Sarah Leamon: Sexual harassment of female journalists must stop

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      Every job comes with its challenges—but when you’re a female news reporter today, those challenges can be daunting. Incidents involving the sexual harassment of female reporters during live news broadcasts appear to be on the rise.

      It began last year, when a video-bombing prankster interrupted a live news report in Cincinnati to grab the microphone from a female reporters hand and yell the now infamous line “Fuck her right in the pussy.” Although this incident was later revealed to be a well-orchestrated hoax, planned and executed by a professional filmmaker, that didn’t stop it from becoming a viral sensation. Less than four months after its release, over 2.4 million people had viewed the YouTube video and imitators began to pop up.

      Unfortunately, the FHRITP trend seems to have become a cross-Canada sensation, with incidents occurring in nearly all corners of our country.

      In May, during the NHL play-off season, the harassment of both female fans and reporters became so bad on Calgary’s notorious Red Mile, that Calgary Flames executives spoke out against such behavior. In an official statement, they asked for people to refrain from engaging in such sexist and unacceptable behavior.

      The same month, a CityNews reporter was interviewing soccer fans in Toronto when she was suddenly interrupted by a group of male hecklers, who began yelling the obscene line in her direction. Clearly frustrated by the incident, the reporter confronted the group. She stopped the interview and approached the males, asking them why they thought it was so funny. What unfolded thereafter was rather uncomfortable to say the least...

      ...but it was also important.

      It was important because the reporter took control of the situation by taking action and talking back to her harassers. In that way, it effectively—and boldly—highlighted the issue of workplace harassment. Viewers could no longer ignore the fact that they were witnessing an individual being publicly humiliated and sexually harassed by strangers while simply trying to do her job.

      Following this incident, Crown corporation CBC released a statement asking their reporters to refrain from engaging with or confronting public abusers. Citing concerns over safety, the media juggernaut asked reporters to remain passive, and suggested that reporters try to stand next to someone in a uniform to act as a pre-emptive deterrent while doing their job. If harassment still happened, CBC asked reporters to inform management and other authorities.

      While it may be extremely cautious advice, it also embodies a very paternal and condescending tone—one that assumes that women are not capable of confronting their own challenges head-on.

      The most recent incident of reporter harassment to hit the mainstream media demonstrated what happens all too often when the victims of harassment make formal complaints. This incident also went further than words. It occurred earlier this month, in Squamish, when a CBC journalist was approached from behind by a stranger and unwillingly kissed on the face during a live television broadcast. The journalist was noticeably jarred and subsequently filed a complaint with the RCMP. This led to a swift and forceful backlash online as commentators called her "uptight" and suggested that either she quit complaining or quit her job.

      This does not bode well for the state of gender equality in our country.

      Canadian women are regularly subject to unwanted attention and the workplace is no exception. It has been a site of struggle for women since they were first permitted to gain employment and enter the public realm at all.

      According to the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, sexual harassment in the workplace continues to be a problem all across the country. However, studies also indicate that a large number of instances involving workplace harassment go unreported. This is perhaps due, at least in part, to the fact that they often occur in private or semi-private situations, well away from the peering eyes of the public.

      What is unique about these particular instances of harassment is that they are happening in public and being broadcast to a wide audience. They are documented. They are undeniable—but there are those who do not want to admit that the plight uniquely faced by female reporters is real. By denying their struggle, they are ostensibly denying the struggle of all women and highlighting the misogynistic undertones that continue to run through our society.

      If anything, this "trend" should shine a light on the very real issue of workplace harassment—and on harassment in general—and we should all stand united in the position that it will no longer be tolerated. 




      Aug 25, 2015 at 1:16pm

      Or we could have a society that isn't sexually repressed and acknowledges freedom of expression. It is very likely that collectivism is rooted in sexual repression, and while some is always going to be necessary, this doesn't mean we need to start getting off on forcing people to repress themselves---the reason "fuck her right in the pussy" gets anyone annoyed, or aroused, or has much any effect at all, is because we live in a sexually repressive society. It's like how people used to be shocked by people saying things like "there is no God." Now nobody bats an eyelash. So, hilariously, we've removed theological repression only to replace it with sexual and expressive repression.

      What you call harassment, I call normal mating behavior; so your whole position has a tinge of eugenics to it. True, you are not going to go so far as to say there are people who should not mate, only that there are places they should not engage in mating behavior. These sorts of taboos exist in all societies, but the vehemence and fundamentalist attitude you have toward _yours_ should give people concern, just in general. And personally, I probably respect all of your taboos---I don't even talk to strangers unless they speak to me first, ever, to say nothing of sexual comments, but I recognize that this is simply a function of my acculturation and upbringing, not something that everyone ought to do; et sic for all behavior, really.

      I just can't help but regard your article as a fundamentalist, religious screed, albeit one for our contemporary "corporate" religion, where the God is minimization of legal liability.


      Aug 25, 2015 at 2:16pm

      "Well..." gives us a perfect example of exactly what the author is saying: if a women complains about sexual harassment it must be because she's sexually repressed.

      Guess what, douchebag, there's no connection between a woman's sexual openness and her desire to not be sexually harassed...EVER!

      Seriously, you're basically saying that if a woman goes out in public she should naturally expect to deal with unwanted sexual attention of the basest kind because woman exist only to be sexual beings. You're saying precisely what the Taliban says; it's their justification for requiring that women wear burkas and be accompanied by men when going out in public.

      You need to give your head a shake...against a brick wall. Real men know that there's a time and a place for sexual behaviour, and that the workplace isn't it.

      John de Visser

      Aug 25, 2015 at 3:45pm

      I am absolutely disgusted by men acting like this in todays society.
      Who do you think you are?? And do you seriously think your mothers would be proud of the ignorance you spew or your reprehensible behavior?
      Not blood likely you morally bankrupt wastes of good oxygen.



      Aug 25, 2015 at 9:07pm

      Well, you sort of illustrate the point. A poster has violated your acculturated sexual taboos, and you're desiring violence as the response. That's just the point I have, that people who desire sexual repression create a violent society. So, it depends what you dislike more, sex or violence. I mean, you know, I am not saying you are wrong, I am just taking a sort of anthropological view of the whole thing, you have a sexual taboo, as do most women, and they want a state that enforces their taboos. That isn't necessarily wrong...but it isn't necessarily right, it is the sort of thing that there should be a dialogue about, not simply the threat of violence.

      It seems you're making a naturalistic mistake, as though there is any natural definition of sexual harassment; what one views as sexual harassment is a product of one's culture, not of something like physics. We know how airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow carrying a coconut, we can calculate it, but what we cannot calculate is what constitutes sexual harassment; that is a different sort of truth, if it is a truth at all.

      So, you know, if I wanted to live in a society that valued nonviolence over violence, I'd have a difficult time accepting your view---but if I think violence is cool, maybe even get off on it, well, then, sexual repression will become a sort of kink, and that's where we enter a very dangerous place, in my view. And as Rumsfeld has reminded us, we have known kinks and unknown kinks; if you get off on repression without even knowing you're getting off on it, I think that makes you a bit dangerous---far more dangerous than a pat on the bum of a lewd joke; I grew up at a time when I got to see both sides, and forgive me for thinking that a pat on the bum isn't as dangerous as destroying someone's ability to work.

      'Well'.....Is an IDIOT

      Aug 26, 2015 at 7:22am

      Well.....Regular mating behaviour is yelling obscenities to a news reporter? YOU are not getting any. You are repressed by your lack of social skills and total ignorance to the world around you.