Thursday, May 14, 2015

What we could be talking about when we talk about #FHRITP

This is about something more than #FHRITP.

Right out of the gate, I'm going to issue a trigger warning for language because I feel, as inappropriate and offensive as the language is, it is the language that was used. It is the reason City TV sports reporter Shauna Hunt fought back. While Ms Hunt was doing a remote outside BMO Field at a Toronto FC soccer game, an onlooker tilted his head towards the ear of her interview subject, and shared the following:
Why don't you fuck her right in the pussy?

Being a journalist, Ms Hunt had some questions. The man who made the comments scurried off, so she tried to speak with others who were with him; notably, Ryan Hart and Shawn Simoes. The smug little boys brushed off her questions and smirked through the interview, managing, however, to dig themselves in as deep as as their friend who started the row.

Mr Simoes was fired from a six-figure engineering job at Hydro One. As of the moment, Ryan Hart's employers are looking into the matter, and the four men involved in the exchange have been banned from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment venues. Ms Hunt has been lauded for her composure; her station CityTV for backing her; and social media detectives for helping to round up this sorry foursome. The story's gone viral, and the event is being chalked up as a win.

Yesterday, I wondered aloud:

I peruse a number of blogs and sites dedicated to documenting Canada's moral decline; ripping public education and public educators; keeping their readers abreast of the radical homosexual agenda; and, lately, warning of the "obscenity" that is the 2015 Ontario Health & Physical Education Curriculum

Resounding silence.

Except for TheRebel. Trust Ezra Levant find a way to take this story and make it about his fight for our liberties. Apparently, something foul is afoot when an ordinary sclhlub can't call out a woman in the street.

Here's Ezra equating the firing of Shawn Simoes with Pastor Martin Neimoller's famous poem:

First they came for #FHRITP louts: Who's next on the "thought police" list? 

I don't need to parse this in any great detail. Ezra goes to pains to explain that he supports Ms Hunt's response. He also points out that this behaviour is fairly common -- it's even happened to men -- suggesting perhaps that folks need to get a thicker skin, I guess. He takes exception, however, to the fact that Mr Simoes was sacked, although he didn't actually make the offensive comments. (Note: In another segment, Rebel reporter Marissa Semkiew interviews a lawyer who says that Simoes advocacy for the remarks is sufficiently actionable. Despite Ms Semkiew's protestations, lawyer Ed Prutschi doesn't seem to be all that worked up about Mr Simoes's dismissal from Hydro One.) 

Contrary to what Ezra says, there's no "thought crime" here. First, Simoes clearly cannot be accused of thinking. Second, he said plenty.

The only reason to examine Levant's report is that he would the would have the gall suggest that taking action against a man who harasses a woman while she's going about her business is anything close to Hitler's final solution -- the internment and execution of Jews, Roma, intellectuals, non-Arians and gay men, to name a few. This reductive misappropriation of the Holocaust isn't new -- Rush Limbaugh was using the term "feminazies" when I still had a full head of hair.

In Semkiew's segment, she refers to the language used against Ms Hunt as a "gimmick." In another, Ezra calls it "schtick," and laments the "bullying" of the young men online. He admonished "social justice warriors" that these are only words, not actual assault.

"Fuck her right in the pussy."

For women covering news, and particularly sports, this is not just a prank that started a couple of years ago in the UK -- it's been around since women journalists broke through the doors to the city room. For decades women sports reporters have been taunted, abused and shamed for daring to enter the men's locker room. Consider Boston-based sports writer Lisa Olsen, who, twenty-five years ago, had to flee the United States to Australia:
Olson, who was 26 and working for the Boston Herald, described being accosted by naked football players who made vulgar comments and lewd gestures as she conducted a practice-day locker-room interview. The NFL's investigation, which resulted in a 108-page report, noted that one player, Zeke Mowatt, was seen fondling himself at an arm's length from Olson and asking her: "Is this what you want?" Others gyrated their hips behind the reporter, echoing Mowatt's comments. The reporter told how the players "positioned themselves inches away from my face and dared me to touch their private parts." She depicted the incident as "mind rape."
Olson reported receiving 100 obscene phone calls and 250 pieces of hate mail from Patriot fans after the news broke. When the tires on her car were slashed, the perpetrator left a message that threatened, "The next time it will be your neck." When her apartment was burglarized, a note ordered her to "leave Boston or die." Patriots Owner Victor Kiam publicly labeled Olson "a classic bitch."
The sportswriter fled to Australia and took a job with the Sydney Daily Telegraph Mirror. She settled a civil harassment suit against the Patriots, reportedly for $250,000, and eventually returned to the United States. Olson, who writes about sports for New York's Daily News, did not return phone calls requesting an interview.
I'm sure a lot of women in this line of work were told to suck it up and go, and still are. Boys will be boys, after all. 

What makes the Shauna Hunt story unique is that she fought back with her camera and microphone, and her employer backed her. For many, many people, to fight back -- even simply to say, "no" -- is often a prelude to violence. As Laverne Cox reminds us, the threat level goes up incrementally for LGBT people, rising sharply where trans woman, and more particularly trans women of colour, are targeted.

We've known for many years that the number one cause of death for women in the workplace -- in both Canada and the United States -- is murder. Fatalities of men at work tend to be industrial.

Ms Hunt was able to do what so many can only imagine.

That's what this is about.

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