By Emily Theodore
Shauna Hunt, a CityNews reporter, prepares for her live hit at the Toronto FC home opener on Mother’s Day. A man grabs her microphone and yells, “F her right in the P” in the middle of her broadcast.
Hunt wasn’t about to let this go. Fired up and disgruntled, Hunt stood up for herself—while the camera was still rolling. The video went viral: “Were you guys waiting around to see if you could ‘F her right in the P’ me live on TV? Can I ask you why you would want to do something like that? It’s a disgusting thing to say, it’s degrading to women,” Hunt said. “I’m sick of this, I get this ten times a day from men like you.”
The man laughed. “It’s hilarious,” he said. “We’re not the only people, it happened in England, it’s f—ing amazing.”
He’s not totally wrong—interrupting a live broadcast by saying, ‘F-ing a journalist right in the P,” has become very popular on social media, videos of it boasting tens of thousands of views on YouTube. Hunt has seen it from many different people—businessmen on Bay Street, moms pushing strollers and even during a murder investigation, she said on a panel at Ryerson University on Oct. 28.
“You probably don’t think its fun to spew hatred at people doing their jobs everyday,” said fellow panelist, professor Lisa Taylor. “Yet for some reason, the act of the journalist doing his or her job is the absolute lightning rod for morons.”
Hunt added that harassment has become an expected part of journalism. These women are afraid to report what happens to them as it may cost them their jobs, said panelist Paula Todd, an investigative journalist and writer for Extreme Mean.
“Being live requires everyone to keep their calm and control of the situation,” Todd said. “Otherwise, bosses will think, ‘let’s not send her to that live reporting event, we only have so much money and can’t afford to send a security guard to protect her.’”
Taylor was once put in that position.
“I remember begging camera men not to tell that I was harassed during a live hit,” she said. “I fought so hard not to be seen as the delicate flower.”
Panelist Hana Shafi, a freelance journalist and recent Ryerson graduate, also knows how traumatizing harassment can be in the online sphere.
“I get harassed a lot, constantly, 24/7,” Shafi said.
Her harassment started on her own blog while she was a student. She had a specific troll that would negatively comment on all of her posts obsessively. The harasser pretended to live in Paris but she had no views from Paris on her blog. She thought it was someone she knew and was afraid of getting attacked.
She believes she receives so much hate partly because she writes about social justice issues and opinion pieces, and also because she’s living in a patriarchal and racist world.
“I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry and society, and male trolls believe that they’re entitled to tell you you’re wrong, that you’re a slut or a bitch,” Shafi said. “[Also] I’m a racialized woman. I get a lot of racist things…that I’m a terrorist, to go back where I came from. I get called a stupid Muslim woman all the time.”
Shafi is only one of the many women to be harassed online. Working to Halt Online Abuse, a volunteer organization that works to fight online harassment, tracked 3393 cyberstalking incidents from 2000 to 2011. 72.5 per cent of the victims were women.
Shafi said she wishes that school had taught her how mean people were going to be. Unable to handle the constant harassment, she took a hiatus from journalism after graduating.
“They will go out of your way to harass you even though you probably won’t change your mind. It breaks your spirit…I started to question why I chose this field,” she said. “I was graduating in a horrible market, writing for free, making no money. ‘This is masochism that I’m doing to myself,’” she thought.
Eventually, Shafi went back to doing what she loved. It didn’t matter if people didn’t think she should. Although, it’s difficult for harassment not to seem normalized when her block list on Twitter includes hundreds of names of trolls.
Shafi emphasized how hard it is to put up with if you’re dealing with a mental illness or have been sexually abused. “With all of that together, why do we normalize harassment? That some people are entitled to speak over you because you’re a man and she’s a woman? Or because I’m racialized, an immigrant to this country, so they discount my opinions because of it. It doesn’t make sense but that’s the reality of it,” she said.
Todd has a strategy in fighting misogynistic hate. She’s started the #TYFMOP hashtag, an acronym for ‘thank you for making our point.’
“This is more than sexism. It is the hatred of women. It’s against the law in Canada…but we’ve become too used to it, “Todd said. “#TYFMOP. Every single time somebody hits you with the c-word, you don’t deserve to write, you don’t deserve to live, I’m going to take you sexually— all you’ve got to say is thank you for making our point.”