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Men sexually harassing women journalists is a trend that just won't die

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It looks like the disgusting trend of targeting female T.V. reporters and shouting FHRITP just won't die. FHRITP being a degrading phrase I won't dignify by spelling out here, but it's easy to find online if you're not familiar. The latest case involved CTV Vancouver reporter Sarah MacDonald by Nicolas Pogossian who claims he, "didn't think it was a big deal."

This is hard to believe when the video of men shouting the vulgar phrase at CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt gained international attention last May. Hunt responded to the men on camera, confronted them about their actions, and sparked a larger conversation about why this "prank" isn't funny. Later Shawn Simcoes was identified as one of the men responsible by his employer Hydro One and was promptly fired.

Pogossian has since apologized in the media, but his words indicate that he still hasn't taken full responsibility. In an article on CTV Vancouver he distances himself from his actions, apologizing for "what was said" rather than taking ownership for his actions and acknowledging why they were wrong. 

Pogossian also claimed he didn't realize the incident would garner so much attention. But interrupting a TV broadcast and snapchatting it are clearly attention-seeking actions. It seems more likely that he's unhappy that the attention he's received has been negative and he wants to avoid facing charges. "It was kind of bad publicity for me," he told CTV. No kidding. 

Probably the most bizarre part of Pogossian's statement is when he says he hopes to develop a friendship with MacDonald. I can't fathom why any woman would want to become friends with someone who verbally assaulted them in public while they were trying to do their job. Pogossian is doing more to take advantage of his 15 minutes than to atone. 

This incident is indicative of a larger problem in North America. That women continually face the threat of harassment, while the harassing and often violent actions of young men are dismissed with a "boys will be boys" attitude.

Pogossian chalks his actions up to "a stupid, impulsive decision" adding that "people make mistakes." And he's right that people do make poor decisions all the time and often deserve forgiveness. But that's not an excuse for repeating the same mistakes, failing to take responsibility for them, and failing to engage in often difficult discussions about them.

Pogossian was clearly familiar with the FHRITP trend, so I don't believe he wasn't aware of the many female reporters who have spoken out against it. Not to mention that it should be common sense that yelling a degrading remark at a stranger in public is just a bad idea. 

It reminds me of one day several years ago when I was walking to work and was startled by a group of oung men screaming at me out their car window. This had happened many times that summer and I was angry that it continued to startled me, and that it made me feel so unsafe even in a public place on a sunny afternoon. When I got to work I asked my male co-workers why men thought it was a good idea to do that sort of thing. They didn't really have an answer for me other than that it was a joke and I shouldn't take it so seriously.

I didn't have the words then to describe why street harassment bothered me so much. All I knew was that it upset me much longer than the few seconds of incomprehensible screaming that made me jump and my heart race.

I know now that this is a form of violence that makes those targeted feel unsafe, degraded and dehumanized. And when those affected speak up about it they are told to take it as a compliment or a joke. This conditions people to accept violence and abuse as part of their lives, and teaches them they are not worthy of speaking out, being heard, and believed.  It is something that happens to people far too often, and while these incidents may seem small their impact is incremental.

It is a problem created by a culture that encourages the entitlement of young white men without requiring them to think about their actions, while everyone else is taught to deal with the consequences. This leads to harassment in the name of a joke without thinking that those being targeted are complex people with lives and feelings. We need to start asking more of people who commit acts of violence both large and small to critically examine their actions. And we need to start educating people more about treating others with dignity and respect. 

The FHRITP trend is just another way of encouraging violence and delegitimizing the experience of women. And it's sad that this is still happening in 2016 and there are still those that don't think it's a big deal. As CBC reporter Chris O'Neill-Yates wrote in her blog on the matter, "more than half a century after the first International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the last thing we should be talking about is the 'F--- her right in the P----y' trend, but here we are."

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