Printmaker makes point with Jian Ghomeshi shirt

A Regina printmaker hopes his t-shirt will raise awareness of violence against women.

Hopes Jian Ghomeshi t-shirt will start discussion, raise money for shelter

Regina printmaker Matthew Mickleborough hopes his shirt will raise awareness on violence against women. (Don Somers, CBC)

A week ago, printmaker Matthew Mickleborough felt helpless.

Bombarded with details of alleged sexual violence by former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi, Mickleborough felt angry, and felt like he couldn't do anything about what he was hearing.

Then, he picked up his silkscreening equipment, and made a t-shirt with Ghomeshi's face, with one word, 'Asshole' underneath it.

Although he doesn't know whether Ghomeshi has actually done anything wrong, he hopes to make a wider point about the role of violence against women, and the fact that women are often hesitant to come forward with allegations of abuse.

A t-shirt of former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi. (Don Somers, CBC)
"I'm angry at the culture of victim blaming and victim silencing that is perpetuated," he said.

Ghomeshi was fired by the CBC after it said "graphic evidence" emerged that he had caused "physical injury" to a woman.

As many as nine women have alleged in media reports that Ghomeshi abused them physically and/or sexually.

Three women have spoken to police about the former host of the arts, culture and entertainment show Q.

Ghomeshi has not been charged with any criminal offence, and has said all acts involving rough sex with women were consensual.

​Ghomeshi has not responded to CBC requests for comment on his accusers' allegations.

Public profile

Mickleborough focused on Ghomeshi because of his public profile.

"Jian is already a brand himself," he said. "That face, that smile. And there had already been this nuanced, beautifully detailed, well-written discussion online about all the different issues of sex and power and violence. What was lacking was this sort of brunt, in your face sort of approach."

Mickleborough plans to donate half the proceeds from the sales of the shirt to SOFIA House, a women's shelter in Regina. 

"I thought that was the perfect twist on it," he said. "It kind of made the best of a horrible situation."

So far, the printmaker has sold around 25 shirts, but will ramp up production if the public wants more.

Sarah Valli, the executive director of SOFIA House, told CBC News Friday that she was not contacted by Mickleborough about his plans.

Sarah Valli is the executive director of SOFIA House, in Regina. (CBC)

"I wish that we had been consulted around some of this strategy," Valli said. "Because we want to make sure that everyone is treatly fairly and no one is hurt."

She added SOFIA House could walk away from the attention, and the money.

"I don't want there to be a polarizing element because that doesn't help anybody," she said. "Sofia House wants a community where the violence is eradicated and everyone free to walk safely in the community."

Mickleborough needs to sell 150 shirts to break even.

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