By Caroline O’Neill
FHRITP, an acronym for the vulgar moniker “f— her right in the p—-,” reached its peak notoriety in May when CityNews journalist, Shauna Hunt called out a group of men after one of them yelled the string of words during her live broadcast. Another member of the group defended the actions. He was later identified and let go by his employer Hydro One.
Hunt’s actions garnered attention and support from other journalists who have been subject to the trend. For the most part, female reporters have been the targets while simply trying to do their jobs. And while this story should have received attention long ago, Hydro One’s swift firing of Hunt’s verbal harasser solidified the phrase as no joking matter, but sexual harassment. However, like so many other news stories, once the momentum is lost the story is often forgotten.
But the trend still continues.
Earlier this month, CBC reported journalist Ashley Burke was heckled by two men who shouted the phrase while she covered a music festival in Montebello, Que.
Last week, Vice News reported that CBC sent a memo to its employees detailing a set of guidelines for its journalists to handle sexual harassment in the field. The Vice report described the memo as “paternalistic” and ultimately called it a poor excuse for handling harassment on the job.
The main point of the memo, at least as Vice reported, suggests, or perhaps, instructs its reporters not to engage their harassers because it could escalate into physical violence. Vice criticized the memo for asking its reporters not to shame harassers on social media. The article, which called the harassers idiots, said this suggestion undermines the CBC journalists who have come forward to publicly share their experiences.
Coming out of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, CBC is clearly caught between a rock and a hard place. Any action the corporation makes, especially in regards to sexual harassment policy, will be scrutinized.
An inquiry into CBC’s dealing’s with the former Q host found management condoned Ghomeshi’s behaviour and failed to follow its own work place policies. The corporation vowed to do better in the future.
CBC has given its journalists a platform to confront #FHRITP. This includes a great piece by Morgan Dunlop and Tanya Birkbeck, who had both their newscasts interrupted by hecklers. The women explained how it hinders their work and why it cannot be brushed off as a joke.
However, as Vice reported, the guidelines seem to be inconsistent with how reporters have experienced and dealt with harassment.
The memo advises against its reporters calling out harassers on social media, despite the fact that following the June 18 incident, Ashley Burke tweeted footage from her confrontation and CBC later reported on the incident.
This appears to be an abrupt change in direction from how CBC has been handling the issue. Another suggestion encouraged journalists to leave a scene if it appeared to be hostile.
Instead of such suggestions, CBC needs to put in place better harassment policies that support reporters and show no tolerance for anyone humiliating journalists on the job.
Women should be empowered by their corporation to defend themselves while on the job, not be told to put up with inappropriate behaviour. Any victim of school bullying, myself included, will tell you keeping silent is the equivalent of saying it is okay to do it again.
Confronting harassers is not shaming them. It is a reminder that their journalism is worthy of respect — a reminder that they are worthy of respect. Confrontation is not engaging either. Engaging would be yelling out an equally vulgar expression.
Not standing for harassment shows there are consequences for impeding somebody’s work, on live television no less.