Above Watch: Halifax Regional Police are coming down hard on those who yell offensive and misogynistic remarks to television reporters. It happened to a Global News reporter in Halifax. Julia Wong reports.
WARNING: This story contains graphic content. Discretion is advised.
HALIFAX – Halifax Regional Police said pranksters who yell “F-k her right in the p-y” (FHRITP) not only to reporters, who happen to catch them on camera, but to women in general could face criminal charges.
The news comes after an incident in Toronto where FHRITP was yelled at a local television reporter. One man was terminated from his job as a result.
Inspector Don Moser with Halifax Regional Police said police have not received any FHRITP reports but they are aware of and on alert for the disturbing trend.
“It’s something that concerns us. We treat this as a form of sexualized violence against women,” he said.
“People think it’s funny or humourous. I’m here to share with you that … there’s potential for very serious criminal consequences.”
The phrase can be traced back to a realistic but ultimately fake YouTube video uploaded by American “filmmaker” John Cain. The video appears to show several reporters being interrupted by people yelling the FHRITP phrase but was thoroughly debunked by Mediaite.com, which proved it was Cain’s voice dubbed over real television footage.
But despite the chant being outed as a hoax the videos have gone viral, and inspired unimaginative people – mostly men – to try and copy Cain.
Moser said investigations would be handled on a case-by-case basis but police could lay charges of causing a disturbance, mischief or criminal harassment.
“It’s not only disrespectful. It’s degrading. It’s something we would take very seriously if it was brought to our attention.”
A Global Halifax reporter was recently on the receiving end of a FHRITP incident. She was interviewing high school students about the province’s flavoured tobacco ban when a young, male student yelled FHRITP to her, laughed and ran away. The incident was captured on camera.
Jacqueline Warwick, a gender and women’s studies professor at Dalhousie University, said female reporters may be the target for these events for a variety of reasons.
“She’s got a camera. She’s got an audience and people she’s talking to. I think that, for some people, the idea of taking her down a peg is going to make them feel like they’re edgy and rebellious,” she said.
Warwick said the trend disgusts her.
“We still have to remember what the actual phrase is. It is an explicitly misogynistic phrase and that can’t be denied.”
“I don’t imagine all these men are blood thirsty rapists but I think that using this phrase so recklessly is part of a project of policing women in public and keeping them on guard so they can’t and don’t feel comfortable and authoritative in a public place,” she said.
Rob Currie, a Dalhousie law professor and director of the Law and Technology Institute, said arguments about free speech may fall short when it comes to FHRITP.
“There is a point where the words you say are unlawful. You’re not allowed to say particular words in a particular context if they have unlawful effects of consequences,” he said.
Currie cites examples such as yelling “fire” in a crowded room or comments that target specific ethnic groups.
“There are points at which our freedom of speech bumps up against the rights of other people in society.”
Currie also said the example of the man who was terminated from his job as a result of a FHRITP incident is a harsh reminder about the consequences of what you say.
“Employers can certainly and lawfully terminate people if they conduct reflects badly on the employer and violates the terms of their employment contract,” he said.
Warwick hopes the recent incidents lead to greater dialogue in the Halifax community about sexism and misogyny.
“It would be really worthwhile for us to start having some hard conversations about the way we’re raising boys and men in our society that produces this kind of behaviour.”