People across Canada are reacting to the treatment of television reporter Shauna Hunt. It is appalling that women in the media are still challenged by forms of violence such as that experienced by the female journalist most recently. Women in the media should not be subjected to any form of violence. Whether it be verbal, as in this case, or in the form of negative representation that so adversely affects self-image and status in society.
The United Nations Beijing Platform for Action, unanimously supported by 189 countries in 1995, identifies Women and the Media as a critical area of concern. “Women’s rights are human rights” seems to have been lost in the Canadian context and particularly for women in media.
It is time for the governments of Canada to review policies and initiatives to prevent such occurrences. Canada, which used to be number one on the equity index, has slipped to number twenty-three. Is this due to negligence, complacency or indifference? What causes this flow of aggression towards women in the media? Who has the power to make a difference in how women are represented or treated in the media? The Canadian Federation of University Women believes focused action in addressing this issue is imperative.
Further to the humiliation suffered by female reporters, who are now verbalizing their concerns, is the targeted campaign by some men to normalize violence. It is no joke that the debasing of half the population has been viewed as funny or acceptable. All such communication should be viewed as a hate crime, one that should be taken seriously and treated as injurious to women in society.
Such acts of violence against women in the media are barriers to full and equal participation of women reporters. Negative representation of women in the media also undervalues women by denying their right to full respect in society. This is just one of the many reasons CFUW supports the creation of a comprehensive National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls. We have contributed to a Blueprint for such a plan and hope that the Government of Canada will work with us and other stakeholders to see it to fruition.