An 'unwanted kiss' may seem innocent but has larger consequences

If we continue to brush it off or to tell women to just "deal with it" we are actively working against gender equality and women's safety.

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During the call-in segment on BC Almanac, one woman said, "[Batchelor] is… going to that kind of festival [and] I really believe, now, that they sent the wrong reporter." The caller went on to say that Batchelor was putting herself into a situation "where people are drinking and having a good time" and that "if you can't deal with something like that, then don't go out onto the field." She then suggested that perhaps "[Batchelor] is better off sitting behind a desk." 

What are we to make of this line of thinking? If we follow that argument to its natural end point, we are left with one that says women shouldn't go on dates, attend parties, or marry men if they can't "handle" being raped and abused. Because, throughout history, this is what has happened to many women who go to parties, go on dates, or marry men.

Where do we draw the line? A music festival might be full of drunken partiers who don't respect women's boundaries, but these incidences aren't limited to music festivals.

Over the past year a disturbing trend has arisen, wherein men come up behind female TV reporters and yell, "Fuck her right in the pussy."  The meme began as a hoax, but took on a life of its own. Men began targeting female reporters at sporting events, but before you say, "Well hey, maybe women shouldn't be reporting at sporting events if they 'can't deal with something like that,'" it's not about sports.

CBC reporter Morgan Dunlop was covering a demonstration in Downtown Montreal last year when a protester — not some drunk guy at a music festival or a bunch of dudebros at a soccer game — yelled the phrase behind her, on camera. 

This kind of behaviour serves a purpose and it is to put women in their place. To say, "You don't belong here and while you can play at 'gender equality,' we still don't respect you." It intends to humiliate and demean, but even more than that: It is a threat. These public displays of misogyny and harassment send the message to all women that they aren't safe in public places and that no matter what they do, they are always at risk of sexual assault.

In the past, society defended a norm that said "a woman's place is in the home" by reinforcing gender stereotypes about women's natural inferiority. People believed women were too delicate and weak to handle "the real world." The myth of women's natural inferiority ensured we couldn't own property, get an education, work, engage in politics or, really, have any real power or a voice in public or private spheres.

Despite these efforts to "protect" women, they were still raped and abused. Not only that, but this kind of thinking allows men to act with impunity because we assume they can't be held accountable for their actions.

Is this the kind of world we want to live in? One that says men are natural aggressors and predators and that women should not be allowed into public spaces or to participate in society?

After the young man, Daniel Davies, came forward and apologized to Batchelor, she confirmed she wouldn't be pursuing charges. "I never wanted anyone to lose a job over this or to get a criminal record…. All I wanted was to start a conversation and get people thinking that this was something serious," she told CBC host Gloria Macarenko. "It was me drawing a line in the sand and saying that this was not okay anymore." 

Considering a history of misogyny and sexual harassment in the field of journalism and the more-recent Jian Ghomeshi scandal, we need to be doing much more in terms of creating equity and a safe environment for female reporters. It is not acceptable to say this is simply something women must endure or hide from.

There need to be real consequences and men need to be held accountable for their behaviour. If we continue to brush it off or to tell women to just "deal with it" we are saying that the behaviour is okay and, in doing so, are actively working against gender equality and women's safety.

 "A woman's place is in the home" is an idea that most of us thought was a relic of the past but apparently is still with us. And that's exactly why Batchelor was right not to let this incident slide, to brush it off by saying "boys will be boys" or by pretending as though this is all simply part of the "festival experience."

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