How (Not) to Talk to Women And How to Answer Jerks

When CITV TV reporter Shauna Hunt faced down a herd of malicious clowns it was a rare moment when dignity won out over dopey behaviour.

The incident is now social media legend. In the course of doing a live hit outside a Toronto FC soccer game, she was victimized for the umpteenth time by a malign prank: an ignorant lout shouting a disgusting phrase into her microphone.

This practice has become epidemic. It even happened to me a few months ago at the end of a live hit outside Toronto City Hall. In my case, the perpetrator’s timing was poor and he bellowed it after I threw back to the studio and my microphone had been killed. But I did not know at the time that his profanity did not make it on air.

I glared at him, told him “congratulations, you just make yourself look like an idiot on live television” and to my slight satisfaction saw his face fall.

It was only afterwards that I heard how common it was becoming, almost always targeting female reporters—a disgusting and disturbing trend. Journalists sometimes expect to feel unsafe in the course of their jobs, but in war zones or places of social unrest, not outside a Canadian soccer stadium.

In Ms. Hunt’s case, the TFC incident pushed her to take direct action. To her credit she did not lower herself to the level of her tormentors, but despite her discomfort kept her reporter’s hat on, confronted them and politely, directly and on camera demanded that they account for themselves.

As has been seen all over the world, they were unapologetic—unwittingly and vividly portraying themselves as thoughtless idiots. One lost his job, another was reportedly called on the carpet at work and all became instantly infamous on social media.

I was moved to join the hordes of supporters to tweet our admiration for Ms. Hunt.

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Sadly, I received a couple of replies from individuals who still did not understand why the practice of bellowing crude remarks in a woman’s ear is not only wrong but possibly illegal.

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But Ms. Hunt’s actions did a service to the media and society in general. The incident became a learning moment that not only shined a light on this particular odious trend, but also generated a broad conversation about workplace policy on employee misbehavior and about the lingering stain of rape culture.

There is also an important lesson for anyone in the public eye that might face verbal assault (and for those of us who train them how to deliver their messages): keep your cool and take the high road, no matter how obnoxious the tormentor.

Rise above and like Shauna Hunt you can win new admirers.