Opinion

OPINION: What a female reporter faces every day

It started out like a regular phone call. 

I had been a journalist for a couple of years, we were in the midst of an election campaign.

It wasn't the first I had covered.  I am not sure it was even the second.

But the call, that was a first.

Caller: I asked to be put through to the political reporter not their secretary.

Me: I am the political reporter.  How can I help?

Caller: pause. Oh, pause, well... Can I speak to the editor?  I have a story for him.

Me: She is on the phone right now.  Can I take a message?

Caller: pause.  Oh.  pause.  What about your deputy editor?  That's a man isn't it?

I transferred the call, gaping a little at the phone.  Did that just happen?

Vaguely I was aware of my deputy editor speaking in the background.

Deputy editor: If you want to talk about the election campaign, you will have to speak to Lea.  She is the one covering it.  I can put you back through to her?

He hung up.

The call sticks out in my memory because it was a first.

The first time I was outright told that I was not fit to do my job merely because of the type of genitals I had been graced with at birth.

There was no discussion of my credentials, no previous contact, not even sighting my photograph.

This man had judged my ability to work merely from a female voice coming through the end of a telephone.

The call was the first time I was told being female meant I could not do the job but unfortunately it was not the first time I had been forced to endure blatantly sexist behaviour.

There was the time I was told I had "embarrassed" a male work contact after I told him to remove his hand from my buttocks while at a social gathering. 

The daily instances of being called luv, darling or sweetie. 

The numerous times of being told to lighten up or smile or a remark about your looks when trying to question someone on a serious matter they want to avoid.

The daily war stories.

Every female journalist has them.  The litany of tales about men behaving inappropriately while the journalist tries to work.

The last week has thrown a light on those stories as women come forward in support of Mel McLaughlin after cricketer Chris Gayle decided an interview broadcast to thousands was the perfect time to hit on her.

There are the contacts you slyly warn female colleagues about.

Watch for such and such's grabby hands.  He likes to stare down your top.  Try not to be in a room alone with that guy.

At times the barrage is never ending.

It has long been something female journos have just put up with as 'just part of the job'.

But it should not be.

No person should go to work expecting to be harassed.

Topics:  gender, opinion, sexism




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