opening titles started scrolling along the screen, he was blowing in my ear (is that a thing!!??). The next thing I knew, his hand was on the back of my head, pushing me towards his face. I broke away a few times, joking about how we were going to miss the movie. A few minutes later, his hand was on my cheek, guiding my face back to his.

I consider myself a strong and independent woman, but when I was confronted with such an uncomfortable situation, I am ashamed to say that I lied. Instead of telling my date that his behaviour was unacceptable, especially considering our conversation at dinner, I looked at my phone and said “my dad just called me. My dog is badly injured and he needs help lifting her into the car. I’ve got to run.” And out the door I went.

All that is to say it is not as easy to say “no” as people may think. When you are alone with a person in their home, you are vulnerable. Your partner has the advantage.

It’s also important to remember that consent is not the absence of the word “no”. Consent, according to the Oxford dictionary, means to give “permission for something to happen.” In the case of a sexual relationship, both parties must clearly agree to a sexual act and each person has the right to say no. Consent should never be assumed or implied.

Again, let me stress, consent is not defined by the absence of the word “no”. And that is why this conversation should be a part of the #MeToo movement. Understanding this definition is part of that patriarchal mentality women are trying to change. It is something that will take time and needs to be exposed in order for people to learn.

Could Ansari really not understand this woman’s non-verbal cues? It is absolutely possible. Should he be punished professionally and personally for his actions? I’m not too sure. His reaction is probably similar to hundreds of thousands of men out there who were in similar situations. Men who don’t understand what those non-verbal cues mean and are subject to retaliation in the media.

For those men, here is a very simple guideline: just ask. Ask your partner if it is okay to kiss them. Ask if they want to go to the bedroom. Ask if they are willing to have oral sex. Always ask. When you ask, you will get a firm answer. And continue to ask! Is this okay? Are you okay with me touching you there?

It’s really rather simple. And no, it doesn’t detract from the mood. Trust me, it’s actually quite attractive to have a man stand by your door, saying “you look absolutely beautiful, I would like to kiss you. Can I?”

Sexual assault and sexual harassment within industry and the workplace may be the foundation of the #MeToo and TIME’S UP movement, but it shouldn’t end there. Let’s add consent to the discussion.