Most of Canada and about eleven persons in the rest of the world know we now have a Canadian media-personality sex scandal.
You can read all kinds of opinion about the CBC radio host and the women involved, so I will leave that aside and say, the scandal made me think of my old days as a single, early-thirties woman in the same city, Toronto.
The pubs where I met my friends for after-work drinks are mostly gone now, but others have taken their place, and I wonder whether the informal, reciprocal caretaking that I remember still operates.
In the early '80s, before the internet, if a woman asked around she could learn quite a bit about a man she was thinking of dating, or maybe just starting to see. You would not believe the details I heard in those years; if a man about town thought his preferences were private, hah! There were no really blind dates.
Sometimes the information came unbidden; a woman I knew and trusted phoned to tell me someone I had begun to date had, in another city, recently been charged with uttering violent threats to women via phone calls.
Sometimes a girlfriend's partner would weigh in on a prospect's reputation. I remember my pal Bob telling me, "He's a pretty good bloke, but don't think of him as someone you'd settle down with."
There might have been some false negatives (you discounted the bitter ex or unfounded gossip), but overall, the system worked.
Back then, a girlfriend agreed to a tryst at a hotel with a man (strangely, he had the same occupation as Ghomeshi). They had met before, and she was interested in things progressing. When they were alone in the room, he suddenly began to hit her, an act she had no idea would happen. She had the equanimity to tell him his presence in the hotel was known to others, and he backed off. She hadn't asked about him; because she heard him on the radio, she felt as if she knew him.
I'm not blaming or shaming the alleged victims. Rather, I wonder whether in the age of Facebook (which Ghomeshi used to contact several women he'd met at events), we have forgotten the old, reliable grapevine, and whether "friending" has usurped reputation.
Are women more vulnerable because social media have replaced word of mouth?
Facebook leapfrogs the tentative introduction process, Tweets replace community connections, and the nature of fear (always present for women in such situations) has changed: after the alleged assaults, several women said they did not lay charges because of fear of reprisal—and especially chilling—fear of being harassed on the internet by the man's fans.