Foreign Correspondents And Sexual Abuse

by matttbastard

Must read article by veteran correspondent Judith Matloff from the Jan-Feb issue of Columbia Journalism Review

Women have risen to the top of war and foreign reportage. They run bureaus in dodgy places and do jobs that are just as dangerous as those that men do. But there is one area where they differ from the boys–sexual harassment and rape. Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare. Yet the compulsion to be part of the macho club is so fierce that women often don’t tell their bosses. Groping hands and lewd come-ons are stoically accepted as part of the job, especially in places where western women are viewed as promiscuous. War zones in particular seem to invite unwanted advances, and sometimes the creeps can be the drivers, guards, and even the sources that one depends on to do the job. Often they are drunk. But female journalists tend to grit their teeth and keep on working, unless it gets worse.

Because of the secrecy around sexual assaults, it’s hard to judge their frequency. Yet I know of a dozen such assaults, including one suffered by a man. Eight of the cases involve forced intercourse, mostly in combat zones. The perpetrators included hotel employees, support staff, colleagues, and the very people who are paid to guarantee safety–policemen and security guards. None of the victims want to be named. For many women, going public can cause further distress. In the words of an American correspondent who awoke in her Baghdad compound to find her security guard’s head in her lap, “I don’t want it out there, for people to look at me and think, ‘Hmmm. This guy did that to her, yuck.’ I don’t want to be viewed in my worst vulnerability.”

The only attempt to quantify this problem has been a slim survey of female war reporters published two years ago by the International News Safety Institute, based in Brussels. Of the twenty-nine respondents who took part, more than half reported sexual harassment on the job. Two said they had experienced sexual abuse. But even when the abuse is rape, few correspondents tell anyone, even friends. The shame runs so deep–and the fear of being pulled off an assignment, especially in a time of shrinking budgets, is so strong–that no one wants intimate violations to resound in a newsroom.

Rodney Pinder, the director of the institute, was struck by how some senior newswomen he approached after the 2005 survey were reluctant to take a stand on rape. “The feedback I got was mainly that women didn’t want to be seen as ‘special’ cases for fear that, a) it affected gender equality and b) it hindered them getting assignments,” he says.

Caroline Neil, who has done safety training with major networks over the past decade, agrees. “The subject has been swept under the carpet. It’s something people don’t like to talk about.”

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Why ‘Backlash’ Should Be Required Reading Part 2

by matttbastard


Ruth Ellis Haworth with the post of the week:

When New Democrat MP Irene Mathyssen saw that Conservative MP James Moore was looking at a photo of a bikini-clad woman while sitting in the House of Commons and noticed that the image was visible not just to members of the House but also to visitors in the gallery, she rose and made a brief, composed complaint about it. Liberal MP Karen Redmond rose and supported Mathyssen.

James Moore was outraged. Oh, not outraged that he had been caught displaying an inappropriate photo in the House of Commons. Outraged that some stupid prude of a woman would complain about it. The lowest of the low. Tarnishing the reputation of a red-blooded Canadian man. And besides, it was my girl friend. And (in perhaps the most irrelevant argument ever), my dog is in the photo too!

The men of the country crashed into the debate like the kettle drums in Beethoven’s Ninth. This was the worst form of dirty politics. A smear. Don’t old, ugly women know that young, pretty women like to appear semi-naked in photos? Doesn’t that prove that all feminism is mean-spirited, humorless prudery that must be stamped out like brush fires in August?


A disturbing theme that ran throughout the men’s attacks was that Mathyssen and Redmond should be humiliated. Like this one: “They should both have to give lap dances to Peter Milliken.” Yet another outraged male wrote, “She should be forced to stand in the House and issue an apology” (italics mine).

Another theme was that all rules against sexual harassment in the workplace should be abolished. For example: “The sensible response in the House, or any other workplace, would have been for her to avert her gaze, ignore the offending image and shut up.”

Where are Jack Layton and Stephane Dion on this issue? Neither the Liberal nor NDP party web sites mention the event, much less stand up for Matthyson or Redmond. (So much for “male feminists”.)


The tragic thing about all this is that it happened in parliament, where Canada’s laws and policies are formulated, and so it affects women and sexual harassment policies in workplaces across the country.

Precisely. You know what this boils down to? Men telling women to know their roles and shut the fuck up.

The ‘boys club’ mentality of Canadian politics has shone through the past several days, bright like a beacon. Absolutely sickens me that Ms Mathyssen was forced to fall on her sword following a wave of sophomoric ridicule from the (largely male-dominated) punditocracy, dead tree, broadcast and blogosphere–much of it occurring on December fucking 6th, for fuck’s sake!!11 Someone hand out some copies of Backlash to these ever-so-enlightened folks, stat.

Full disclosure: I am a proud constituent of Ms Mathyssen and in the past have campaigned–and consistently voted–for her. Have nothing but the utmost respect for her tireless efforts spent advocating on behalf of Canadian women’s interests as Uncle Steve and Co. slash SWC into teeny tiny little shreds. That she finally gets some attention as a result of a teapot tempest stirred up by bi-partisan neanderthals seemingly all-too-eager to score points at the expense of a prudish (Dipper) feminazi (to say nothing of all Canadian women, regardless of political affiliation) leaves me feeling like someone scraped my face with a freshly purchased cheese grater.

Let’s not mince words: Moore is a slimy, self-righteous dipshit in the Peter MacKay mold (looking at dog pics–indeed–is his puppy named Belinda?) All those commentators who so proudly let their privileged majority-culture flag fly (“huh huh we kin put teh uppity wimmins in her place AND has fun at teh Dippers’ expense–SCORE!”) can go choke on their crass lockerroom antics. In other words, take the by-now-rote “humourless feminist” routine, grease it up real good, and shove it right up your rear ends, you living, (mouth) breathing examples of why many more highly vocal women and minorities are so desperately needed in Parliament and the press gallery, ASAP.

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