Okay, so following the breaking news yesterday that one of the fellows who thought it was a laugh riot to shout “Fuck her in the pussy” at a television camera pointed at a female reporter (a friend mentioned that this has happened to male reporters too; I am now aware of one instance of that happening, so I thank Friend for that information), there’s a big deal about whether one of the guys who did that ought to have been fired from his job for doing so. There are a couple of things I want to say about this whole thing. The first is about that – whether the young man ought to have lost his job. The second is about the whole meme itself and whether it is indeed (sexual) harassment and a bit more about freedom of speech, because that’s a really important thing that I don’t think is being talked about enough here by people who aren’t total dingbats involved with MRA (that’s Men’s Rights Associations).
First, doxxing is really shitty, okay? Don’t do that. (“Doxxing”, btw, is searching for, finding, and posting private information about someone online and on social media platforms.) There is this thing called presumption of innocence that covers criminal charges in most British/American legal systems. It basically means that until someone is found to be guilty of a criminal act, we must presume they are innocent. There are some pretty important reasons why we have this whole presumption of innocence thing (which is a legal right), and while I don’t know the full history of it (and again, am not a lawyer and do not have a degree in law), I do know that part of the reason it exists is to protect you as a citizen. Most people are not criminals, and therefore don’t deserve to be treated as criminals. Anyway, the point I’m making here is that doxxing is one of those things that kind of circumvents due process (we talked about that a couple of days ago). If someone has done something potentially criminal, and you can find and/or have information that may help *prove the case against them*, it’s your duty as a citizen to provide that information to the proper authorities (the police, lawyers, doctors, etc.), but not to the public. Retributive “justice” by people hiding behind their screens really isn’t justice. Every person, regardless of what they have been accused of doing, has the right to defend themselves against those charges.
Second, if your employer or your professional association has a code of conduct or code of ethics by which you must abide while in their employ, it is their duty to inform you of the code, and to ensure you understand it, and understand the implications of it. Sometimes that code of conduct will apply to your actions outside the workplace. Consider the codes of conduct required by the military, or by sports franchises, or by government/public employers. Each of these may include clauses which outline the kinds of behaviour which is not acceptable. I don’t know what the codes of conduct might have been for this fellow’s employer, but this fellow did do something pretty odious in a very, very public forum. If this employer has a “zero tolerance policy” for harassing or abusive language or behaviour in or outside of the workplace, this reaction is what a “zero tolerance policy” actually looks like.
Too many times…in fact, most of the time…people define “zero tolerance” as “just a wee bit of tolerance”. Just enough tolerance, in fact, to ensure that maybe it won’t happen a second time. Or a third. Probably not a fourth. Five, as they say about the Holy Hand-grenade of Antioch, is right out. Now, pardon me for being a bit pedantic, but “zero tolerance” should actually mean “we don’t tolerate this at all”, which in turn means “so if you do this, you’re out, buster.” “Zero tolerance” should not mean “let’s all have a sit-down together and talk about how your actions hurt someone”. You have to have that discussion BEFORE someone gets hurt.
There are people arguing that doing this sort of thing – shouting obscenities into a microphone during a live news broadcast is not (sexual) harassment. That it’s just something funny to do because you’re not supposed to swear on TeeVee (nor on the radio, in most cases). Now, we can have a good discussion about whether you ought or oughtn’t be allowed to say offensive or potentially offensive things on the air, but that’s a conversation for another time because most broadcasters have codes of conduct/ethics that outline what they are and aren’t allowed to broadcast. So if the goal of these yokels shouting things at live newscasts is to actually launch some kind of protest or to simply have cuss words broadcast on live teevee because broadcasting cusswords is funny, why not simply shout “fuck”? Or “asshole”? Or “prick”? Why not choose words that aren’t charged with potentially misogynistic interpretation? Sure, you can argue that all the best cusswords are about females and female anatomy (which of course will launch us in to a further discussion about gender issues), but if your *goal* is simply to say something offensive in front of a camera, why choose primarily female reporters to do it to? Why use a phrase that could even possibly be interpreted as promoting rape?
There are thousands of words you could choose. Just sticking with the many iterations of “fuck” alone would probably take up most of a month’s worth of live broadcasts. If this phenomenon really doesn’t have anything to do with women and gender, then why is it *mostly* (not always, as Friend pointed out) done to female reporters, and why insist on using the imperative mood (the kind of sentence that indicates commands/requests)? Although you may have a different intent, semantics happen, people. Semantics happen. How would you *expect* a female reporter to interpret someone running up behind her and shouting “fuck her right in the pussy”?
When it comes to freedom of speech, you’re right. Twits have every right to spout their twittery whenever and wherever they want. They must be willing to accept the consequences, because some twittery is actually illegal, or can be deemed hate speech or harassing or objectionable behaviour. Freedom of speech does not trump other laws. Particularly when those laws serve to protect other people from harm. How does shouting a stream of invective at a reporter cause harm? Well, first of all, it’s kind of a dick move, really. Second, you are hindering that reporter’s ability to do their job professionally. Third, you are causing the station broadcasting that report to possibly get in hot water with national licensing agencies. Fourth, depending on the invective you use, it could actually be threatening language. Fifth, it might be considered disturbing the peace. Sixth, did I mention dick move? I did, didn’t I? I’d go out on a limb here and say that at least 75% of dick moves (metaphorical dick moves; literal dick moves are the subject of a different discussion) are harmful. But the point here is that when it comes to your right to say whatever you want whenever you want, the only thing holding you back is other laws that protect others from being harmed, intimidated, hurt, etc., by what you’re saying.
It’s possible that the nitwits who claim that shouting sexually charged invective at live broadcasts isn’t meant to be sexist don’t understand that the actual words they’re saying are pretty sexist. It’s possible that they are sincere and really just want to see more cusswords on teevee. It’s also possible that this whole thing is some kind of protest movement against governments squeezing freedom of speech legislation from all angles (and certainly, if that’s the case, I highly recommend finding non-gender-specific swear words to shout at broadcasters of all genders – be prepared to live with the consequences of your actions!). We may even be dealing with the IOFO effect (the It’s Only Funny Once principle).
My Friend also said perhaps it’s better just to ignore these morons and they’ll just stop doing asinine things like this all on their own. I’m not sure I agree with that, although Friend did post a Google Trends chart that shows the incidents of the term being used on Google dropped off dramatically after it first became popular in early 2014.
I’m not sure I agree that ignoring odious behaviour makes it stop, but I AM convinced that we don’t need to agree with each other all the time. And I am convinced that this particular odious behaviour should just end now. People shouting stupid things at and making obscene gestures in front of live TV cameras isn’t new, and I’m sure it won’t go away. Because people are goofy. Sometimes, goofy is awesome (I’m one of those horrid people who thinks it’s hilarious when someone moons the camera on live TV). Sometimes, it isn’t goofy so much as really terrible. I do agree with my Friend that it should just end.