It’s just a Joke: The Shauna Hunt Case

As I write this, I am listening to the CBC Radio Noon call-in show on the subject of City News reporter Shauna Hunt calling out some sports fans for planning to videobomb (is that even a word?) her live shoot by grabbing the mic and yelling the highly offensive (not to mention highly stupid) FHRITP (I had to look what this up on the urban dictionary. That is how out of the loop I am on this subject, but apparently this is a thing to do to women reporters).

Here is the video:

There are a couple of issues here that are relevant to the Preventing Cyberviolence project:

  1. The mainstream-ness or in fancy parlance, normalization of this kind of prank. Reading a little bit about it, it seems that it has become a strange little tradition to grab the microphone from the female reporter and shout something not only extremely offensive, but threatening as well.
  1. The defense of the men: "it is effing hilarious." Yep, the old, "We were just joking," stance.
  1. The decision by the reporter to publicly shame these men by filming it.
  1. The reaction: one of the men was fired from his job at Hydro 1 after being recognized on the videotape and the stadium has been working to identify the men and ban them from all sports events.


The men in the video seemed to honestly not understand why the reporter had an issue with them yelling something so offensive at her. Why is that? Obviously, given the apparent prominence of this prank and the fact the reporter has to deal with is on a daily basis, points to this problem being systemic.

What can we do as a society to make this kind of behaviour obsolete? Will sensitivity training do the trick? And what does that entail?

Calling people out on this is one way, but it is also very tiring. I think education should play a big part in this by not only teaching biology in sex ed classes (if they even exist) but talking about all the issues surrounding sexuality, including a sensitization component. The men in the video are clearly not thinking about how that kind of language is not only offensive, but threatening to a woman. That needs to change.

We Were Just Joking

What is funny to someone may not be funny to someone else, right? Humour is subjective. Personally, I tend toward the dark and sarcastic and less of the clown-y humour. (Ok. With the exception of Zoolander. Zoolander is hilarious.)

Yet nowhere on that spectrum are jokes that include rape or sexual molestation or racist undertones. Perhaps a handy infographic of what is actually funny? A flow chart?

You know it's NOT funny when...

  • You intimidate someone physically. In this case:
    • grabbing the microphone
    • threatening to sexually assault them
  • You make it so the person cannot do their job
  • It's only funny in a mob scenario: ask yourself, would it be so funny if I was alone? No? Then it's not funny.
  • Also, talk about beating a dead horse. How is being the millionth person to yell a completely unoriginal, vulgar thing funny?
  • I am sure there are many other criteria. Let me know and I will add it...

Actually Nerdy Feminist said it best in this post written way back in 2012. I graciously pass the mic to her...

Public Shaming

I understand Ms. Hunt, doing this. I do. She took a stand against what I can only imagine to be a demeaning, intimidating, and emotionally exhausting trend. In an interview on As it Happens a couple of nights ago Ms. Hunt mentioned how this was something that happened to her daily. How she has had to cancel live shoots because she can see the mob gathering, preparing to execute the prank. So what were her choices in this situation?

  1. She could try to report it, but that would be like trying to hold water in her hands. By the time the police arrived, the perpetrators would be long gone. It would also entangle her in a tiring and ultimately impossible to win legal battle.
  2. She could trying talking to them? Yeah, right. She probably has tried this. I bet it didn't work.
  3. Laugh it off and carry on, letting the explicit misogyny chip at her soul until she feels like a hollow shell of her former self? I have a feeling many women take this route.
  4. ???? This is where we need some agency. Ms. Hunt chose to use her medium to expose the men laying in wait to verbally assault her. She effectively turned the tables on them and exposed their vulgarity. But... this is not an option available to most women. And when they do try to use the power f the internet to expose this kind of behaviour, they are exposing themselves to way worse. Also, as we have seen with cases like Adria Richards, this can backfire spectacularly when left to be judged in the forum of public opinion. Which bring us to:

Dire Consequences

Is firing the right response? I'm not sure. I understand the need for Hydro 1 to protect its name, especially since its been so heavily reported (I just heard the Current where they did another segment on this. Yes. I'm a CBC addict, I admit it.) But how does this solve the issue? If anything, I feel it polarizes opinion - on one side, the people who believe the individual deserves what he gets for his inappropriate behaviour. On the other, hand, those who feel that firing him for something he did on his own time is a violation against free speech. It also has the potential like the case of Adria Richards of turning the mob's wrath back on to the reporter, fueling the misogynist fire by claiming that another feminist got another man fired.

I am also inclined to believe that it is not the right lesson. What is the individual going to take away from this except bitterness and hatred? Wouldn't have been better for him to be required to take sensitization courses on his own dime?

In the interview I heard with Shauna Hunt, she made it clear that it was never her intention to get the men fired. She did not do this to ruin lives, but to stand up for her own right to make a living free from harassment. Yes, there should be legal consequences to this kind of behaviour. People with anger issues must take anger management courses. What if people (because apparently women have also been known to rehash this tired meme on other women) with misogynist issues were sentenced to undergo sensitization courses? I think we need to marry legal recourse with a more substantial and ongoing re-education on these issues.


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