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#DeixaElaTrabalhar: A New Movement to Fight Sexual Harassment of Women in Sports Media

Photo courtesy of CNN.com.

Growing up I was always aware of my love for playing sports, but when it was time to apply for university, I understood my passion and skill for writing. As a professional writing major, I am constantly being exposed to many different styles of writing; the most interesting and fulfilling to me is journalism. I’ve taken many classes related to journalism ethics, but something they don’t teach in school is sexual harassment in the workplace. I would love to pursue a possible career in sports journalism, however as a woman there is the knowledge I will be treated differently.

After the #MeToo movement went viral on social media, a light shone on people who have been sexually harassed or abused by infamous celebrities. It got me thinking about other groups may still be underrepresented in the media, even about such a pressing issue; specifically female sports journalists and reporters. After researching incidents of sexual harassment in the media, I found a significant amount of stories. It was alarming, as I had never heard of any of these events. Even I, someone who is interested in these topics, was not exposed to the stories. This needs to change, and there is a group of Brazilian reporters who feel the same way.

In Rio de Janeiro in March of 2018, Brazilian journalist Bruna Dealtry was covering the events of a soccer tournament which took place in San Juanario Stadium. The atmosphere was buzzing as Dealtry began speaking on live television, when suddenly a shirtless, male fan kissed her on the lips. While she was visibly uncomfortable with the incident, she remained cool and collected. As most people would suspect a woman to stay quiet about such shocking actions, Dealtry instead took to Facebook to voice her opinion. Included in her post is an excerpt from the live broadcast.

There have been many other inappropriate incidents similar to this one in 2018 including harassment at the World Cup in Russia this past summer. One video in particular shows Colombian reporter Julieth Gonzalez Theran being groped and kissed on the cheek by a male fan. Again, the discomfort is apparent, but these women are forced to ignore the behavior from the fans and continue the broadcast.

However, despite the terrible act, Gonzalez Theran wished to move on and educate people on the issue, as do many others who have been affected.

“I refuse to be a victim,” she told the man who grabbed her. On her Twitter account following the event she wrote:

“The violent act of a fan is sad, but what is even worse is the reaction of those who do not see it as harassment.”

 
These issues have gone unchallenged for too long and a group of 52 female Brazilian sports reporters have decided enough is enough.

#DeixaElaTrabalhar: A #MeToo Movement for Female Sports Reporters

The hashtag, #DeixaElaTrabalhar (in Portuguese) translating to “Let Her Work” has been the slogan of the campaign, which began after Dealtry’s Facebook post went viral. The group started off small with only eight women who formed a WhatsApp messaging group after coming together through Dealtry’s post. After only two weeks, the group grew to 52 members who decided to create a campaign video highlighting their own experiences with harassment on the job.

Another member of the group and columnist for ESPNW, Bibiana Bolson, spoke to many news outlets, including BBC and The Guardian, hoping to further spread the message on a global scale. Bolson herself has had experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace, including receiving hateful messages — specifically ones about rape. Buzzfeed News asked Bolson about harassment in sports environments and she stated that is it extremely “common” (Buzzfeed News 2018). She expresses:

“We figured out that most of us had the same story. Every single day we have to handle the jokes, the comments, even the decisions that sometimes are not taking based on meritocracy, but with a little bit of sexism. It’s important that we feel safe in stadiums, working with sports fans’ support, and we want more legal support about it”

 

Female Underrepresentation and Society’s Lack of Accountability

During my time studying aspects of journalism at university, I have been made aware of the significant sexism and large underrepresentation of women in news and sports workplaces. There is a small amount of women in any workplace in comparison to men, but society pressures us to believe sports are meant for men. Many people still do not view women as individuals with sport knowledge and therefore take to mansplaining or shaming. Even women who have established their career path as a sports journalist/reporter and proved they have just as much knowledge as their male colleagues are continuously doubted. A presentation done by Professor Tammy Crawford from WSU discussed shocking statistics of women in sport media.

As of 2014, 90 per cent of editorial roles, 90 per cent of assistant editorial roles, 88 percent of columnists…are men (The Daily Evergreen 2017).

 
It is perplexing that in 2018, these statistics have barely changed. As if being the minority in the sports world isn’t enough, female reporters and journalists are constantly being subjected to sexism and brash comments. Often times when I’m scrolling through Instagram and Twitter, I come across posts about female sports news. It sickens me to read comments like “Go back to the kitchen” or “That’s an interesting way to make a sandwich.” Whether it’s athletes or reporters, too many women are being abused verbally and physically.

What’s even worse than the ongoing attacks on women in sports media is the lack of accountability of our society towards education of sexual harassment. More simplistically, there are too many people who are completely unaware or just plain ignorant on the many variations of sexual harassment. It is also very common for many South Americans to kiss a friend or family member on the cheek as a greeting, but we must consider the context. Giving your mother a kiss on the cheek to say hello is not equal to kissing a stranger on the lips without their consent. Bruna Dealtry spoke to CNN about the normalization of harassment stating,

“We’ve been experiencing sexism and harassment in our society for a long time and tolerating it because it was considered normal.”

 
The campaign sets out to change the world’s understanding of women in sports media positions. The people who have become a part of this movement want people to allow women — not just in journalism, but in all workplaces — to let them do their jobs. There is no reason why women should not be treated in the same professional manner as men.

It is expected that fans will celebrate during sports and show their passion and love for their teams. However, there are many ways to show this such as through cheers or chants with other fans, rather than harassing the reporters.

Hope for a better future has been solidified as the outreach of the campaign has already been substantial. There have been hundreds of thousands of tweets and posts, and many global news outlets have shared different perspectives. But we can’t stop here. It is crucial to take major steps as a society to end the unfair treatment of women in professional work environments. We must continue educating people on sexual harassment and break sexism for good. For the sake of the young women who dream of working in the sports world, it is finally time we stand up and fight.

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