TORONTO – A Toronto reporter who took social media by storm when she confronted a group of men shouting obscenities while she was on the job said she reached her limit after nearly a year of constant harassment.
Shauna Hunt said she had not planned to question two men who began hurling sexually explicit remarks as she was covering a Toronto FC soccer game on Sunday, but the anxiety triggered by their remarks proved the last straw.
“I hit my limit and I had to push back,” Hunt said in a telephone interview. “I wasn’t going to stand for it anymore. It was time to say something.”
Her confrontation with two men, captured by CityNews cameras and aired later that day, shows the men dismissing Hunt as she asks what could prompt them to taunt women in such a way.
When asked how their mothers would appreciate such conduct, one man is heard saying that she would have found it funny eventually.
The video has since gone viral and touched off a flood of support, including from a provincial premier, but Hunt said she hopes it shines a light on an issue Canadian female reporters have been grappling with since at least last summer.
“It happens almost every day, sometimes numerous times a day,” Hunt said. “It’s not just me, it’s reporters all over the city almost on a daily basis.”
Backlash against Hunt’s hecklers was swift and wide-ranging.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Toronto FC soccer team, said the perpetrators would be banned from future games if they are identified. Social media was abuzz with potential names of the two men.
MLSE also pledged to offer tighter security measures for female reporters covering future events.
“Our organization is committed to an environment where everyone can feel safe and included, and discrimination or intolerance of any kind will be met with a swift and serious response,” the company said in a statement.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also jumped into the fray, sending a tweet praising CityNews for airing Hunt’s footage and condemning workplace sexual harassment.
“Thanks @citynews for saying #ItsNeverOkay. Whether or not it’s caught on film, sexual harassment at work is no joke,” the tweet read.
The phenomenon of shouting lewd remarks at female reporters is far from local. In 2014, reports began emerging in the United States of men approaching female reporters as they were doing live bulletins, trying to commandeer their microphones and yelling about committing sex acts.
Similar incidents in Canada have prompted police forces in both Toronto and Calgary to warn that future hecklers could find themselves facing criminal charges.
Hunt said her spontaneous decision to confront the latest group of hecklers was prompted by a wish to make them realize the impact of their words.
“I just want anyone who’s ever done it or is thinking of doing it or thinks it’s funny, just think of the consequences,” she said. “It’s degrading, it’s disrespectful. You really put these reporters in a very uncomfortable position, and it’s not just me — we’re all sick of it.”
Follow Michelle McQuigge on Twitter @mich_mcq
By Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press