There is no humour in verbal assault

in Features by

Disrespect is not a punchline.

I’m not really sure how many more times it can be said before the inconsiderate, insensitive morons of the world understand that their behaviour is nothing short of despicable.

Two days ago, NTV’s Heather Gillis was on Signal Hill and was the victim of – yet another – verbal assault when three simpletons yelled “FHRITP” in Gillis’ direction.

This is not the first incident of FHRITP that has happened in our city, and worse, it’s not the first time Gillis has been the victim of this verbal violence.

Before you cry “melodrama,” it needs to be understood that yelling this phrase at anyone, much less someone who is in the public eye at the time of the assault, is violence. To use that phrase is to use profane and derogatory language of a sexual nature with the intent of humiliating the victim for the sake of personal enjoyment. It is sexual assault. It is harassment. And it is unacceptable.

Stop and think about what FHRITP means. It belittles the victim. It reduces them to sexual objects and doing so in front of a television camera makes it publicly known that this woman, and women in general, are not worthy of respect. When a video-journalist is in front of a camera, they have a job to do; a rather difficult one, at that. Yelling profanities or casually using slurs in an interview makes it clear that the perpetrator does not value the woman’s worth or place in her profession. It would seldom, if ever, happen to male journalists, further demonstrating the deeply rooted issue of sex and gender. Why is it acceptable to say such contemptuous and insulting things to a woman? Why is it funny? These are the questions to which I have no answers, and quite frankly, I don’t want to know them.

I had the urge to write, “what if it were your mother or sister who was on the receiving end of these insults?” But that point is irrelevant. Women are more than their position in relation to men. A woman is worthy, and should demand, the respect of all people, regardless of whether or not she is “someone’s wife” or “someone’s sister.” A woman is complete and whole just as she is, with or without male partners or relatives. A woman is entitled to as much respect and compassion as her male counterpart, on or off the job.

There’s not much else to say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over, which is both infuriating and extraordinarily disappointing. This short article is not going to change the minds of those with deeply entrenched misogynistic values, but the more awareness that is brought to this issue (and any violence against women), the better. We can’t change individual minds but we can shed light on these disturbing events, and we can make it publicly known that hateful behaviour will be fervently shamed. We make the change by having the conversation, over and over, until women are free to do their jobs, and exist, without fear.

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