Female Journalists Bring Their Voices to the #MeToo Movement

Fans flooded into the San Januario stadium in Rio de Janeiro in late March for a soccer tournament, cheering as they held bottles of alcohol in their hands. Reporter Bruna Dealtry stood among the crowd, getting ready for a live broadcast.

Dealtry began her reporting describing the atmosphere inside the stadium when a shirtless man approached her and kissed her on the lips. Dealtry later described in an interview with CNN the embarrassment she felt after this unwanted encounter.

“I felt humiliated,” Dealtry said. “If this can happen to me with the camera rolling, imagine what other women go through. I couldn’t just stay silent.”

Dealtry was right in that she was not alone in her experience.  

Dealtry is just one of many female journalists around the world whose stories of sexual harassment have come to light in recent months in the post-Weinstein era.

A 2013 survey conducted by the International Women’s Media Foundation and the International News Safety Institute on sexual harassment experienced by female journalists found that approximately 64 percent of respondents had experienced “intimidation, threats, or abuse” in the office or in the field.

While some stories have prompted journalists, governments and organizations to take action, others have revealed the vast protections that still remain in some countries for those accused of sexual harassment.

#DeixaElaTrabalhar

In a 2017 survey conducted by the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism and the journalism site Gênero e Número entitled “Women in Brazilian Journalism,” 70.4 percent of the women who responded said that someone made a pass at them at work that made them feel uncomfortable, while another 70.2 percent reported seeing or hearing of harassment of colleagues in the workplace.

Following the incident at the soccer stadium, Dealtry took to her Facebook page to share her experience and concerns about the way women are treated in both professional and social settings.

“Today, I felt in my skin the sense of powerlessness that many women feel in stadiums, subways, and even walking in the street,” Dealtry said in her Facebook post.

Dealtry’s post prompted a response from many women, but primarily female journalists who had gone through similar experiences of harassment whether from strangers, coworkers or bosses.

Brazilian journalist Renata Medeiros shared that during the same week as Dealtry’s incident she was called a “whore” by a sports fan while reporting on the game. Dealtry’s experience also resonated with sports producer Paula Pereira, who was fired from a job after accusing a superior of sexual harassment.

Dealtry and several other women then formed a messaging group on WhatsApp to continue to share their stories. Within two weeks, the group had 52 members and a plan to start a #MeToo-inspired social media campaign—#DeixaElaTrabalhar (#LetHerDoHerJob).

On March 25, the women launched the campaign by posting a video online, which, according to CNN, has already been viewed millions of times across various social media platforms.

In response to the video, Brazil’s Sports Ministry and the National Secretariat for Women’s Policies launched a campaign featuring female athletes speaking out against sexual harassment in sports.

Boycotting the State Duma

As of March 23, more than 30 Russian news outlets had announced their plans to boycott the State Duma–the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia–in response to the Ethics Committee’s exoneration of Leonid Slutsky, a lawmaker who had been accused by several journalists of sexual harassment.

According to the Russian news website Meduza, three women came forward openly and two anonymously in late February and early March accusing Slutsky of groping them and making other unwanted sexual advances.

On March 21, some of the journalists provided testimony during a closed session by the Ethics Committee, after which the committee said that it saw no “violations of behavioral norms” in Slutsky’s actions.

In response, various news outlets including RBC, TV Rain, RTVI and Echo of Moscow have stopped coverage of the State Duma to stand in solidarity with the journalists who came forward.

“We do not agree with this approach and refuse to consider the Duma’s position on this issue as normal,” RBC said in a statement.

Thus far, no state-owned or state-financed news outlet has come out in support of the boycott, according to Meduza.

The #MeToo Manifesto

In February, over a hundred female journalists in Italy signed a manifesto denouncing harassment in the media industry and calling for their bosses and coworkers to “join the cultural battle” against sexism, according to news website The Local.

The letter said that female journalists are currently attempting to fight against “a cultural system which discriminates against, penalizes, and abuses women” through unequal pay and sexual harassment.

The manifesto came days after women in the Italian film industry released a similar letter calling for more protections for women, especially after Italian filmmaker Fausto Brizzi was accused by at least 10 women of sexual assault and harassment.

These voices come amid claims that Italy has generally not been very receptive to the #MeToo movement.

According to NPR, Italian actress Asia Argento was one of the first women to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and was attacked by Italian commentators as a result. Argento said in an interview with Italian television in January that she left Italy as a result of this hostile environment and because she was “slut-shamed” by the media.

While usually reporting on stories themselves, female journalists across the globe are now becoming part of the #MeToo narrative, showing just how pervasive the issue is and just how much still must be done to address it.

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