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USA: Let Me Do My Job!

In correspondents, street harassment | on 03.04.13 | by | Comments ( 0 )

By Lauren Duhon, SSH Correspondent

Recently, I read a blog post about a journalist who has experienced consistent harassment online through social media and e-mails after she broke the news about Jerry Sandusky at Penn State. The writer of the blog states that women who write about unpopular subjects are often subjected to threats, sexual taunts or harassment. From my experience, it doesn’t even have to be about a subject that is considered to be unpopular or controversial. As a photographer and a writer, men have constantly harassed me on the job.

Several times on interviews, sources have found it necessary to call me names that leave me feeling uncomfortable or comment on my physical appearance, such as noting a feature on my blouse that just happens to be near my breasts. Particularly, it creeps me out when a male source will touch my leg as a means of literally grabbing my attention. When I’m out taking photos, I’m usually confronted with men asking me for a private photo session or I hear them yelling “Hey, pretty photographer lady, that’s an awfully big camera you have!” Thanks for letting me know, stranger. I obviously did not realize I have a huge camera in my possession. Way to be creepy!  I’ve heard everything from sweetheart to dollface or received comments asking me “What’s a pretty girl like you doing at a place like this?” I’m capable of doing my job just like anyone else, regardless of the situation. The comments and scenarios vary, but it is always unwarranted.

However, when the subject matter has been more controversial or unpopular, I have found that sources tend to take me less seriously. Maybe because I am a student? Who knows? My thought is that they usually humor me because I’m a young woman. The second I ask questions, I don’t matter and they dismiss my existence.

It isn’t always like this, but being a woman often impacts my ability to do my job. According to the 2012 Byline Survey Report, more than 60 percent of newspaper employees are men. Having to earn respect in a field dominated by men is enough of a challenge, let alone having to defend myself when I am confronted with awkward situations and harassment. I fortunately haven’t had to deal with harassment in the work place, but I have read stories from female journalists about co-workers or editors who have invaded their privacy on a daily basis.

I also came across a tumblr page called Said to Lady Journos that compiles comments about female journalists who have experienced harassment on the job. One woman was asked whether or not she was studying to earn her master’s degree. When she said no, the man replied with,”you’re the perfect example of why there aren’t any women on the board,” when referring to a university’s board of regents. Another example is a comment from a contractor to a female journalist at a US military base in Iraq. He tells the reporter that, “if you got shrapnel in your ass, I’d be happy to take it out.” Out of line, obviously. One of the worst ones I read was about an Indian female reporter that was told by a café owner that she was a “cute little thing,” but she should be “running a 7-Eleven or something” instead.

The point is that I want to be able to go out on an assignment and take photos or write an article without unnecessary comments. To quote Joel Mathis, the writer of the previously mentioned blog post, “Women journalists shouldn’t have to be afraid to do their jobs because they’re women.” There is a level of respect that needs to exist, and this goes for any profession. Just because I’m a young woman and you see me out in public with a notepad or a camera does not mean you can approach me and say or do whatever you want. I have several colleagues of mine who often complain about similar situations.  Treat us as professionals, because everyone deserves it.

Lauren Duhon is a student journalist from LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

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