Why we should take #FHRITP seriously - Macleans.ca

Why we should take #FHRITP seriously

‘Misogyny, unfiltered’: Emma Teitel on why the decision to fire a man caught hurling an obscenity at CityNews reporter was justified

Shauna Hunt interviews a Toronto FC soccer fan in Toronto on Sunday, May 10, 2015, in this video frame grab. (CITY NEWS/CP)

Shauna Hunt interviews a Toronto FC soccer fan in Toronto on Sunday, May 10, 2015, in this video frame grab. (CITY NEWS/CP)

“Boys will be boys.” The cliché, uttered in response to all manner of male-dominated offences, from the upturned toilet seat to aggravated sexual assault, was revived again yesterday, this time in order to defend a group of grown men who believe it is the highest form of comedy to verbally harass a female reporter on the job. The men in question, a set of seemingly drunk Toronto FC soccer fans, stood outside BMO Field on Sunday and snickered as another man with a very bad goatee (he has yet to be identified) interrupted CityNews anchor Shauna Hunt’s live broadcast. More specifically, this mystery goatee man walked into the frame as Hunt interviewed a couple of presumably normal soccer fans and yelled into the camera, “F–k her right in the pussy.”

This prank, if you want to call it that, is apparently occurring all over the country (Hunt has said she is inundated with the phrase multiple times a day). It originated with American filmmaker John Cain, who made a series of videos in which the same man interrupts live broadcasts spouting the crude phrase—sometimes even stealing the microphone out of the reporter’s hands to do so. Cain’s videos, however, turned out to be a hoax, complete with phony newscasts and phony reporters. But his invented prank and its vulgar expression stuck—and spawned copycats all over the world.

Q&A: Shauna Hunt on why she stood up to FHRITP
FHRITP: When Twitter shaming works

The copycats in this particular story will pay a high price for their behaviour if they haven’t already: When footage of Hunt confronting the men went viral, one of the prank’s defenders, a six-figure-earning Hydro One employee identified as Shawn Simoes, was hastily fired.

Yet despite the general public’s support for Hunt and condemnation of the losers who would have interrupted her broadcast, I noticed a tendency by some, both online and off, to question the justice of the situation. There were, of course, the usual “boys will be boys” responses, which litter the Internet comment threads beneath all stories about men behaving badly. But I also noticed concern on the part of well-intentioned people who find Internet shaming, in any capacity, cruel and unusual. (One Reddit user has even pleaded with other users lambasting Shawn Simoes to be mindful of the fact that online shaming can lead to suicide.) It is highly unlikely, after all, that Simoes will find work or happiness anytime soon. His life has been temporarily—perhaps permanently—upended. The question is, should we care?

I think this may be a rare instance in which we shouldn’t.

Related: Q&A with Jon Ronson on his book about public shaming

The FHRITP guys are not likely evil; nor have they committed “verbal rape,” a term I’ve heard tossed around in the last few days, one I really hope does not enter the mainstream lexicon. (What’s next? Verbal murder?) But there is real danger in dismissing this trend as an idiotic, random piece of public performance. Because when you strip everything away from the prank—from its bro-ish posturing to its expletive-laced proclamation—what you get is misogyny unfiltered, plain as day. What you get is this:

“Yes, I may be a fool and you a professional. But you’re also a woman who would like to be taken seriously. And I simply won’t stand for that.”

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Why we should take #FHRITP seriously

  1. Some boys/men think they still have ‘male privilege.’

    It shouldn’t take jail time to convince them otherwise…but if that’s what they want……

    • Who said they want jail time? (other than you).

      This issue has nothing to do with “male-privilege” – nor misogyny.

      The vast majority of the world’s population practices Abrahamic religions. These belief-systems explicitly stipulate the subordination of women. Until institutionalized patriarchy is prohibited, (likely never), “male privilege” will exist.

      #DavidBuss #AliceEagly #MaryWollstonecraft #SimoneDebeauvoir

      *F*ck him right in the a$$hole

      ***Pu$$ies&C0cksAreMadeForF*cking – if that offends you, go get educated – and maybe see a Psycho-analyst ;)

      PS: The gag is old, lame, and not funny – also it is not misogynistic.

      • Obviously you do not subscribe to the standards of behavior I mentioned below. Are you seriously of the opinion that you have hidden your offensive language? And I think I am reasonably well-educated and don’t need a psychiatrist.

      • They did this on live TV…doing things like this usually involve fines or jailtime.

        Yes, ‘male privilege’….just as I said. And all religions are male dominated. Misogynistic.

        Of course we’ll get past it….it would be faster if you could read English.

      • I couldnt have said it better myself. This has been my argument for the past few days. The content of the phrase could be anything. It has zero to do with misogany … The fact that the link has been drawn makes me weep for our future. The gag is old and lame for sure, but this gag is about swearing on live TV… And that is it.

        As for the dude sexually harrasing the reporter after she vented, he was wrong for saying what he did. Let’s not link the two things though as one has nothing to do with the other .

  2. The firing may have been extreme (and possibly in contravention of labour laws – any lawyer care to comment on that point?), given it didn’t happen in the workplace.

    Assuming workplace action is legal, a suspension and required sensitivity training may have been more appropriate. After all, he’s not the one who actually yelled the phrase – he was just an idiot who defended the guy who did. The punishment should be proportionate to the offence.

    • I an not a labour lawyer but I do know that you can fire anyone you want to fire. It is just a matter of appropriate compensation. If they paid him out in lieu of legal notice they can fire him.

      • I’m not really up on my labour law, but labour boards can (and on rare occasions do) force employers to give people their jobs back in instances of wrongful dismissal. Though in most instances they are more likely to award compensation and penalties.

        • My guess is if his company can hire people for 6 figure salaries, it can afford legal advice and an HR department.

          • My original query, though, was whether the firing was legal – not whether the company can afford the consequences of breaking the law.

            And as the company is Hydro One, we are the ones who will ultimately pay for any penalties.

          • My point is that a company like this would not undertake such an action without first consulting the lawyers to ensure they are taking appropriate action. My guess is he was offered a fair compensation package and shown the door.

    • Remember the “good old days” when, if you heard some guy saying something this crude and vulgar to a woman, you could just walk up and give him a shot in the mouth?

      It worked pretty well. We should bring that back.

      • Yeah, real well…..the guy went home and beat the woman.

        • And yet…..

          You still won’t divorce the guy.

  3. Generally, I’m against the virtual swarming that goes on in the internet world. This guy, though, is hard to feel sorry for. He didn’t make an innocent mistake. He wasn’t taken out of context. There’s no political or religious persecution. He is a jerk. Having also worked for a utility company and its union, I’d bet he has had anti-harassment training. So he knows his comments would be considered unacceptable and that his employer and the union would have zero tolerance for such behavior. Yes, those codes can sometimes apply during off work hours. One of our union guys was disciplined for kissing a male out-of-scope manager at a bar during a lockout. The rule we learned is that if any reasonable person knows your comments or actions are abusive/sexist/bigoted/physically threatening then you should not expect a warning or leniency.

  4. I agree with every word of this article. It is time “boys will be boys” be banished.

  5. Woe betide the individual who doesn’t bow down to the right of the press to shove a mike in your face, demonize, harass, pursue relentlessly, embarrass, subject any and all to a modern version of public stoning, for minor or major faux pas or mayhem (including/esp being of the wrong political persuasion…as dictated by media ownership…who also reserve the right to moralize and purvey porn at the same time…or…whatever else it takes to make a buck).
    As for the little men hanging on to juvenile impulses…bet your growing up fast now, huh?
    As for the ‘TV personality…expect her to run for the Conservative party.

    • I think I must be from another age. My parents taught me (long ago, admittedly) that there were two things (actually more) they would not stand for. No.1 was to do nothing to affect one’s ‘good name,. That included lying, cheating, ungentlemanly conduct, obscenity and profanity. No. 2, but which was right up there with number . 1 was the treatment of particular individuals or groups. 2.a was to always treat the feminine members as ladies, whether they were or not. 2b was to never treat a person waiting on you, whether clerk or waitress/waiter in any demeaning manner. I think this incident is certainly a case of somebody who didn’t have that type of upbringing.

      To get rid of this type from a workforce is worth every penny that one has to pay, but in fact if there is cause (and there certainly is in this case) there is no requirement in law to pay the person anything unless there is a written contract stating otherwise. This bad behavior is clearly in conflict with the norm of public standards.

      • Does what you do on your own time truly qualify as just cause for dismissal from a workplace? That’s a slippery slope; at what point do you stop being an employee and start being a slave?

        There’s a good argument for it if you are the public face of the business, as the chance of damaging the company’s image (and thus profitability) are high, but if you’re just an average employee and are doing a good job at work, I’m not as convinced. We don’t really know much about his work situation, so the question is: Is he being punished for his behaviour, or for being caught on camera? Lots of us have done stupid things we’ve later regretted, but it hasn’t cost us our jobs.

        Yeah, this guy deserved the public humiliation he has received. I’m less certain about the job loss – because of the precedent it sets, and the message it sends about employers’ control over our private lives. Between this and C-51, our society is starting to look rather Orwellian.

        • Don’t agree. If i am an employer and an employee makes an ass of himself (a crude, dirty-mouthed ass, incidentally) I believe I this is cause for not employing him. As you say, it is only worse if he is a “public face”. Every employee is the public face of his employer as far as I am concerned. And your later argument about “digital” goes nowhere with me, Kieth. It is just another media – and even worse, because you can’t burn it or discard it without some technical intervention which the average person is not able to do. My point is that this guy should have kept his mouth shut, and since he is a crude boor, he should be accountable.

          • So you vote for us all being slaves to our employers, who must at all time adhere to corporate rules, even in our private lives. Good to know. Bear it in mind if someone close to you gets fired because their boss saw them drinking and swearing at a non-work event in someone’s online post. Or because they voiced an opinion online that their boss disagreed with.

            As to this specific instance: I think Hunt was right to turn the tables on him; he had no right to behave as he did. I think the public humiliation and backlash is probably more than adequate punishment, though, as it will be there at everyone’s fingertips potentially for decades.

          • No room. so this is for Kieth below. What’s this “slave” business? If I were an employer I would naturally be choosy who I employ and if my judgement were wrong and he/she was a disappointment in respect to conduct I wouldn’t want hi/her around associated with my company’s product/service. Of course I might run the risk of a suit for unwarranted dismissal but unacceptable conduct on or off the jog has usually been accepted – unless there was a explicit contract.

          • Conduct on the job is one thing; conduct unrelated to the job is another. If you have no private life and are expected to behave as the company dictates 24/7, you aren’t an employee; you are owned. They may as well brand you.

        • Totally agree. This is a slippery slop.

  6. Those clowns are toast. From now on any future employer can google their names and find this event. As time goes by they’ll know what it’s all about.

    • And it’s a good thing to you that they will pay the rest of their lives for a moment’s stupidity? Remember that the next time you do something stupid.

      That’s actually one of the major down sides of the digital world; it makes redemption or starting over a helluva lot harder.

      • Is it really a moment’s stupidity? Would you be saying the same thing if they were calling an African Canadian reporter the “N” word and laughing about how they should lynch him?

        • Gayle, I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve the shaming NOW. And if he behaves the same way at work, then he deserves the job loss.

          Ted was talking, though, about the effect down the road. My point is, with the event living out there in the digital world, even if he reforms himself, he may still be paying the price decades from now.

          The digital record then becomes a disincentive to change; if you continue to punish someone for something done long ago, the resentment and anger that results from seeing no reward for their efforts to reform will likely make them more, not less, inclined to repeat the behaviour.

          • They should change because the world should (is?) showing it will no longer tolerate the attitudes they displayed. Although the digital age preserves these actions forever, it’s not like racial hatred was not preserved forever. My question was valid.

          • First, as far as we know, he isn’t the one who was harassing the reporter; he was in the group, but we only know he defended the one who said it. Guys will often publicly back their friends in a confrontation, even if they privately think the friend was being an idiot.

            Second, on a sliding scale, this is not as serious as calling for a lynching.

            I’m well aware of why they should change. But a constant beat-down over a long term will likely not accomplish that. Instead you’ll fuel rage, resentment, likely depression and possibly suicide if there seems no escape or road to redemption.

            I’m in no way condoning his behaviour; I’m talking here about the potential consequences for anyone subjected to constant, repeated shaming. Just ask those bullied teens who saw no other way out than suicide.

            We need to be careful how we use – and abuse – social media, as the effects can be far more harmful than we seem to appreciate. That’s my point in a nutshell.

      • Keith, this is for your comment one back that didn’t have a reply button. Keith, a slob is a slob and a boor is a boor and on and on. . . . Yes you have a perfect right to behave that way if it moves you but the employer has a perfect right not to have objectionable employees, particularly in this day and age when much of what goes on is blasted out on twitter, YouTube etc and as you say there day and night forever??? So it’s there on or off the job. The world doesn’t owe one a job unreservedly. Apart from choice, did you ever wonder why smelly ex or current hippies are on welfare or very low income?

        • No, but I’ve often wondered if you’ve stopped beating your wife.

      • I am sorry Keith. Getting drunk and u

      • Some forms of behavior fall under the category understandable moments of regrettable stupidity. Extremely cruel acts rarely do. The reason they don’t, is that it is highly unlikely that a person who enjoy bulling people who are doing their jobs stop at doing it once. They get some kind of sick enjoyment of picking on people and they do it until someone stops them. That is why this practice has been going on for years. It isn’t a person making one mistake who needs redemption. It is a group of bullies who enjoyed making other people lives miserable and went out their way to do so as cruelly and crudely as possible and now when they get caught, they claim they are victims. Do you really believe they only treat female sports reporters this way? Come on. They are bullies. You think this is their first time treating people abhorrently? You believe they don’t do it at work?

  7. One might want to look at this in another light; namely an increasing contempt on the streets for the news media. Such pranks have occurred regardless of gender of the news personality. And the Ferguson riots did not take kindly to the new media.

    • Then target the news, not the gender.

    • Sorry but where is your evidence that such pranks occur regardless of gender? I have not seen male reporters being disrepected with “f him right in the a” by passers-by. This is about bro-dudes feeling entitled to belittle professional women, and if it takes f-ing them right in the wallet to stop this behaviour, so be it.

    • Sorry, television news reporting is “new media” now? Also, as has already been pointed out, everything else you’ve said is wrong too.

  8. Don’t reporters have to have thick skin? Will this ‘outing’ make her less trustworthy to people she may interview in the future? Will interviewees have to watch their language if a camera gets in their face?

    I found her reasoning for posting the clip disingenuous. I mean, it’s okay to publish satire comics which demean Catholics, Blacks and Muslims but it’s not okay to say the F-word?

    Reporters and editors going loony over free speech. Given someone has lost their job over this I guess it’s only free speech when it’s approved by whatever government is in power.

    • And if the reporter had been black? Jewish? Gay?

      Watch yer mouth.

  9. I’m good with the Internet shaming of these fools.
    I’m good with them being banned from MLSE for however long MLSE chooses to ban them from their premises.

    But it’s truly disheartening to see the lack of self awareness that is evident in the same people who are up in arms about Bill C51’s potential for “abuse of freedom” demanding that these idiots face charges by the police.

    • ” the same people who are up in arms about Bill C51′s potential for “abuse of freedom” demanding that these idiots face charges by the police”

      I did not know that.
      Can you name some of these people, John?

  10. Of course we shouldn’t care. There’s now a job opportunity that could go to someone who’s potentially not a giant asshat. With 7 billion people in the world, why should anyone give any shits about this guy?

  11. Great article Emma.

    I can understand he may have really hard time ever finding a job BUT what I find hard to understand is why would anyone ever say those words and feel it is OK? It makes no sense. The words make no sense. They sound stupid and childish…and for him or them to say in public place just showed they were extremely jerk and aggressive toward women in general. And their actions could be constituted what would they do if there was no camera?

    • Very insightful comment. These people caught on camera bullying a news reporter aren’t new to bullying. This might be their first time getting caught on video but It is an ingrained practice. My guess is companies that would fire someone over public displays of abhorrent behavior such as this do so because this kind of bullying behavior is endemic within workplaces and it creates decreased efficiency, job satisfaction and increased absence due to illness. These kinds of ugly behavior need to be cut out like cancer.

  12. I hope, in the necessary sprint to achieve a society where we truly take women seriously and an environment where a truly equal application of respect is culturally innate, I hope at no point in this race when we ask the question “should we care” that we ever accept the suggestion that we shouldn’t.
    An offense has occurred. As a society, we are in the mist of changing our collective attitude toward the degree of this offense. Ten years ago, perhaps even five, this offense might have been largely shrugged off, with varying levels of discomfort. No longer. And of course it shouldn’t be. But how then should we respond?

    The article’s author observes with an implied annoyance: “I noticed a tendency by some, both online and off, to question the justice of the situation.” I certainly hope so. Whatever our level of outrage at an offense—particularly when that level is high and especially when the expected justice is changing and unclear—let’s never stop questioning the “justice of a situation.” In fact, that is exactly the conversation we as a society are having, and need to have.

    Taking FHRITP seriously is not mutually exclusive from questioning the justice of the situation. In fact, to truly take it seriously requires we do so. And to “care.” I don’t think we know yet what the “right” justice is here. What Simoes has experienced as a response might be justified. It might not be enough. Whatever the case, it must be okay to discuss it. And we’re better off caring.

    I care that Simoes truly learns from this incident, understands what it is really about, and how he perpetuated an offense whose time is up. I care that he doesn’t blind himself by his own perceived or any potential real victimization. He may never do so. But he and everyone he interacts with or influences (friends, children) over the rest of his life, and by extension all of us, are better off if he does. I care that all men and all boys learn from this, learn to absorb into their lives a truly equal standard of respect. I care that all women and girls feel justified in expecting and insisting upon that standard. I care that we never stop speaking out and courageously objecting to offenses, as Shauna Hunt did. I care that our courageous objections are never bullied into silence with dismissive and thoughtless “boys will be boys” shrugs. And I care that thoughtful reflections in the rush to react are not bullied into silence with dismissive and dangerous “don’t question the justice” or “we shouldn’t care about him” or “you’re with us or against us” shrugs. This is too important an issue.